In her junior year, Rosa Rivera was chosen to help research, form and lead the Honor Council, working against plagiarism and promoting academic integrity at Mount St. Mary Academy. It was a role she approached with understanding and a desire for honesty.
“I just had a great foundation at St. Edward” school, Rivera said of why academic integrity is important to her. “And I've always been called ‘the mom of the class,’ ever since I was little.”
A cradle Catholic, Rivera, 18, the youngest of four children to Martha Rivera and the late Jose Rivera, grew up attending St. Edward School and Church. She now attends St. Anne Church in North Little Rock, crediting pastor Father Alejandro Puello for his inspiring homilies and keeping her focused on her faith.
Besides the Honor Council, Rivera has been active in Beta Club, Language Council, Spanish Club, Mu Alpha Theta and National Honor Society. She is in the top 20 percent of her class, earning a 4.22 weighted GPA in addition to working as a cashier at her aunt’s restaurant, La Rosita in Greenbrier, on the weekends.
“Oh my gosh, it's just like a new adventure every day,” Rivera said. “You don't know what customers you are going to get. Maybe one of your co-workers comes in so happy that day, and ‘Oh, what happened to you,’ and it’s just like more socializing. Somehow my country accent comes out even though I’m Mexican.”
That work ethic stemmed from her father, Jose Rivera, 47, who died Aug. 16, 2019, during Rivera’s sophomore year. Though her father had several health issues, the death was unexpected. Jose Rivera thrived on hard work, holding two full-time security jobs at Baptist Health Medical Center and City of Faith in Little Rock, and valued education. It had been her dream to build her parents a house and give them a comfortable life.
“I think his unsaid advice, in a way, would be ‘just keep going,’” she said. “My senior quote this year was, ‘Be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud’ by Maya Angelou. I've always said my whole life, you can't have the rainbow without the rain and all that stuff. And I truly love that quote, I live by that quote.”
Continuing her tradition of Catholic education, she’s attending Rockhurst University, a Jesuit college in Kansas City, Mo., majoring in biomedical engineering.
“I want to be open-minded to whatever path God takes me,” she said.
Beth Pursley, dean of students, said of Rivera, “She is probably one of the hardest-working and most reliable students we’ve had here.”
“She’s already amazing, but the sky’s the limit for her on what she could accomplish because of her work ethic and general nature,” Pursley added.
Rivera said she is graduating with confidence.
“I would say I entered introverted and not confident about anything. But I exited extroverted and having a voice,” Rivera said. “That's probably Honor Council in the midst of it that helped with that, and faculty and staff and teachers and just seeing that some teachers here truly don't care about the income and just want what's best for you. It’s really nice to see that, wow, they do care.”
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