As a freshman beginning her NC State career, Jezzette Rivera ‘10 anticipated pursuing a career in politics, law, and/or the nonprofit sector. She majored in criminology and political science with a concentration in law and justice, spent the summer following her freshman year interning with the League of United Latin American Citizens, and served as a House Intern with the North Carolina General Assembly throughout her junior year and the subsequent summer.
Rather than begin graduate or professional school immediately after completing her undergraduate studies, Rivera opted to pursue a short-term opportunity that would allow her to give back to the community. Always interested in learning more about the achievement gap and educational inequality, Rivera decided to work towards addressing this injustice by becoming a Teach for America corps member. She quickly realized, however, that teaching had the potential to become more than a stopgap.
“Now I know that Teach for America is not simply a ‘volunteer’ program or a way to ‘give back,’” said Rivera. “This career path is truly one of the most challenging, as well as rewarding.”
The Rio Grande Valley, located on the southernmost tip of Texas, was one of Rivera’s preferred regions for Teach for America placement. Originally from West Hartford, Conn., she desired to work with a predominately Hispanic community and experience a part of the country new to her. There in “the Valley,” Rivera taught second, first, and fourth grade classes in the Donna Independent School District not just for the two-year minimum expected of Teach for America, but for five years. While there, she also completed a master’s degree in bilingual education from the University of Texas at Brownsville.
In 2015 she moved to San Antonio, Texas to continue her teaching career with IDEA public charter schools. While she acknowledges that teaching her students to read, in particular, is “unbelievably difficult,” Rivera finds the gratification that comes with her work far outweighs the moments of frustration.
Beyond her work in the classroom, Rivera has served as a corps member advisor, literacy specialist, and professional development leader for Teach For America, providing supplemental training and assessment tools to help meet the needs of corps members.
“My work with Teach for America, as a corp member and facilitator, provided countless chances to extend my professional development and learn from some of the best in education,” said Rivera. “I continue to be inspired by the work ethic of educators in this movement and hope that one day I can become a transformational teacher with the ability to make even a slight impact on the lives of my students.”
While Rivera has benefited from the academic preparation she gained during her time at NC State, the opportunities she took to cultivate her leadership skills have proven invaluable. She pursued a number of extracurricular involvements on campus, including serving as a resident advisor, Chancellor’s Liaison, co-chair of Service Raleigh 2008, president of Mi Familia, and an active member of the Union Activities Board and Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc. Rivera also participated in a study abroad program in Guatemala the summer following her sophomore year.
When asked what advice she would offer to current Park Scholars, she replied, “I would recommend taking advantage of every academic, leadership, professional, and travel opportunity to get the most out of your college years. School is and was always a priority, but the adventures outside the classroom are the ones I constantly reflect upon with admiration.”