It’s easy to understand why Rey Rivera was selected to be a Presidential Ambassador at Lander University.
With a bright smile that is red carpet-worthy and a laugh that fills a room with happy energy, Rivera has an engaging manner that easily makes prospective students and their parents fall in love with the campus that he cares about so deeply.
A native of Florida who now lives in Honea Path, Rivera is the first member of his family to be born in the United States. His parents immigrated to Florida for career opportunities and later moved to South Carolina.
Rivera liked the friendly atmosphere at Dixie High School in Due West, and he wanted the same for his college experience. On a tour of Lander, he was impressed with the welcoming community and the excellence of the University’s nursing program.
“Tours are your first impression of college,” said Rivera, a sophomore majoring in nursing. “We have a script to follow, but I also like to add some personal stories. People can be really shy when we start the tours. I encourage them to ask questions.”
Frequent questions concern class size, the quality of student life and information about the majors available to students. “I love questions. It gives me a chance to talk about the University from my personal experience,” he said.
How Rivera finds time for a major known for its academic rigor and touring students is a mystery. In addition to his Presidential Ambassador duties, Rivera has a part-time job at Publix, where he works as a cashier with a variety of customer service responsibilities, and is a desk assistant for Lander’s Career Student Services. “It can be extremely stressful at times, but I do it,” he said. “I study every free moment that I have, and I just keep on going.”
In spite of the long hours and multiple commitments, Rivera has earned Dean’s List academic honors.
Rivera’s choice of a major has its roots in his childhood. Before he started first grade, Rivera and his family went through a challenging experience when his mother was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2007.
“She told us later that she could not think about her illness, only about her fear of losing us,” he said.
Rivera remembers the compassion of the doctor who was in charge of his mother’s care. “He told her ‘I am going to treat you as if you were my daughter.’ The people who took care of my mother didn’t see her as a patient. They saw her as family. I’ve never forgotten that. I want to do the same for someone else and provide that same type of care to patients,” he said.
Today, his mother, Damaris, has her own cleaning business, and his father, Rey, works for Hartness, a design and manufacturing business in Greenville. “Moving to the United States was a great decision for our family,” Rivera said. “It makes our grandparents travel a bit farther to see us, but it makes our visits more special.”
The fact that Rivera has done an excellent job of “selling” Lander to others is found within his family. His sister, Nalmary, will join him in the fall as a Lander student, and she too plans to major in nursing.
Whether he is talking to his friends and family about Lander or strangers visiting the campus for the first time, Rivera has an enthusiasm for the University that is genuine and contagious.
“Coming to Lander is the best decision I’ve made. I’m paying my college tuition, and I appreciate the experience more I think because of my hard work. I’ve made good friends, and the staff at Lander are absolutely amazing,” Rivera said.