Speech: Jose Rivera, 2014 Young Professional Honoree

JACQUELINE VARGAS: My name is Jacqueline Vargas, and it is an honor to introduce this year’s Young Professional Mentor Award to a person who has had such a huge impact in my life. Four years ago, when I started at California State University San Bernardino, my goal was simple, to graduate.

As a first-generation college student, just simply getting into college was an accomplishment in itself. I was both excited and scared about the journey that I was about to undertake, and I definitely knew that I needed someone to guide me. Then I met Jose Rivera. Perhaps my prayers were answered or it was just luck but all I know is that I hit the jackpot.

Not only did Jose teach me that public speaking was not as bad as I thought but he soon began to open my eyes to the endless opportunities that this girl from little Hinkley, California could benefit from. He talked to me about the importance of internships, having a resume and developing proper interview skills.

He believed in me, which gave me the confidence to believe in myself. Jose told me that it was not going to be easy but if we worked together, I would be a great candidate for a field one day. Jose was key to the landing of my first internship.

He taught me the importance of having a first, second, third, fourth, and even fifth draft of my resume and writing assignments until it was perfect, he would say. That resume that we worked on for what felt like weeks landed me my first internship. He helped me build on that and now I am interning with a United States Department of Agriculture in Washington DC.

This internship has been a life-changing experience. I have been able to use my knowledge that Jose helped build and helped put it into practice in the real world. From writing articles for the USAA newsletter to creating blog posts for the system administrator, developing marketing strategies for diversity and inclusion initiatives to developing campaigns, I have done it all.

I have been fortunate enough to intern for a department where I am constantly learning valuable skills that will help me in my dream of becoming a successful public relations professional. Jose, please know that you’ve made a difference in my life and that you have thought me the importance of helping others.

There’s no way that I will be able to repay what you have done. But one thing I can assure you is that I will make it my mission to help those students coming up after me. Like you always say pay it forward and that is what I will do.

Jose’s guidance has exposed me to many great opportunities. My worldview, my expectations, my goals are so much more than what I had when I started the university. Are you kidding? I’m living in our nation’s capital. The daughter of immigrants. The girl from the place Julia Roberts made famous is living and making a difference in Washington DC.

None of this would have been possible without Jose’s help. This wonderful journey that I’m on is because of him which is why I am honored to present Mr. Jose Rivera with The Plank Center’s 2014 Young Professional Mentor Award.

[APPLAUSE]

JOSE RIVERA: Excuse me. I may need a second after that. Thank you, Jackie, for such a wonderful introduction. I got to tell you it’s been such a pleasure watching you grow and I am so excited to see what the future holds for you which I know is going to be amazing. I would like to thank The Plank Center for this nomination for the young professional award.

I am truly honored to be among such talented, talented people, professionals, students. It’s just been an all-around wonderful experience for me. I would like to obviously thank my family. My brother who is here today to support me, I want to thank him for coming out from Texas to come and support me.

I would like to thank my parents who immigrated to this country in the early 70’s when things were very difficult for immigrants as they continue to be today. And they taught me the value of hard work. And they taught me the value of education even though perhaps they didn’t have the means to navigate me through the educational system.

And that was something that I had to do on my own, but I understood that I needed fine people to help me do that. It didn’t happen right away. So, I definitely want to thank my parents for that. And the next person I would like to thank is my wife.

Because as I mentioned, I didn’t start college right away after high school. I actually started college as a 27-year-old. So, my wife when I told her I just started my first course at a junior college, and I kind of don’t really have a job right now. She didn’t skip a beat.

And she stuck with me and she has been very supportive. So, I definitely want to thank you. And she’s sitting in front of her laptop like many other family members are today watching because she is nine months pregnant and she couldn’t travel today.

So, yes, thank you, thank you. [APPLAUSE]

And let me say to you all that mentorship is my passion. I love mentoring students. I love watching students’ worldview open up. I come from a university that has a very special population, so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Hispanic community. My university has a 56% Hispanic population.

Many, many, many of those students are public relations students. And I feel that no other field is best positioned to assist in moving this community forward in terms of professional connections, in terms of networking, in terms of mentorship. This community is in dire need of that and many times we hear that this is a Hispanic problem, that this is an immigrant problem.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that this is an American problem. And no one is better positioned than us in the field of public relations. Because we understand our publics, we research our publics, we build rapport with our publics. And no one, like I said once again, understands them better than we do, okay?

So, therefore, I lay the challenge upon all of you here. I am here to make, help in any way that I can. If you want to reach out to me and see how we can help solve this problem because that’s what we do. Let’s honor Betsy Plank’s legacy in mentoring and take on this challenge of a community that’s going to move our country forward, thank you so much.

[APPLAUSE]


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