Student Experience at College of San Mateo
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Student Experience
Sandra Rivera
Sandra Rivera College of San Mateo, Human Services

Single mother Sandra Rivera is a stand-out student at College of San Mateo, carrying a 3.7 grade point average, working part-time on campus and actively participating in student activities.

In 2001, she returned to school to gain the skills necessary for a new career after 22 years in hospital administration.

Rivera was also looking for a community college with an assistive technology program for disabled students because injuries prevented her from using her hands to type. She found that and much more at CSM.

With the assistance of CSM staff, Rivera learned to use voiceactivated computer software which eliminates the need for typing. And, then, her community college career took off full force with classes and participation in other College services, such as Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS).

"CSM has great services and provides many opportunities," says the 44-year-old Rivera. "I take advantage of most of them, including academic counseling and financial aid. EOPS, for example, supplies books, counseling, tutoring and a great support system. You become part of their family and they are there to help step-by-step."

Rivera served as president of the EOPS student club for two years and was an ICC (Inter Club Council) representative; last semester, she was a CSM student senator; and she is a member of the Alpha Sigma Gamma Society, a scholastic achievement organization.

This semester, while carrying 13 units, she worked with CSM Connects (the service learning program) to help plan and coordinate a successful youth conference designed to encourage community involvement, and was actively involved in the workings of the annual "Get Linked Career and Volunteer Fair."

Rivera says that a "passion" for working with the community is propelling her toward transferring to Notre Dame de Namur University to obtain a bachelor's degree in human services. She hopes to someday to be a project planner.

"My volunteering career started in the seventh grade when I participated in fundraisers. My civic involvement continued in high school when I was included on the list of 'Who's Who Among American High School Students,' and later I served as a women's group board member at my son's elementary school," Rivera says. "I want to give back to the community, and a job in human services will provide me that opportunity."

Rivera is not waiting until later to give back to CSM, however. Presently, she is helping create a newsletter and a brochure for the Assistive Technology Center with its coordinator Carolyn Fiori. Last semester, she researched grant opportunities and coordinated fundraisers.

And she is setting an example for her son, a graduate of Serra High School who is attending Menlo College on scholarships, working and volunteering there while maintaining a B average. Last year, Rivera says, while in high school, her son logged 200 hours of volunteer work. "I'm very proud of him - he's my best accomplishment," she adds.

This article first appeared in CSM Currents in spring 2005.