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North County Times, February 2003

David Rivera’s Passion: Helping Children

North County Times (February 20, 2003)

By Edward Sifuentes

Escondido—David Rivera always wanted to help at-risk children, but in his twenties, he himself was lost. Rivera, the son of Chicano activist parents, had abandoned his college education for a high-income job in real estate and a “party lifestyle.” That changed when he realized his life was “spiritually” empty, he said.

“October 16, 1993, was the date that changed my life,” Rivera, 35, told some 125 people who attended the Bravo Foundation’s Latino speakers luncheon Wednesday at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. “I felt so insignificant. I had a lot of money. I had a lot of friends, but I wasn’t happy.”

Rivera, of Logan Heights, left his financially rewarding work in real estate to pursue his true passion: helping impoverished barrio children get a college education. He started by returning to college, graduating from the University of San Diego and then from Notre Dame Law School. “I knew I wanted to focus on children, but that was it,” Rivera said.

Through research and interviews with community leaders, Rivera found there was a dire need for educational programs in the Latino communities east of downtown San Diego. He set out to create his own school to meet the need. After much work raising $250,000 in funding, recruiting a staff of new college graduates and acquiring buildings to house the new school, his project was born.

In September 2001, he opened the doors of the Nativity Prep Academy in Logan Heights. He serves as its president. The tuition-free school focuses on the basics: reading, writing and math. But the school also includes aquatics, theater arts and an 11-hour school day. Nativity Prep Academy also teaches something Rivera calls “character education,” which teaches students self confidence, such as how to speak and stand up for themselves.

The school, which began with a fifth-grade class of about 20, now has 300 students at three sites. Its first class is expected to graduate in 2009. Rivera said he also expects that 80 percent of Nativity Prep Academy graduates will go on to college.

Starting the school not only fulfilled a need in the community, but it also filled a spiritual need in Rivera, he said. “It was finding an identity, finding a purpose in life,” Rivera said. “I’m extremely blessed.”

His father, Jesse Rivera, who helped start the non-profit Chicano Federation, said he was proud to see his son realize his dream. “David has always accomplished whatever he’s set out to do,” he said. “He worked very hard for more than a year to plan the school. I’m very proud.”

The Bravo Foundation’s speakers luncheon is an effort sponsored by the Escondido-based nonprofit to create networking opportunities, civic awareness and honor outstanding Latino community leaders.

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