Héctor Rivera, a Texas A&M associate professor of educational psychology, recently received the Congressional Award’s 2019 Education Champion Award at a ceremony in Dallas.
Rivera, who works in A&M’s department of education and human development, said he will start his seventh year at Texas A&M this fall. In a Wednesday interview with The Eagle, Rivera said he primarily works with graduate students — many of whom go on to be K-12 educators — but that his work also connects him with middle and high school students.
“The goal is to nurture the students because we know they are the future, not only for the country but for the world,” he said of how he sees his role in the classroom and community.
Rivera came to A&M from SMU, where he helped facilitate the implementation of the Hispanic Youth Symposium, a multi-day event that brought together high school youth (and a few middle schoolers) from Texas into a university setting where they learned a variety of skills, including resilience and networking.
“We began the process of bringing young Hispanic students who have never visited a university to be there for four days, to experience different kinds of workshops and environments,” Rivera said.
He said that symposiums over the years have focused on teaching students networking skills and providing opportunities to focus on issues that matter to them. Rivera said the program has expanded in recent years, including a partnership with the Magdaleno Leadership Institute and other organizations, but that funding challenges remain.
The Education Champion Award was presented Saturday in concert with the Fort Worth Independent School District’s “Pathway to Career for Texas Teens” program which, according to a press release, strives to provide students with opportunities such as internships, job training and intergenerational connections within the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
In his work at Texas A&M, Rivera prepares Aggie students to pursue teaching careers in bilingual education, ESL and dual language. He said he also has partnered with individuals to do work in Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and with Inuit communities in Greenland.
“You are a mentor all the time,” he said of his role in the community and with his students.
In a statement, Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young said that Rivera’s work has earned grants of more than $6 million.
“He and his partners have used [the grant awards] to develop youth academies, parental engagement programs, teacher academies and institutes in collaboration with school districts in Texas and other states,” Young said. “We could not be more proud of Dr. Rivera’s work to improve educational opportunities for youth,” he continued. “His focus, particularly on underrepresented and low-income populations, is fully aligned with Texas A&M’s land-grant and diversity missions.”