Erica Rivera of Santa Barbara will speak on behalf of those earning graduate degrees when California Lutheran University holds its 2022 Graduate and Professionals Commencement at 9 a.m. May 14 in William Rolland Stadium on the Thousand Oaks campus.
The 59th annual ceremony will honor 79 students in the bachelor’s degree for professionals program, 428 earning master’s degrees and 32 receiving doctorates. A separate ceremony will be held later in the day for traditional undergraduate students receiving bachelor’s degrees.
Ms. Rivera is receiving her master’s degree in counseling and pupil personnel services with a specialization in child welfare and attendance. For many years, she worked with diverse students in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, including as a paraeducator for those with moderate to severe disabilities.
Noticing the achievement gaps for those with varying abilities and reflecting on the lack of support she received as a good student dealing with struggles related to her home life and ethnicity, she decided to get a graduate degree to become a stronger advocate for students.
Ms. Rivera interned as a counselor for several schools, supporting those who were hard of hearing, homeless, in foster care, transgender, multilingual or dealing with mental health challenges and drug dependency. She wants to use data and collaborate with students, families, staff and community agencies to cultivate systemic change.