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Student Spotlight: Gabriella Rivera, ’22

Gabriella Rivera, ’22, is intent on giving her best to the world.

Story Series
Bridgewater Magazine

Gabriella Rivera, ’22, is intent on giving her best to the world. A student of color, she has picked up the mantle of racial justice and is one of BSU’s most involved and motivated students.

The family of the San Francisco native moved to Hanover when Gabriella was young. She is majoring in elementary education and Spanish with a concentration in special education. Her involvement at BSU includes membership in Bridgewater Stands United, a campus organization pursuing peace and diversity. Gabriella is a diversity and social justice fellow with the Honors Program and has participated in many racial justice-themed events on campus, including this summer’s Amplify: Black and Brown Students Forum. She’s also helped hire a dean at BSU and plays a role in the university’s orientation program for new faculty. In early fall she was selected to be a student ambassador by the Honors Program.

That’s why Gabriella was tapped to be a student representative on the Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice and co-chair of its Creating a Place for Ongoing Support, Problem Solving, Reporting Resolution and Response Committee.

What are your thoughts about what happened in the wake of George Floyd’s death?

The events surrounding the death of Mr. Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests were a wakeup call for our nation to stand up against racial inequalities and injustices. John Lewis reminds us that “We must work for the community of love, peace and true brotherhood. Our minds, souls and hearts cannot rest until freedom and justice exist for all people.” The tragedy of Mr. Floyd’s death has forced us to confront our nation’s history of racism, raise our consciousness, identify racism in all our institutions, enact antiracist policies and create a more equitable world for all people.

What have been your experiences of racism?

Growing up as a woman of color, I have experienced both overt and subtle forms of racism, beginning with racist behaviors and attitudes in school and at summer camp. This summer, at the height of the BLM protests, our family was startled in the middle of the night twice by what sounded like someone kicking in our front door. Our security camera revealed that it was a white male. There have also been more subtle forms of implicit racial bias throughout my life.

What are your plans regarding both your career and your activism?

This semester, I will be working on an Education Department Honors contract that will involve research into racial bias and the achievement gap, a topic I hope to pursue in more depth for my Honors thesis. I plan to earn a postgraduate degree in education with a concentration in Spanish and special needs. I am excited by the prospect of one day being able to make an impact in the lives of children who have been marginalized by society because of their race and socio-economic status. There is a West African proverb that says, “The lion’s story will never be known as long as the hunter is the one to tell it.” We need to create curricula that are culturally relevant to children of color, among many other changes. 

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