Featured Colleague: Felita Rivera Provides Access to Prospective Students Affected by Hurricane MariaShare
By Wendy Jo Moyer
Felita Rivera, student services advisor, describes her role at Valencia as all about helping students have a positive Valencia experience. With the recent devastation that Hurricane Maria caused on Puerto Rico, she has become a member of our Osceola Campus team that is supporting prospective students affected by the hurricanes. In this effort, Felita represents Valencia at the Hurricane Maria Reception Center in Kissimmee and personally reaches out and follows up with students who have moved here from Puerto Rico.
“Having lived in Puerto Rico myself, I can remember that Puerto Rico, at times, is referred to as the island of enchantment,” Felita explained. “When I turned 16, my mother finished a home that she was building for us in Puerto Rico, and I was able to see the island through my mother’s eyes. I fell in love with the island, so to see it and our people in such despair, it broke my heart. I lost my mom in May of 2014 due to prolonged illness, and in losing the island after the storm, I felt that I also lost a piece of my mother as well.”
As a result, Felita felt compelled to help the residents in some way, which resulted in volunteering her services to help students transitioning to the main land.
“It has been my job to facilitate the process of helping them enroll and building relationships with them based on our commonality of being from Puerto Rico,” she said. “Building these relationships creates a sense of connection for these students to our Valencia community and helps them to stay focused on their educational goals. Working with the students who have been affected by Hurricane Maria has now given me a new sense of purpose. Every day that I’m able to work with this population of students, I feel that through them I’m honoring my mother’s memory.”
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Her supervisor, Nicholle Trapp, manager, student services, praised Felita. She appreciates “her ability to help our growing community feel welcome as she supports their admissions process and ensures they are connected to services as needed.”
Beyond her work with students affected by the hurricane, Felita has been instrumental in the Osceola Campus Answer Center. Nichole explained, “Felita is the member of our Answer Center team that models serving students with intentionality, empathy and critical thinking as she helps us to remember to pour our souls into everything that we do. Our Osceola students often request to speak to her, and after hearing how she walks them through their educational journey, it is easy to understand why. The entire Osceola Student Services family enjoys collaborating with Felita, and she truly brings a harmonious atmosphere wherever she is.”
Felita has been instrumental in serving Osceola Campus’ Spanish-speaking community. For three years, she has been helping students understand the fundamental differences between higher education in the United States and their countries of origin. “Students are grateful and far better prepared to complete the Steps of Enrollment as a result,” shared Nicholle about Felita’s efforts.
What does Felita like most about working at Valencia? “I like that I am surrounded by individuals that have the same passion for education as I do,” she said. “I have learned since I’ve started working here that I’ve become more confident in who I am. This sense of confidence transcends in my advising sessions that I have every day with students that I meet with to help encourage them to move forward with the process.”
Often, she finds she identifies with nontraditional students who are anxious to learn English or are hesitant to learn because of their age or lack of educational experience. “I feel that it is important to encourage them to change their perspective so that they can feel that this decision to move forward with their education is attainable,” she explained.
Felita earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the Universidad of Interamericana de Puerto Rico. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s Values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.