20 Grads in 20 Days: June marks a huge anniversary in Connecticut. Twenty years ago this month, Governor John Rowland signed the law allowing public charter schools to exist in the state of Connecticut! To celebrate, we’re profiling 20 public charter school graduates every day for the first 20 days of June. Enjoy reading about our charter schools and the stellar kids they're educating.
Sammy Rivera Jr. seems to have it all figured out. The eighth grader at New Beginnings Family Academy (NBFA) is a straight A student and class valedictorian, with a full tuition scholarship to attend Hopkins School next year.
Sammy describes himself as persistent, hardworking, and determined. He plans on using those traits to excel at Hopkins and earn admission at Yale or Harvard after high school, with goals of attending to medical school.
Sammy has wanted to study medicine since middle school. “Back in sixth grade we did a PowerPoint on a career, and I decided on orthopedic surgeon,” he said. “They help people and have all the positives that I wanted.”
He’s also inspired to be a doctor by his family. “My family, they’re all in the medical field,” said Sammy. “My mom’s a nurse, my aunt’s a nurse, my grandmother works with Senior Citizens.”
Though he wants to be a doctor, Sammy names history, math, and language arts as his favorite subjects. He enjoys history because it offers a broader picture of society. “I like to look in the past and see how we have changed as a civilization through the years.”
He says he likes math because of its black-and-white nature. “I like to get the right answer. It’s not multiple choice, so you can never be almost right or almost wrong – it’s right or wrong.”
It’s no surprise that as someone who truly enjoys school, he has trouble choosing a favorite teacher. “I appreciate all my teachers,” said Sammy. “They all had an equal part in where I am right now.”
He also thanks his parents, whom he considers role models. “I admire their determination and persistence – if they say they want to do something, they do it,” said Sammy. My mom went back to school recently to become a nurse after leaving to raise me.”
His message to them: “Thank you for keeping me on track and teaching me that learning is good,” he said. “They were always reading to me and having me do puzzles – I didn’t like it at first, but as I grew up I learned that it really helped me.”
Clearly that support at home paid off. “Getting picked for valedictorian felt really good. It meant I accomplished everything I wanted to,” said Sammy.
Part of that success also stems Sammy’s understanding the society in which he lives – and the way people of other backgrounds and races are sometimes viewed. “Hispanics and African Americans are looked at as if we’re bad people – I’m determined to prove people wrong.”
As he heads off to high school, Sammy reflected fondly on his time at New Beginnings. “The school has helped me so much – I’ll always remember this place. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”
Passing on some of the wisdom that has helped him achieve success, Sammy had some key advice for new NBFA students: “Provide yourself with a good learning experience; don’t surround yourself with kids who don’t do the right thing.”
Sammy credits that choice as one of the key reasons he did well in school. “I’m friends with everybody, but I only surround myself with the people that I know have the same goals,” said Sammy. “My friends all strive for the best; they want to succeed. One wants to be a veterinarian, another an engineer.”
There’s no doubt Sammy will continue to make smart choices, surround himself with good people, and use his drive and determination to succeed next year in high school, someday perhaps at Yale or Harvard, and later, in medical school as he follows through on his dreams.