Pedro Rivera shared a personal story that he said could help inspire youth in Penn State’s Upward Bound Program to make important future educational decisions.
Rivera, the state education secretary, visited the university Friday morning as part of his Schools that Teach tour. He spoke to more than 100 high school students participating in the program from Clearfield, Dauphin, Huntingdon, Mifflin and Perry counties.
Upward Bound is a federally funded program facilitated through Penn State that helps enhance academic opportunities for low-income students.
Rivera, who is of Puerto Rican descent and grew up in North Philadelphia, was the first in his family to attend college. He originally pursued an engineering degree before switching to education.
“I was the first to go, but I’m most proud I’m not the last,” he said. “I wanted to be the change you always hear about, and I found a way to make a living on what I love to do.”
Rivera gave students tips to help them in life and on their educational journey, which included learning through adversity, to “keep moving forward” with dreams and passions, and to select friends who spread positive energy.
“That’s really a lesson for all of you when you’re sitting there asking yourself, ‘What am I doing here?’ ” he said. “To help guide your decision, choose what you love to do. … I’m still having the time of my life.”