One day Leticia Rivera took a chance. She filled out an application to Tidewater Community College.
“Everything took off from there,” says the New York native who has been a Virginia Beach resident since 1995. “Going back to school gave me a purpose.”
Today the mother of six holds an Associate of Applied Science in Accounting from TCC and finished up her bachelor’s in business from Strayer University a few weeks ago.
Rivera dropped out of high school at 16 and became a mother two years later. Although she didn’t take education as seriously as she would have liked in high school, her thirst for learning never dried up. She obtained her GED, and took initial classes at New York City College of Technology, but didn’t finish.
“Suddenly I was 30 and had four kids, and I was a little depressed,” she says. A friend encouraged her to apply to TCC, and Rivera tucked away the application in a drawer.
“One day I decided to fill it out, and everything took off from there,” she says. “Going to TCC to finish my associate’s gave me a purpose.”
Though Rivera found her niche in accounting, she enjoyed all her classes and loved the variety of electives offered.
“I do acting on the side, so I definitely enjoyed my theater class,” said Rivera, who has appeared in episodes of “Wicked Attractions” and “A Haunting” on Discovery Channel. “I also chose to complete a children’s nutrition class. I can carry that information on for my family and me.”
After graduating from TCC in 2000, Rivera held several positions in accounting. She received two promotions in her first year at Beach Municipal Federal Credit Union, where she worked five years. She held additional jobs at Avis Budget Group and LifeNet Health prior to her current job in accounts payable at Haynes Furniture.
Though she never fancied herself a business owner, Rivera turned her cooking passion into her own business with Mama Rivera’s Sofrito. Sofrito is a gourmet cooking base made from a blend of fresh vegetables and herbs that adds flavor to soups, beans, rice or pasta dishes. Rivera’s mix of peppers, onions, garlic and cilantro is her own preservative-free version of the Puerto Rican favorite she grew up eating.
“Everything has to be fresh; no MSG,” she says. “I even peel my own garlic.”
Now Rivera’s daughter, Megan, has enrolled in TCC’s paralegal program with eventual plans to transfer to New York University. Leticia Rivera doesn’t rule out going back to school, either.
“If I had my way, I’d still be at TCC,” she says. “There were so many classes that I wanted to take. TCC definitely was a great foundation. Everything I learned there, I use in my business and in life.”