The Chancellor’s Award for Student Achievement recognizes a graduating student each academic year. The recipient is selected on the basis of academic achievement and love of learning, overcoming barriers in pursuit of academic goals, future leadership potential and involvement in campus life.
B.A., social sciences, with a concentration in personnel psychology and human resources administration, and a certificate in human services case management
By the time he was 25, Julian Rivas had spent a third of his life behind bars. “Everyone had given up on me,” he recalled.
Fortunately, he didn’t give up on himself. Now, at age 29, he is graduating summa cum laude, with a goal of mentoring others who are facing the kinds of challenges he once faced.
The last time he was released from prison, Rivas took a bus to Longview, Wash., where his older brother, Julio, was studying at Lower Columbia College. That bus ticket was his “ticket out” of his previous lifestyle. With Julio’s guidance, Julian enrolled in Lower Columbia College and, while also working full-time, earned his associate’s degree and decided to transfer to WSU Vancouver.
He wants to end the cycle of poverty, lack of education and high recidivism rates he has seen in his community. Not only has he inspired friends and family members to attend college, but he has helped other students as well.
Rivas interns with WSU’s Financial Services and Admissions and is a technical research assistant in the Human Development Department. He is active in the Latino Student Association, Latino Outreach Committee and Human Resources Society. He volunteers with Noche de Familia and the Clark County Latino Youth Leadership Conference and has worked with organizations that support low-income families, such as Lower Columbia Community Action Program and Habitat for Humanity.
Rivas chose to earn a well-rounded degree that would advance his employment prospects in human resources with a knowledge of business essentials. Finding a job has been difficult, he said, because many employers turn him down after conducting a background screening. But, he said, “I feel that someday my hard work will pay off.” Understanding that his education must be outstanding to overshadow his past, he holds himself to high standards. “The past does not define me,” he said.
Rivas grew up in California as one of eight children in a high-crime neighborhood. The first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree, he credits LCC’s student support services for helping him navigate the educational system.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my support system, especially my mother who has always been my backbone,” Rivas said. Besides his mother, he credits his girlfriend, Norma Gonzalez, a nursing student at Clark College, their eight-month-old daughter, Juliana, and Norma’s family. He considers it one of his highest honors to be able to look out at the Commencement audience and see his loved ones smile proudly for his milestone achievement.
Related: Social Sciences