2023 Certificate Student Gets a Second Chance

Angel Rivera's adolescent years saw a lot of mistakes & decisions that he says could have gotten him killed or thrown in prison.


RVC President Dr. Howard Spearman and Angel Rivera, Automotive Certificate Recipient

Many people in his life told him that he wouldn't graduate from high school. "I'm sure I'm not the only one here who has made mistakes," said Angel. "But there's value in failures and mistakes. We gain experience in what to do and what not to do." Through his mother's encouragement, Angel enrolled in the Marine Corps after high school, where he was a small arms repair technician and security guard.

When Angel was transitioning from the Marine Corps to civilian life, he researched the next steps and looked at a few schools in the area. He chose RVC because of the accreditations and commute. From there, he connected with Milana Herman in Veterans Affairs, and she guided him through the process of getting started.

During his time at RVC, Angel says he's made mistakes that wouldn't necessarily get him life in prison, but simple educational mistakes like forgetting a part during component assembly, running a component function check and realizing he might have overlooked something or installing something incorrectly might be costly in a different way. Professor Mike Miller would make him take it apart again, but there was value in learning that mistake. "Whether your certificate is in Automotive, Welding, Machining, or Aviation, mistakes might happen, but don't let them discourage you,” said Angel.  “Learn from them and push forward.”

It was an honor for Angel to be a part of the RVC automotive program. He was happy to see an Electric vehicle class added to the curriculum this year and believes that it has prepared him and his classmates in the automotive field along with the rest of the required courses. He encourages every graduate to utilize newfound skills, knowledge, and education confidently and don't fear mistakes but embrace them. "Help each other out in the workplace and remember that no one wants to work around grumpy, mean people,” said Angel. “Lend a hand, a tool, or even some knowledge."

Automotive Associate Professor John Skupien agrees that Angel adds excellent motivation and intensity to his class work. "Angel is always engaged in class, whether we are in lecture or lab, he is always actively participating,"said John Skupien. "His work ethic is outstanding, the quality of his work is excellent, and he is a genuinely good person," he continued. "His employer is extremely impressed with his dedication, drive and he's truly is that "unicorn" we all wish we had more of."

Angel is grateful to Milana Herman with Veterans Affairs for getting him situated with courses when he was overseas in the Marine Corps. He's thankful to Professors: Julio, Mike, Mat, and John, for encouraging and instilling confidence in their student's abilities throughout the years. After graduation, Angel would like to become a level four master tech through his current employer, a local Jaguar dealership. Eventually, he would like to return to RVC to teach automotive classes.

Angel Rivera was a student speaker during the 2023 Certificate ceremony.