It’s been a little more than two years since Ricardo Hernandez Rivera got on a plane in El Salvador and came to Canyon Country. And he’s gone a long way since then — completing two degrees at COC on a student visa, working as an English tutor, maintaining a 3.9 GPA, and landing jobs writing for Cracked.com and Creators Media, an entertainment website.
Graduating next month from College of the Canyons, Ricardo expected to transfer and begin working on a four-year degree, but he has to return to his home country. He will join his two sisters, Maria Jimena and Anna Gabriela in San Salvador, while his parents — Jose Ricardo and Briseida del Carmen, who just got their green cards — will come to the United States.
Like their son, Jose and Briseida will live in Canyon Country with Ricardo’s Aunt Carolina and Uncle David Cea.
The 25-year-old Ricardo is graduating from College of the Canyons next month with an associate’s degree in both Communications and Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. But he did not wait to enter the workplace. He has been writing for Cracked.com and he even wrote a movie pilot. He has articles posted on Cracked with titles like “6 Things You Won’t Believe Were Built by a Single Person” and “5 Heartwarming Stories to Restore Your Faith in Celebrities.”
Despite his success, it has not been a road to riches for Ricardo.
“For my last semester, I have had to turn to GoFundMe, the crowd sourcing platform, since my family, all of whom are still back home in El Salvador, are experiencing financial difficulties,” he explained. “I was supposed to transfer to USC, my good grades and extracurricular the perfect fit for their Communications program. However, I will now be returning to El Salvador at the end of the year, because I cannot afford it.”
Naturally, it’s disappointing for Rivera.
“I’m doing well in school, so I know I have the potential to continue, but it’s a blow,” he said. “But over there … it’s much, much cheaper.”
The hard-working student initially rode the bus to COC, but saved money from his on-campus job as an English tutor to purchase his own vehicle. He spends no time feeling sorry for himself; in fact, Rivera is grateful for the opportunity he has had to live in Canyon Country with his aunt and uncle. He acknowledged that they have “sacrificed a lot to keep me in (their) house (rent free!), and … know the effort I have put in, and how I have little to nothing to show for it.”
Armed with his two degrees, the media journalist is looking at universities in El Salvador and is in contact with some potential employers.
On top of the many contributions Rivera has made to the community, we can benefit from his perspective as an international visitor. Before he moved here two years ago he had only been in the U.S. for a brief vacation.
“Coming here was culture shock. I guess I expected everything to be like in the movies. They paint a perfect picture of Hollywood and Los Angeles,” he said. “But people are very friendly. I fell in love with the people, the lifestyle, but not the weather.”
Living in the United States has left an imprint on Ricardo Rivera that goes far deeper than the temperature outside. “It’s much safer than back home,” he said. “I keep hearing people my age say, ‘There’s nothing to do.’ But I like it … very peaceful and quiet.”