“YIA plays an imperative role in the development of youth and their adult allies, going beyond traditional approaches to leadership development by prioritizing social-emotional development,” said Elliot Rivera when he was named Executive Director of Youth In Action (YIA) in 2019.
Since then, Rivera has been working to fulfill YIA’s mission of creating opportunities for youth to become their best selves. “They address power imbalances that stifle the potential of youth, especially young people of color, and create more caring and fair public institutions and systems,” reads in part the About section of the YIA website. By building power, leadership, and action amongst youth in our communities, YIA believes a more equitable and safe world is possible.
Growing up in Worcester, MA as a first-generation Salvadoran, Rivera did not have the access to most resources. What he did have were two dedicated parents working countless hours in manufacturing and janitorial services to get by. Never really thinking he would end up working with people, opportunities to support his communities from fighting within a union for undocumented worker rights to supporting youth in multiple settings came naturally to Rivera. He was first profiled in the Latino Policy Institute’s #LatinosInRI series.
As a person of Latine heritage, Elliot’s connection to his work and its journey is rooted in his deep core connection to all aspects of his culture. Now proudly calling Providence RI home, in his current role with YIA, he amplifies the stories and journeys of the next generation and supports them in their journeys by opening doors to experiences and opportunities he was never afforded.
“If the pandemic is literally killing Black and Latino communities at higher rates, it’s obviously affecting them in different ways, too,” Rivera said in an interview with the Brown Daily Herald about the Providence Public School District operations in March 2021. Rivera said the school district had “been working on (issues of inequality) for decades,” but he questioned the quality of the progress that had been made. The pandemic may be slowing down reforms made by the state takeover, he said, noting the pandemic’s highlighting of the inequitable access to technology throughout the district.
Rivera was recognized with the Service to Youth Award by the City of Worcester in 2019. His experience includes Community Engagement Specialist and Program Director with the City of Worcester. He’s also been the Program Coordinator with the Latino Education Institute.
Rivera is a graduate of Worcester State University and has a Master’s degree from Tufts University.
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