Harlingen High School South graduate Gerson Rivera has had many families over the course of his young life growing up as a foster child, 48 to be exact.
Since the age of 5, Rivera bounced around from one foster family to another and was bullied in school for not having parents or siblings. He filled his need for family through sports by participating in football, basketball, baseball and wrestling during his first three years of high school at San Benito before transferring to Harlingen South.
“At first, I didn’t have a lot of friends until I got to high school. It was tough growing up. I was left out most of the time. I had to prove to myself that I don’t have to have parents to be a good person, or to be a good athlete or to be smart in school. That was a big challenge for me going through school and there were many times that I wanted to give up.”
He was finally adopted prior to turning 18, but moved out a month later. Without a plan and still in high school, Rivera ended up homeless for three months before he was taken in by a teammates’ family until he got back on his feet.
Excelling in football, he was offered an opportunity to play at Blinn College after graduating high school. However, Rivera didn’t accept the offer and decided to go to college in the Harlingen area. He realized that he didn’t like any of the career paths offered and took a year off.
Rivera eventually decided to return to college for the 2019 Spring Semester, but this time he selected Texas Southmost College.
“What made me go to college was that I have so many siblings, but none of them have gone to college,” said Rivera. “I heard a lot of good things about TSC. My girlfriend told me about the amazing instructors and urged me to try it out. She motivated me to continue to pursue my education so I enrolled.”
Rivera has four biological siblings, two older brothers and two younger sisters. He added 13 more siblings after he was adopted.
During his first day of class, one of his instructors asked him why he decided to go to college. Rivera replied by saying that he didn’t want to be like his biological parents. He wanted to be there for his future family.
Rivera decided on the Criminal Justice program at TSC due to the influence he had from law enforcement officers growing up in foster care.
“I feel that I will only have a future if I have an education,” said Rivera. “Since I was in the fifth grade, I admired how law enforcement officers work. I saw how they helped people and I want to do that, protecting families, like mine, and keeping them safe.”
In addition to pursuing his education, Rivera has also found a family at TSC.
“The environment that TSC has with everyone, I’m not afraid to talk to anyone,” said Rivera. “I couldn’t do that at the other college I went to. At TSC, I feel that I can ask anyone for help. You can feel the openness.”
For more information about TSC’s Criminal Justice program, call 956-295-3382 or visit tsc.edu.