Looking back, even Cesar Rivaben ’14 is a little astonished at how far he has come in such a short period of time.
Having grown up in Buenos Aires, Cesar immigrated to the United States in August of 2000. He arrived with $200 in his pocket and spoke no English. On May 22, Cesar walked across the stage at Woolsey Hall to receive his Associates degree in Business Administration from Gateway Community College. After first arriving in the U.S., he worked various odd jobs in California, from roofing to dishwashing, just to get by. “In 2002, I got married and finally found a job in sales working for Bob’s Discount Furniture,” says Rivaben. The position was contingent upon him learning English within 90 days. “It was my goal and I knew that being in this type of job environment would help me excel in English,” said Rivaben.
He worked for Bob’s for five years while also working at Raymour & Flanigan. He also began to run a successful cleaning business franchise. “Sometimes I was working nearly a hundred hours a week between being at Bob’s during the day and running the business in the evening. But I was doing well.”
Then, according to Cesar, everything “went sideways” in 2008 and 2009 with the economy. “We had to move in with my in-laws and I returned to working in retail at Pilgrim Furniture,” he said. His mother-in-law encouraged him to go back to school. Rivaben had received his GED in 2012 since he only completed two years of high school in Argentina. He recalls, “I was so scared about going back to school because English was not my first language. But I knew I had to try.”
“It was difficult working and going to school, especially with our three year old at home. But my wife and her family have been so incredibly supportive and all the professors and staff at Gateway are really wonderful.”Cesar Rivaben
Rivaben registered for two classes at Gateway in the Fall of 2012, and then took two more classes during the Winter session. For the last two years, he has been taking five classes during the Fall and Spring semesters and two classes each during the Winter and Summer sessions.
“It was difficult working and going to school, especially with our three-year-old at home. But my wife and her family have been so incredibly supportive and all the professors and staff at Gateway are really wonderful.” Leaving Gateway with his Associate’s degree in hand and an exemplary GPA, Rivaben will begin classes in the Fall to complete his Bachelor’s degree at Quinnipiac University. He hopes to pursue a career in commercial banking.
“I’m very excited but also sad to leave because Gateway has been like another family for me. Of course it’s all part of the journey and I just hope it keeps going in the same upward direction.” Rivaben eventually hopes that he can motivate young high school students to stay determined and persevere in school by sharing his story.