Manuel Rivera


Manuel RiveraA couple of months before I turned eight, my mother qualified for housing in the city of Watts. We moved into the city when various race wars and violent gang acts were just settling down. Within the first couple month, we witnessed about a handful of shootings. At this time my mother was working two jobs and still a single mother.

While attending elementary, I faced demoralizing comments brought upon by the very own faculty. They continuously told my twin brother and me, “Sorry, but your dreams are too big, coming out of the projects”. Then came middle school, two months into summer school, I was already involved in four “gang affiliated” fights and witnessed a friends get shot for gang banging. Tired of having to worry about her three sons, my mother transferred all of us to Downey city schools. As the years passed, I began to realize that the only way out of the ”projects” was through education.

While in eighth grade, I got introduced to class parks and the Jordan Downs community center faculty. Since then I’ve volunteered over three hundred hours towards continuous efforts to beautify my community and to provide multiple resources to families in need and despair. In my early years of involvement with the Shields For Family Program the continuous encouragement encouraged me to be a student first over anything and to stay motivated and focused on my future. It embedded into my mind that I had the potential to achieve great things in life. This enrichment process all started when Mary Starks had just put together the “Youth Squad”, which met weekly to discuss community issues, clean ups, events and various ways to help our community and ourselves.

SHIELDS has provided me with multiple resources for my family and I, ranging from leadership development, job opportunities, tutoring, financial help, classes and best of all, a great long lasting friendship with people who not only contribute to our community, but care about it. The moral ethics I’ve developed have taught me to focus my ambitions to the highest standard of achievements. I have been told not to let the community influence me negatively, but that I should influence the community positively. I am now looking forward to attend college and acquire a career in the field of business or engineering. I would love to one day have the financial stability and resources to travel the world, in order to provide hope, opportunity, and a fulfilling futures to families in need. This why I believe its been a privilege to have grown up in the Jordan Downs. All the hardships and resources have made me the young man I am.

There are many others like Manuel, please consider donating.

Manuel Rivera