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An Entrepreneurial Flair and a Will to Succeed

Ismelisa Rivas

Isemlisa Rivas

When college seniors graduate and receive their degrees, this step toward adulthood is heralded as a commencement.

For Rutgers University students like Ismelisa Rivas, the responsibilities of adulthood began much earlier.

“I have been my own since I was 18,” says Rivas, of Paterson. “At Rutgers, I had to become an adult and a student at the same time.”

It was like a huge weight had been lifted.

Rivas, who describes herself as strong-willed and determined, has an entrepreneurial flair. She and her sister started their own business baking and decorating for birthday parties, hosting more than a dozen events prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

At the School of Arts and Sciences, she discovered her calling, majoring in human resource management and minoring in organizational leadership. She dreams of working for a major cosmetics company like Revlon.

“I am very organized and like to take control,” she said. “The health of a company depends on having a well-organized, responsive, and stable HR operation.”

As she completed class projects like developing a pay compensation model for employees, she was busy working multiple off-campus jobs, including at a New Brunswick law firm, the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center, and a local health club.Isemlisa Rivas sq

But in her junior year, she faced a personal and family crisis and had to temporarily withdraw from school which left her without a safety net: She lost access to healthcare as well as financial support to cover living expenses.

Determined to graduate, she returned for her senior year. She sought help from the Dean’s Emergency Assistance Fund to help with some of the tuition costs.

“It was overwhelming to realize that there were people out there who believed in me and wanted me to succeed,” she said.

With grant in hand, Rivas completed her major and graduated in the Class of 2020.

“When I heard I was approved for a grant, I just burst into tears,” Rivas said. “It was like a huge weight had been lifted.”




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