NORWALK – It was August 2009, and Miguel Rivera was just a few days away from walking onto campus at UC Santa Barbara.
“I was pretty pumped about it,” said Rivera. “Education was my thing, I always did well at it.”
However that all changed when he was talked into attending a party, which he admits he didn’t even really want to attend, and decided to partake in drinking.
The details get a bit hazy, but Rivera remembers leaving his friend’s house and starting to make the usually routine journey home.
Rivera never got there, instead finding himself – and his car – flipped into a ditch.
The accident left him a C6 quadriplegic.
Now, years removed from his life altering injury, Rivera is using his own nonprofit organization to help prevent others from learning a harsh lesson in the same manner that he did.
The Dream Big Project started to take form in 2011, when Rivera shared his story for the first time publicly.
“When I shared my story for the first time, that’s when the idea clicked of me starting my own organization,” said Rivera. “I didn’t establish until 2014, and that’s when I felt truly that I can do this…”
Now, Rivera tires to educate teens on the dangers of underage drinking and driving, all while trying to promote the importance of a college education.
“Our mission is to educate, inspire and provide for youth living in intercity communities,” said Rivera. “What we educate on is the dangers of drinking and driving and the importance of receiving an education; that kind of stemmed from me.”
Rivera uses his own personal story to meet these goals. He also wants to inspire youth to “dream big.”
The organization also provides backpacks for elementary level students every year, and is looking to develop scholarships.
Rivera hopes that those who hear his story find it relatable.
“I want people to realize that there are no limits,’ says Rivera. “No matter where we live, what we look like, things like that, we have to continue to move forward.”
By Alex Dominguez | Follow him on Twitter here