20 Under 40: Yareli Rivera-Suamataia

Imperial Valley College students are in good hands with Yareli Rivera-Suamataia, the Director of Student Development and Activities.

Rivera-Suamataia holds three years of experience and is in her final year of the San Diego State University’s doctorate in education with a concentration in community college leadership (CCLEAD) program.

“Through the program, I am doing research on Imperial Valley College and San Diego State University-Imperial Valley,” Rivera-Suamataia said. “It is my hope that through my dissertation I get to increase the resources provided to students in the Imperial Valley.”

This research was particularly important to Rivera-Suamataia because of her close ties with the local institutions.

“I am a product of IVC and SDSU-IV and this dissertation is meant to honor the institutions, the people who have supported me, and to give back to the Imperial Valley,” she shared.

As a director at IVC, Rivera-Suamataia currently directs, manages and evaluates the activities, programs and services of the Associated Student Government and student activities. She also implements appropriate methods and procedures to provide effective and successful social, cultural, and instructional activities for students.

“What I love about my job is the ability to support students throughout their journey at IVC,” she said. “I get to know the students as incoming freshmen and work with them throughout the two years. I help them with their transfer or career exploration process and finally I get to see them graduate.”

“It really is a full circle and I love being a part of their journey,” Rivera-Suamataia said.

When it comes to those memorable professional moments, Rivera-Suamataia can recall one in particular from her previous institution when she was able to inform a student they had received a full ride scholarship to attend university.

“This student had mentioned that without that scholarship he would have not been able to attend school” she recalled. “For me having the ability and responsibility to change a student’s life through education has and will always be the most memorable moments in my career.”

When it comes to the bond between Rivera-Suamataia and her students, the director and mother said she often sees herself as a mama bear.

“I am very protective about my students and my son and I also guide them and show them how to grow up like mama bears do with their cubs,” she said.

One celebrity that gives off similar Mama bear vibes is First Lady Michelle Obama. Unsurprisingly, she is exactly who Rivera-Suamataia would like to hang out with, if given the opportunity.

“I would love to hear from her and how she has managed a successful career, marriage, and motherhood,” Rivera-Suamataia said.

As a wife, mother, doctorate student and full time professional, Rivera-Suamataia has juggled both her passion and responsibilities remarkably even despite life’s many wonderful obstacles.

“I had a baby during my doctoral journey,” Rivera-Suamataia revealed. “I was pregnant my first year in the program, had my baby the second year and was in class two weeks after having him, and finally I am about to finish with him being almost two years old.”

As she nears the end of her doctoral journey, Rivera-Suamataia said if she had the opportunity she would speak to her middle school self and empower her to keep going.

“I will show my old self that everything will be okay and that she does belong in college,” she said.

Similar sentiments were echoed in the advice Rivera-Suamataia has for other people pursuing their dream careers.

“My advice for young professionals is to not give up. Find the people who are there to support you and lean on them,” she said. “Do not be afraid to ask for help. You can do it. You are your biggest advocate.”

In the future, Rivera-Suamataia hopes to complete her doctoral degree and be the first in my family to be a Doctor.

“I am excited to spend more time with my family once I finish school and I look forward to new opportunities,” she said.

As she completes her degree, she’s reminded of her favorite quote her mother, Marcia Rivera once told her.

“No one can take away your education,” she recalled.

Through her personal and professional work, Rivera-Suamataia hopes to live a life that encourages others to believe in their abilities.

“I hope to empower women and let them know that it is possible to be a wife, mother, doctor, and full time professional,” she said. “I hope to empower women.”

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