Written by Stephanie DeLuna
Ana Laura Rivera will begin her fourth year at The University of Texas at Austin this fall, with an impressive list of accomplishments and many, many hours of service to the university and her community already behind her–not to mention, a recent internship in Washington, D.C. with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and a month-long, State Department-sponsored summer exchange program in Korea.
Rivera is a first-generation college student from Mission, Texas, majoring in Government and Humanities Honors with an interdisciplinary certificate in Human Rights and Social Justice. She is active in a number of social justice organizations, is a recipient of the Texas Exes Presidential Leadership Award, one of the most prestigious student awards at the university, and serves on the executive board for The University of Texas Service Scholars, a program that is a partnership between the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Moreover, Rivera is one of the outstanding McNair Scholars on campus.
McNair Scholars are prepared for doctoral studies through involvement in undergraduate research, faculty mentoring, academic colloquia series and other scholarly activities. Rivera’s research has a focus on teen pregnancy and sexual health education in the United States and worldwide.
“I wanted to excel, and I wanted to take on issues that my community faced,” she said. “Those issues motivated me to become an agent of change.”
Rivera said that many different factors come along with the lack of sexual health education in low-income communities. “This issue leads to high drop-out rates and very few health care resources for young women of color,” she said.
According to Rivera, her time in D.C. broadened her knowledge on her McNair research topic.
“I was able to see how Congress works, and I was able to learn more about health care acts and contraception issues,” she said.
Rivera attended the National Council of La Raza Youth Summit this summer to present a workshop based on sexual health education to advocate, inform, and motivate other Latino/a youth to be part of the reproductive justice rights movement, and she thanks the McNair Scholars program for the opportunity to perform in-depth research on the topic.
“Through the McNair program, I will continue learning more about reproductive justice issues along with the help of my faculty mentor and advisor,” she said. “I’m fortunate to work on an issue that I’m very passionate about.”