First Generation College Student Finds Success at UMO

First Generation College Student Finds Success at UMO


MOUNT OLIVE- In August of 2014 Cynthia Rivera became the first person in her family to pursue a college degree. Rivera, a Mount Olive resident, used to think college was out of reach. Her father emigrated from Mexico at an early age. Both of her parents have always been hard workers, but never received the opportunity to attend college. However, they instilled the importance of education into their children.

Growing up in Wayne County Rivera attended Mount Olive Middle School and later Southern Wayne High School, where she maintained a 4.1 GPA.  Living so close the University of Mount Olive gave Rivera the opportunity to visit the campus often, and when it came time to apply to colleges, UMO was at the top of her list.

“The soccer coach at UMO encouraged and motivated me to apply to UMO,” Rivera said. “He insisted I retake the SAT and he reminded me of important dates with regards to the application process.  The Admissions counselors and financial aid officers also worked with me to find scholarships.  They helped me put together a plan to pay for college.  That made the decision to come to UMO an easy one for me.”

Even though Rivera is a commuter, she is still very active on campus.  She is a midfielder on the Trojan women’s soccer team. Since she started playing soccer at age five, Rivera’s parents have always been her biggest fans.  Having them close enough to cheer her on at Amon Field is a wonderful advantage for Rivera.

“The competition and motivation affiliated with soccer has encouraged me to try my best in all aspects of life,” she said.

Off the field, Rivera is majoring in accounting and hopes to one day work for an accounting firm. With her first full semester of college completed, she is happy with her decision to attend UMO.

“The professors are very nice and welcoming, so my transition to college has been easier thanks to them,” she said.  “And I really enjoy the liberal arts style of education which allows me to take courses like religion which is taught by Dr. John Blackwell.”

When asked about how she felt about being the first member of the family to attend college, Rivera said, “To be the first in my family to go to college is a new and exciting adventure. Since my family doesn’t have the experience to help me with a lot of my academics, I have gained a great deal of independence. My parents are extremely proud of me, and their support is the backbone of my college journey.”

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit