School of Public Policy Student Honored by Legislative Caucus

Israel Rivera, left, with state Rep. Aaron Vega.
Israel Rivera, left, with state Rep. Aaron Vega.

Israel (Izzy) Rivera, a graduate student in the School of Public Policy, was recently honored by the Black and Latino Caucus of the Massachusetts Legislature for his community work and leadership.

The award was given in conjunction with a recent LatinX Excellence on the Hill day hosted by the caucus. Rivera received a citation from the group in recognition of “his unyielding commitment to his community and its youth through grassroots efforts, his work with OneHolyoke CDC, and the Holyoke Safe and Successful Youth Initiative.”

Rivera, a student in SPP’s Master of Public Policy program, is the director of community engagement for the OneHolyoke Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit that works to improve housing for low- and moderate-income residents of the city. As community engagement director, Rivera partners with residents to improve quality of life and call for equity in all city neighborhoods. He also serves as a member of the City of Holyoke’s Parks and Recreation Commission and has volunteered as a mentor and coach in the community.

Rivera was nominated for the honor by state Rep. Aaron Vega of the 5th Hampden District, who presented the award to him at a OneHolyoke CDC dinner Nov. 30. “I nominated Izzy not just because he’s a great leader and has a great personal story of someone who’s worked to get his life back on positive track, but because he brings others into leadership positions and inspires others to give back,” Vega said. “Izzy works to raise and encourage the entire community to do better for each other.”

Rivera spent five years in state prison as a young man; after his release, he enrolled at Holyoke Community College, then transferred to UMass Amherst, where he received his bachelor’s in sociology. His academic interests include criminal and education reform, issues he also works on as an activist.

Rivera expressed gratitude to Vega and the rest of the caucus for the recognition, and to the Holyoke community for its support of his work in advocacy, education, and promoting equity. “My goal upon earning my degree in public policy is to alter the perception and the ideology of what is ‘professional,’” Rivera said. “I aim to alter the professional landscape radically, allowing for it to be more of an inclusive club.”