GPSTEM Program Director, Springfield Technical Community College; Age 39
There’s a quote from the late Puerto Rican baseball star Roberto Clemente that Lidya Rivera-Early lives by. “Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.”
It’s sound advice, she says, but Clemente’s words also spur positive memories for her. Rivera-Early moved to Springfield from Puerto Rico as a teenager 25 years ago, and remembers her childhood on the island as one full of music, food, laughter, and trips to baseball games with her family. As such, the ideas of giving back, empowerment of others, and the importance of building relationships are blended together for her, and she champions them each day, both in her position as GPSTEM (Guided Pathways to Success in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program director at Springfield Technical Community College and in her personal life.
“What’s most important to me is empowering others,” she said.
She does so in her career by providing people across the city of Springfield — not just at STCC — with the tools they need to “grow and obtain success,” as she puts it. More specifically, that means identifying and creating new, innovative strategies for educational and career development that speak to a diverse community and prepare individuals for today’s workforce.
“We pay close attention to what employers are looking for, and we pass this information on to the community,” she said, noting that she works frequently with career centers in the area such as FutureWorks to reach people outside of the STCC student body. “Anywhere the community has a need, we go.”
In fact, Rivera-Early is often seen all over the city, through her role at STCC, but also as a volunteer with the Gandara Mental Health Center, the Family Resource Center, the Springfield City Council’s ad hoc committee for workforce development, and Let’s Connect, a nonprofit startup initiative, among others.
She’s also joined up with Focus Springfield Community Television to produce a show called Against All Odds, wherein young people in the area gather to talk about the issues they face and how they’ve overcome them.
“I’m very passionate about working with youths to help them find their voices,” she said. “I identify with a lot of their struggles, and helping them grow is extremely important to me.”
Rivera-Early added that she loves what she does in part because it isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” kind of career, unlike her favorite Clemente jersey.
“I found the right path for me,” she said, and there is family, hope, music, and baseball all along the way.
— Jaclyn Stevenson
Photography by Leah Martin Photography