September 2013, Volume 17, Number 3

Making Their Mark

Family Shares Lessons Learned at MDC

With its multiplicity of programs for people in all stages of their lives, Miami Dade College often attracts several members of a family to pursue their education simultaneously. While juggling the demands of home life with school and work, the Rivas family serves as an exceptional example of how a family can excel together in a variety of fields while still finding impressive ways to give back to others.

Daughter Shines in the Spotlight

Hellen Rivas and MDC are a perfect match – a gifted student who will have a college diploma by age 18 and an exceptional institution of higher education that helped make her dreams come true.

Hellen, who will graduate from MDC in May and plans to pursue a double major in broadcast journalism and music at the University of Miami, is already in the national spotlight. She recently attended the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference in Washington, D.C., after a competitive selection process that awarded scholarships to just one student per state. The program, which focuses on First Amendment rights, also offered her the exciting opportunity to work for several news organizations, including USA Today.

Incredible Balancing Act

In addition to being a journalist, Hellen is a performer who recently released a music video. Balancing academics and art, she also finds time to help others. For completing 278 hours of community service in a single academic year, she received the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Hellen’s journey to MDC began when she became disheartened with her high school environment, where many students weren’t focused on academics. Researching options online, she discovered the College’s dual-enrollment program, which let her earn a high school diploma while also receiving college credits at Hialeah Campus.

Fitting in From the Start

“When I got to MDC, I was smaller and younger than most of my classmates, but they still showed me a lot of respect,” said Hellen, who is now17. “I am grateful to MDC.”

The busy teenager is also the managing editor for MDC’s award-winning Café Cultura student literary magazine and the vice president of the Hialeah Campus Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. And she is a member of MDC’s YES club, which stands for Youth for Environmental Sustainability.

“My professors are great,” Hellen said. “They’ve helped me grow so much, and they keep asking when my younger brother and sister are coming to MDC. This College is a wonderful place for everyone, so I know they’re going to love it here when they are my age.”

Dad Produces the Show

Hellen Rivas is not the only member of her family who attends Miami Dade College – her parents are working toward their degrees as well.

Hellen’s father, Harol Rivas, is a music composer, producer and videographer who is learning new tricks of the trade from his professors at the world-class studios of the School of Entertainment & Design Technology at MDC’s North Campus. For a final project in one of his courses, he perfected his daughter’s new music video Around the World, which can be seen at
“My goal is to improve and continue in my career,” said Harol, who – like Hellen and his wife, Francy – was born in Colombia. “I want to keep getting better and better artistically.”

Harol specializes in salsa music and has worked with numerous budding stars. He said MDC’s flexible class schedules and online courses enable him to pursue a college degree while still performing, teaching music and running his business. In addition, MDC’s flexibility lets him and his family continue their humanitarian missions to Colombia, where they give motivational talks and help in all sorts of ways, with Harol even creating a kids’ soccer team to build morale. The whole family also performs music to inspire their fellow Colombians to achieve their dreams through education – just like they are doing at MDC.

Mom Runs the Biz

Francy Perdomo, who studies business administration at MDC and will graduate alongside daughter Hellen in May, said her husband and their three kids are the extroverts of the family.

“They love microphones and cameras,” she said. “I’m more behind the scenes.”

Even so, Francy stands centerstage in the family’s philanthropic endeavors. It was her idea to create the Pink H Foundation after the death of Harol’s brother-in-law, which left relatives in need. First helping just their family members, Francy’s selfless idea grew exponentially. The Foundation now donates clothing, toys and thousands of shoes to poor children while at the same time teaching them the importance of education.

“My entrepreneurial classes at MDC have given me insights on how to help others,” Francy said.

— WV

More Making Their Mark Articles

Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.
Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Miami Dade College.
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disability, veteran’s status, ethnicity, pregnancy, sexual orientation or genetic information. Additional information may be obtained by contacting the
Office of Equal Opportunity Programs/ADA Coordinator/Title IX Coordinator, at 305.237.2577.