The Rivera Memorial Foundation is so much more than just a community organization, it is a beacon of hope and serves as a light to guide the youth to achieve their fullest potential. For me, I owe a debt of intense gratitude to the founders and numerous volunteers who helped to challenge me to become more than what I saw possible. I began as a Southend Cheerleader and, through the encouragement of empowered women around me, participated in the RMF Pageant. Not only did they literally teach me to smile, but helped to light the essence of true confidence and self-esteem that made the smile genuine. The experience of public speaking, of respecting both myself and those around me, and learning how to carry myself with pride and class have been the foundation upon which my career and life experiences have been built. Further, their financial support helped me to earn a dual Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Connecticut in Women's Studies and Legal Studies, graduating Magna Cum Laude and being inducted into the elite Phi Beta Kappa society. This prepared me to serve our great state of Connecticut, where I advocated for women's inclusion and equality at the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women for over two years. My quest for adventure and travel eventually brought me to Central America, where I earned a Master's Degree in International Law and Human Rights from the only United Nations Mandated University dedicated solely to the study of Peace and Conflict Resolution. Our leader and former Ambassador to the United Nations, H.E. Ambassador Susan E. Rice afforded me the opportunity to carry out my internship under the tutelage of her and her esteemed staff. I then went on to serve four years at the United Nations in New York City, for the World Health Organization's Representative from the Region of the Americas, where I advocated for healthy lifestyle changes in the Western Hemisphere; which set a precedent for positive and sustainable change in the advancement of global public health and universal human rights. I encourage all the youth to look deep within themselves to find their true passion, while understanding and respecting the sacrifices made to give them the life and freedom they enjoy. I encourage them to dream bigger and urge them to be more than what they see and to never doubt the unique gifts they have to offer to this world. I remain deeply connected to the well-being and sustainable growth of the Rivera Memorial Foundation and to the legacy with which it was founded. A heartfelt thank you to the numerous volunteers, supporters, cheerleaders – both with and without pom poms – and to all the fellow participants who have built this Organization over the past 20 years. You are appreciated.