We sat down with Riviera B., daughter of a 2009 Habitat homeowner, to discuss growing up in the Habitat Saint Louis program and her plans to pursue a career in pediatric nursing. In 2022, Rivera graduated from both Metro High School and St. Louis Community College, and is currently enrolled in nursing classes at Saint Louis University. Below is a brief interview with Riviera and what her experience was like growing up in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood with other Habitat Saint Louis homeowners.
What was it like coming into the Habitat program? I know you were little, but what do you remember?
Riviera: Coming in we had only known apartments. That’s all we had ever lived in. This was our first home. We helped build it from the ground up. We watched and worked alongside everyone to make it happen and it was such a huge financial benefit for us.
What was it like growing up in a Habitat home?
Riviera: We became part of the Habitat family when I was 7 years old so almost 13 years now. And it really was a family from day one. We were/are part of neighborhood cleanups, sweeps, and Mom is very active with the board. She wants to make sure her neighborhood is a good home for everyone. As a kid I have gained so many skills from Habitat and I learned to build community bonds with other Habitat kids. Habitat has always been behind us and blessed our family. Ms. Connie and everyone at Habitat have been total angels.
Tell us more about your Habitat neighborhood.
Riviera: It is like a giant family, we know each other, we support each other. The same people who celebrated me at 7, celebrate me now. We aren’t strangers. It’s like having extra aunts around.
What made you want to go to nursing school and pursue your current pathway?
Riviera: Habitat had a big influence on all my decisions. I got into volunteering at an early age and being part of Habitat ingrained in me a want to help people. It just grew and grew. I have a passion for youth and that’s where I want to be an asset to my community because they were an asset to me. I’m so ready for this new challenge.
Are there any misconceptions about Habitat you wish more people knew?
Riviera: The first thing people think about is that they may not be able to afford a home. You have to see the bigger picture. You are buying a home, you are gaining a family and a support system. People do want you to succeed and play a bigger role in your community. My mom is the largest reason of who I am and why am where I am. She is my backbone. But with Habitat you get a bunch of those moms. When you consider a Habitat program it is so more than just a house, it doesn’t just end there. It’s everything.