U School student finds his voice in poems and film
Anthony Rivera is more than a young hero — he is a quintessential change agent and difference-maker. Rivera transferred from Roman Catholic High School to attend the U School during the 2015-16 academic year. As a transfer student, Rivera adjusted quickly, exhibiting a quiet confidence, swagger, and fierce intelligence.
He used his creative writing skills to create an epic poem, “I Am Philly,” for the 2016 Scholastic Art and Writing Contest. This poignant work shares his narrative and pays tribute to the struggles and triumphs of those living on the margins.
On Thursday, Aug. 11, the National Liberty Museum will honor Rivera and other young people from across the region with its prestigious Young Heroes Award. The annual award goes to ordinary young people in the Philadelphia area who have championed liberty through their actions.
Rivera is an emerging student leader at the U School. He was a member of the Dream Team of the Future Project based at the U School. The Future Project is a national program collaborating with schools to empower young people to unlock their passion and purpose in life. Rivera is exemplary in his academics and adept in connecting his school work to real-world applications. He took an original argumentative assignment (Letter to the Next President), converted the letter into a spoken word poem, and eventually produced a short video for the BMe Notice 2 POTUS contest, titled “Freeze.” This argumentative video poem demonstrates his rhetorical skills and filmmaking abilities. He made direct appeals and calls to action to both major parties’ presidential nominees, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Click here to watch the "Freeze" video on YouTube.
Rivera got Future Project to back his documentary film project. The poem “I Am Philly” is the genesis of a documentary film that is now in post-production. Rivera’s passion is using film to tell stories. He plans to attend New York University and major in film and media production when he graduates from high school.
Rivera is media-savvy, yet he portrays a humble confidence to both peers and adults. He presented a TED-like talk at the 2016 Future Project closing ceremony. At the program, he pitched his dream project, “The Golden Ticket,” a social entrepreneurial project that seeks to help youth productively express themselves and promote cultural tolerance and understanding. He refers to his project as “being a ticket to a new beginning.” Through his organization, he is establishing mentorships, arts, film, music, trips, and other necessary resources “to keep kids off the streets.”
Rivera’s poems, documentaries and start-up social entrepreneurial project are all inspired by his own life story. Through his early struggles and obstacles, he lacked stability and a solid home foundation. He plans to offer alternative positive programs for low-income students to inspire the next generation of change agents. Rivera feels that many youth tend to believe "success is Jay Z, Beyoncé, Meek Mills, Nicki, and other celebrities.” But through his films and programs, he wants to help young people understand that success is in “themselves."
He is well on his way to making his dreams come true. This summer he was selected to participate in the Verizon Innovative Learning Summer Social entrepreneurship program at the University of Texas at Austin.
Rivera is a well-deserving young hero. When I told him that he was being nominated and eventually accepted to receive that award, he commented that “it’s not often that kids like me get recognized for our talents.” Fortunately, we’ll be hearing a whole lot more about Rivera’s work in film and his actions to be a champion for liberty.
Rivera will receive his Young Heroes recognition during a special event on Thursday, Aug. 11, at the National Liberty Museum, 321 Chestnut St., Philadelphia.
Samuel Reed III, a teacher consultant with the Philadelphia Writing Project, is an active member of the Teacher Action Group (TAG Philly) and is founding teacher at the U School.