Growing up, Angy Rivera held on to two secrets that she was afraid of revealing, but now the once undocumented youth is being recognized for tossing fear aside and using her story to inspire others.
Rivera will be receiving the American Immigration Council’s 2016 Immigrant Youth Achievement Award, which will be presented at the council’s annual award ceremony onApril 7 in Washington, D.C.
The award is given to one individual — chosen from nominations from throughout the country — whose personal and professional accomplishments illustrate the positive contribution young immigrants make to the country.
The 25-year-old was selected as the winner of the award for her strength, hard work, dedication and advocacy for the immigrant and undocumented youth community in New York City.
“It all happened fairly quickly. I wasn’t expecting it,” Rivera said about winning. “This community work, we don’t do it for the recognition and awards, but it’s nice when someone recognizes you. I feel honored and excited.”
The Flushing, Queens resident is a former undocumented immigrant for 19 years who came to the United States with her mother from Colombia when she was only 4 years old.
After spending years being afraid of coming out as undocumented, Rivera revealed her immigration status publicly and has continuously worked with other undocumented youth throughout the city.
Rivera also began the first undocumented youth advice column in 2010 and is currently a core member of the New York State Youth Leadership Council — the first volunteer undocumented youth and membership led organization.
In 2015, Rivera’s journey was captured in the documentary “No Le Digas A Nadie (Don't Tell Anyone)" by film director Mikaela Shwer — who actually nominated Rivera for the award.
Along with following Rivera through her every day life and focusing on the relationship she has with her mother, the film also surrounds Rivera opening up about being a victim of sexual assault.
The title of the film, originates from a poem Rivera once wrote in which she talks about how since a young girl she was told not to tell anyone about what was going on in her life.
The documentary — which has been screened in numerous cities and aired on PBS — not only allowed Rivera to open up about her past but also allowed others, who might be in the same situation, to share their stories.
“We always have to remember that each of us has a voice, has power and has something to contribute,” she said.
Rivera said she is nervous to take the stage in April to receive her award but feels honored that others are recognizing her — along with other individuals — for the work they are doing.
She added that she will continue to work with undocumented youth to help them through the work she does with the New York State Youth Leadership Council and also plans to soon start an immigrant women initiative where women citywide are able to share their stories through writing.
“We’re here and people are listening to us,” Rivera said. “And it’s nice to get recognition for the work that we are doing.”