Steve Borla

Hartford Community Loan Fund

Erick Carrión Rivera is a queer, Puerto Rican and first generation college graduate from the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. He was born in Bayamon but raised in the rural town of Corozal, Puerto Rico. Erick grew up running around in mud and playing in the small forest backyard of his grandmother. Growing up, he was always detail-oriented, noticing things others did not see. He is a systems- thinker, but understands that systemic changes start from within. In high school, Erick moved to New London to learn English, and experience mainland U.S. culture. He lived with his aunt and grandmother in the local public housing community while finishing his junior and senior year. Before graduating high school, Erick volunteered extensively at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School as a teacher assistant, the Teatro Latino de New London and at the Office of New London Youth Affairs. In 2010, Erick was accepted into University of the Sacred Heart in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to complete a bachelor of arts in Theater. On college, Erick noticed that there were not a lot of opportunities for freshmen students that wanted to be involved in theater. He and a friend decided to found a new student theater organization, “Imaginarte,” that would give everyone a chance to participate and collaborate in theater productions. The two existing student theater organizations adopted this model, inspired by Erick’s work. Erick presided over “Imaginarte” for 4 years. He was also a Board of Education Representative of the Interdisciplinary Faculty of Humanistic and Social Studies, where he advocated for his peers, and presented issues that were affecting the students at his department. In addition, Erick was the director and the sub-director of the college student art gallery, where he promoted local and student artists. He turned the gallery in a cultural center, where all types of arts joined in presentations openings. He also hosted “Arts Under the Sky” nights, a space where students organizations had a chance to present their art, theater skits, plays and student films. He became vice-president of the student council in his senior year, where he continued to promote arts and cultural activities around campus and advocate for his department in board meetings. While on vacations every summer, he would come to New London, to work as a teacher assistant in New London High School. He also organized youth, in a participatory action research, he gathered data with his peers and is a founding member of Hearing Youth Voices. There, he advocated for students, empowered youth, and fought for fair policy changes in the local school system, Erick believes that with a better school system comes a better community, and with a better community comes a better and brighter future for everyone. After graduating from Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, Erick stayed on as the university’s Project Development Coordinator. There he implemented a Student Support Program on campus directed at students who were confronting financial limitations that hinder their academic opportunities. He worked on programming to provide food and personal items, lodging and work opportunities to low- income students, and coordinated the creation of a food pantry, a soup kitchen and scholarships for students to have access to college housing. In 2016, Erick returned to New London as the new Youth Organizer of FRESH New London. In that position he empowered local youth, growth food and connected the community. After a year an a half as the FRESH Youth Organizer he joined Alliance for Living as a Non-Medical & Housing Case Manager, and as the organizations first Early Intervention Specialist. He was in charge of the logistics of the New London County HIV/HEP C testing initiative with the collaboration of the Connecticut Department of Public Health and many other sexual health or behavioral health organizations. He joined the board of directors of a Better Way Foundation in 2016, as a working member and interim secretary. He ran for board of education in 2017, and represented the community as a community representative for the board. He proposed curriculum changes and supported recommendations of Hearing Youth Voices regarding culturally relevant curriculum. In late 2018 Erick had the desire of returning back to Puerto Rico, after a year of job searching in December 2019 Erick returned to the island, where he was born, he has been living in San Juan since then and currently works as a Medical Device Support Specialist. He is also pursuing a MA in International Relations & Diplomacy in the Center for Advance Studies of Puerto Rico & the Caribbean, there he challenges academia, and the status quo regarding the lack of democracy in international processes. Erick continues to serve on the board of a better way foundation and in late 2021 he became chair of the board of directors. In his free time Erick reads about local history, volunteer for different causes, explores the island, go to spinning classes and yoga. Erick I have experience in education, communications, community organizing, social media management, nonprofits, arts administrations, urban farming, content creation, event coordination, case management, participatory action research, sexual health, theater, data, and more. combined, Erick has have over 8 years of experiences.