Veteran Finds Second Career With An Assist From State Farm
Connecticut organization offers free trainings to veteran
Freddy Rivera, a New York City native, finished two years at a university in Puerto Rico in 2000. He did well academically, but couldn’t find a good job and felt out of place.
“I grew up in New York City,” explains Freddy. “But my parents retired to Puerto Rico so I followed along.”
He realized he needed a new location and a career. With a lifelong respect of the military, Freddy enlisted in the Army. He went into combat three times, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Black Hawk mechanic and instructor.
He wanted to continue his Army career, but unfortunately Freddy had to medically retire in 2014 due to a traumatic brain injury and back injuries.
“I wanted to stay,” says Freddy. “It’s been difficult adjusting to civilian life. It’s very different and I was struggling.”
“After the Army, I was doing radio broadcasting and videos for local communities, but I was doing things the wrong way,” he continued. “I didn’t have a clue and desperately wanted to attend a school to learn the proper way, but they were all too expensive. So, I prayed, and got a miracle.”
One day, Freddy received an email from the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN), offering free media training for veterans and their family members. Freddy responded to the school that night.
“I needed to attend their classes,” Freddy says. “This was my opportunity to learn something to carry me into my next career.”
He was accepted into CPBN’s Veterans Vocational Training Program (VVTP), which is supported by State Farm. But there was a catch. The classes were in Connecticut and Freddy now lived in Virginia with his family.
“It was scary,” he explains. “I had no place to live near the school, but I wanted this course so badly.”
A week before the program began, Freddy contacted a cousin in Connecticut who he had never met, and asked for help. She offered to rent him a room.
“It was tough leaving my wife and kids, but I thought of it as a deployment,” he says.
“PBN’s service to veterans is like nothing I’ve seen before,” he shares. “The staff treats veterans and their families with respect and kindness. Plus, I met other veterans with stories and experiences similar to mine. It made me feel comfortable and I formed many lasting friendships.”
Freddy attended a second semester while renting an apartment two blocks from the school. He took advantage of every class offered, learning new programs, videoing, editing, radio broadcasting, photography, and more. He even toured TV stations.
“Once Freddy enrolled in the program, he sought out every opportunity for growth and learning, says CPBN Senior Vice President of Education Donna Sodipo. “As a result, he not only passed his Adobe Premier Pro certification exam, but took the time to mentor high school students through WNPR's ‘Radio Lab’ project. His enthusiasm was contagious. Freddy’s dedication and success are remarkable, and speaks to the potential that can be realized through the Veterans Vocational Training Program.”
“The atmosphere around the program is great and they teach in a style that was very helpful for me to learn given all of my service connected conditions,” says Freddy. “I often asked the same questions over and over, but they always responded with patience and understanding.”
Freddy is back living with his family in Virginia, but continues to look for more CPBN courses. He currently creates websites, small videos, and t-shirt and print design, but hopes to own his own radio station one day. His goal is to bring positive messaging to his community, focusing on religion, current news, and sports.
“My experience with CPBN has been unforgettable,” says Freddy. “There is now a part of Connecticut and CPBN in my heart. The entire staff is amazing and they made the adrenaline pump through my veins again.”
“Thank you, CPBN and State Farm, for greatly impacting veterans’ lives, as well as our communities.”