Getting it right the second time around: Former Tahoe man finds himself in academia and fiction writing |

Getting it right the second time around: Former Tahoe man finds himself in academia and fiction writing

Rick Rivera has a few stories to tell. It could be his own or it could be from the two books he published. Whatever the source, he touched upon them during student assemblies last week at South Tahoe High School.

“Rick Rivera is an inspiration to us all,” said assistant principal Marilyn Pawling. “This South Tahoe High School graduate, the youngest of nine children, has gone on to become a published author and college professor. He did not always value education.”

Rivera, a 1972 graduate of the school, might tell how he flunked out of his first semester at Santa Rosa Junior College right after high school graduation.

“I never went to class, and when I did, I treated it like high school, like I could get away with stuff,” Rivera said.

He explained how he got a county job delivering mail for a few years, then returned to Tahoe to work at Harveys Resort and Casino.

Rivera reflected on the time when a bomb was discovered in the casino in 1980 an hour after his shift in the coin vault began and people were evacuated. He was interviewed by an FBI agent a day afterward, watched the empty casino blow up after the bomb was detonated and assisted in the cleanup.

Along his path, he told of how he left Harveys and worked on an assembly line at Hewlett-Packard putting together computers. At 30, he returned to Santa Rosa Junior College and transferred to Sonoma State University, where he earned a bachelor’s in humanities and a master’s in English.

The next chapter in Rivera’s life was his pursuit of a doctorate in English at New Mexico State University, where he wrote his first novel, “A Fabricated Mexican,” which was followed by “Stars Always Shine.”

Although fiction, “A Fabricated Mexican” has segments loosely based on his time in Tahoe in a house on Tata Lane.

Rivera emphasized how he fulfilled his goal of teaching at the community college level, which is his occupation in Sonora.

But the crux of his presentation, Rivera, 50, said, is to encourage students to pursue their passions, to not let anybody get them down and that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.

“They don’t have to limit themselves,” he said.

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