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Westport Film Festival Winner Defies Stereotypes

WESTON, Conn. – As a Bridgeport resident attending school in Weston, Enrique " Ricky" Rivera was not always treated nicely.

"I was the only Puerto Rican student – it was difficult to fit in," said Rivera, who was chosen through Project Choice to attend Weston schools when he was in kindergarten. "In high school, I left that aside and decided to get involved. I made friends and things changed."

Rivera, who graduated from Weston High School in June, was a co-president of the student government and a member of the Domestic Violence Task Force and helped organize Relay for Life in Weston.

"Getting involved got difficult because of transportation," said Rivera. "One way or another – it worked out. And one way or another, it's been great."

In elementary school, Rivera often asked why he had to be in Weston. "Through hard times and struggle, it made me who I am today. I'm happy I started so young and wouldn't change anything. I'm glad it turned out the way it did," he said. "Growing up in two communities helped me to appreciate what I have and to learn so much more — it opened my eyes a lot. ... The best part was that I got to defy the stereotypes that exist in both communities. The students in both communities are not that different."

Now a high school graduate, Rivera is hoping to continue his love of filmmaking as a student at Emerson College in Massachusetts. He has worked on films with the high school's Trojan TV and has been making short films since he was a sophomore. This past year, he helped produce a film that was entered in the Westport Youth Film Festival, which won Best in Connecticut Film. He now works for Johnny Boston, president and CEO of Raw Media in New York, who he also interned for last summer.

"Ultimately, I want to be a producer," said Rivera. "I like the producing aspect of gathering and bringing people, scenes and locations together for a final product. I like the art behind it — creating a story and trying to convey a vision you have in your head. The story-telling aspect is really fun."

A scholarship fund has been established by Johnny Boston and Lance Lundberg of the Westport Arts Center to help send Rivera to Emerson College in the fall.

"He's an exceptionally diligent, hard-working, smart person. He deserves to go to college - and to a college he wants to go to," said Boston. "He's a worthy cause. He's a guy who gives a lot more than he takes."

To contribute to the fund, send checks made out to Westport Arts Center to The Westport Arts Center, Attn: Lance Lundberg, 51 Riverside Ave., Westport CT 06880. In the memo write: Ricky Rivera Scholarship Fund. For more information, call Lundberg at 203-222-7070.

What do you think about the Project Choice program? Leave your comments below.

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