Mark Travis Rivera
- Age: 25
- Hometown: Wayne, NJ
- Alma Mater: William Paterson University of New Jersey (in progress)
- Alma Mater: Activist, Choreographer, Dancer, Writer
Mark participated in Camp Pride in 2011, and won the Voice & Action Award for Student Leadership in 2013. Now, he is finishing his education at William Paterson University. We asked Mark to reflect on his experiences with Campus Pride and how they’ve affected his life and work since. Below are his responses.
When did you first become involved with Campus Pride and what do you recall about your experience?
My involvement with Campus Pride began when I attended Camp Pride in 2011 in Nashville, TN. I remember thinking to myself, “this is my first time leaving the Eastern Time Zone,” and I remember feeling excited to meet other student leaders from all over the U.S.
Upon arriving, the dry heat of Nashville wasted no time greeting my friends and I and on the first night I remember a group of us decided to walk down the street to eat pizza and I knew at that moment that I was about to embark on an experience that would have a great deal of impact on my life and the work I would do.
Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with Campus Pride.
It is nearly impossible to narrow it down to just a single meaningful moment when there have been so many meaningful moments that I could attribute Campus Pride for. While at Camp Pride I had the great privilege of meeting Robyn Ochs, the queen of self-care. My relationship with Robyn would go on to develop and because of Robyn, I take self-care seriously and try my best to maintain as much of a balance as possible.
Describe what you are doing today with your professional life and how Campus Pride helped to prepare you?
As I wrap up my undergraduate studies, I am currently working on developing myself as a public speaker—traveling around the region providing workshops and keynotes that address issues of intersectional identities. You can learn more about my activism work by visiting www.marktravisrivera.com/activism
I also continue to run my dance company, marked dance project, a contemporary-modern integrated dance company that includes dancers with and without disabilities. This March we are celebrating 5 years of remarkable dancing. You can learn more about MDP by visiting www.markeddanceproject.com
As a writer, I continue to write for a variety of publications such as Huffington Post, Fox News Latino, and I am writing my first book, “Marking The Path: On Life, Love, & The Pursuit of Happiness”, which I’m hoping to have published by December of 2014-early 2015).
My experience at Camp Pride provided me with a large network of amazing individuals who are already doing the work I aspire to do, so Camp Pride provided me with mentors, friends, and a great support system as I continue to walk in my purpose.
How did Campus Pride impact you and your individual growth as a leader?
It had a major impact on my advocacy work as it relates to my university. Upon returning from Camp, I was able to help the gender and sexuality alliance organization on my campus grow both in numbers of members and increase our programmatic efforts to provide services and support throughout the university community.
I was also able to bring back the LGBTQA Celebration, which hadn’t taken place in over four years before I brought it back, now the celebration is annually recognized and has its own budget line for programming. My voice and passion for the cause was strengthened because of my experience at Camp Pride—I was inspired by the diverse group of people I met who all pushed me to be a better activist because of how brave they were to LIVE, TALK, and WALK their truth every day despite their circumstances.
What value do you feel Campus Pride brings to LGBTQ and Ally young adult leaders?
The value of community; some of my closest friends are people I met at camp or through the organization in some way. I am reminded because of Campus Pride that I am NEVER alone—that I have people who walk this path alongside me.
How does Campus Pride still provide enrichment to your life today and what you do professionally?
Campus Pride has truly created a network for young LGBTQA leaders in America in a way that very few organizations have. That network of young professionals in the field has been extremely helpful for me. For example, when I flew out to California to live for a few months for work, I was able to connect with two great friends I met at Camp Pride. I feel like I have friends all over the country because of Camp Pride.
What advice do you have for those involved in Campus Pride or for those who want to become more involved?
Be prepared to feel overwhelmed, be prepared to grow. Don’t be afraid of expanding your understanding of a community you thought you already knew—you think you know, and then Camp Pride helps you reach a deeper level of understanding a community you love so much.
What knowledge, skills and resources do you use today in your professional life that you learned from Campus Pride?
I think during my time at Camp Pride, I realized just how powerful language could be and while at camp, I was able to expand my understanding of the community language and the role language plays in the representation and marginalization of the community at large.
What’s next for you in your personal and, or professional goals?
Professionally, I will be relocating to Miami, FL to continue my work as a community relations specialist full-time for a real estate company, I will continue to expand on my public speaking/advocacy work—I want to travel to as many places as possible to help educate, empower, and inspire others.
Personally, I hope to find an amazing man who I can go out on dates with and be silly around. I hope to travel and make self-care an essential and core part of my well-being practices. I want to continue to inspire others with my work—I want to continue to make a difference.
Campus Pride is the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. The organization provides resources and services to thousands of college students and nearly 1400 campuses annually. Learn more online at CampusPride.org.