Inside the Annual Convening: Heily Rivas Recaps as a Newman Civic Fellow

Read about Heily Rivas, a Newman Civic Fellow at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She shares her inspiring reflections on the Annual Convening, detailing how the experience motivated her to leverage art and design for positive change and expand her support network.

This fall, Newman Civic Fellows from across the country gathered in Boston for the Annual Convening of Newman Civic Fellows, a three-day in-person event generously supported by The Allstate Foundation. Follow along for our blog series from Newman Civic Fellows about their experiences at this event.

Heily Rivas

By Heily Rivas, Newman Civic Fellow, Massachusetts College of Art and Design

The Annual Convening of Newman Civic Fellows was a wonderful, energizing experience. Although we were only together for what felt shorter than three days, I made many valuable connections with other Newmans. From shared ethical or geographical roots to detailed ways we approach community-based work, I found myself enveloped in engaging conversations that taught me more about the world I live in. These conversations motivated me to research issues I did not know much about and shed light on fresh perspectives on the issues I am extremely passionate about. Fellow Newmans shared concrete ways in which I should continue and expand my efforts to create positive change on my campus and beyond, which I plan to incorporate into my work this year.

The Convening solidified my self-perception as a changemaker. Throughout my educational experience, I have been an outlier, one of the few who constantly seek a deep purpose in every assignment and refrain from creating anything that does not speak to a larger cause. From time to time, I can feel myself decelerating, either from working too hard or working too hard without others to join my efforts. I reflect, recharge, and get back to work, often failing to quantify or put into perspective exactly all that I do. In my fashion design studies, most of my time is spent beside a sewing machine creating garments or in front of a computer crafting mood boards or technical flats. While I incorporate sustainable practices into every design I make, it is more often than not that I feel like this line of work isolates me from the world that surrounds me. I’ve made it my goal to engage outside of the classroom and make good use of my talents by participating in SGA, planning cultural events on campus, or creating a fabric scrap collection program for the fashion department. While at first, it felt a bit out of place to be in a room with social justice activists, human rights advocates, and prosperous community builders, by the end of the Convening, I felt quite at home.

Other Newmans share similar day-to-day experiences, balancing classwork and a range of civic projects they are passionate about. They want to participate in everything. They want to learn about everything. They understand the rewards and challenges that come with being a student leader. I admire all that my fellow Newmans know and do because it is so far from my comfort zone, but in conversing with them, I realized that they appreciated my work and valued my knowledge, perhaps more than I do sometimes. This experience showed me that the arts have a truly unique, yet so frequently untapped, power to change minds and hearts to create profound good when used intentionally. I am inspired by this realization to utilize the Newman Civic Fellowship to enhance the deployment of art and design on my campus for the greater good. I hope to take advantage of this fellowship to create events and opportunities where students and community members can come together across disciplines and expertise levels to celebrate the transformative power of the arts.

Throughout my life, everything I do has been centered around helping others. From answering peers’ questions about reading assignments or math equations to personally collecting, packaging, and donating school supplies or clothing to families in need in Latin America, I feel fulfilled whenever I am able to do something positive for someone else. However small my contribution. Since my earliest days, I have found great joy in teaching music or dance to children, making someone’s dream dress, or adding my grain of salt to relieve poverty in areas stricken by natural disasters and political conflict. I am motivated to make a difference because I know that if everyone does something – no matter how small – the results will be overwhelmingly positive, and in the end, we will all feel better about ourselves, the collective, and what we’ve done. Civic engagement creates community, breaks down barriers, and celebrates people for who they are and what they can achieve.

Without my art, I am nothing, but that art is nothing if it is not meaningful to others. My passion for service has been beautifully acknowledged and amplified by the Convening. It was mind-blowing to share a room with about 125 like-minded individuals who work tirelessly on their college campuses and in their communities to effect positive change. I left the Convening energized and inspired by the few stories I was able to hear in our short time together, eager to continue working for those around me. Thanks to this Fellowship, I witnessed my support network grow exponentially to include these amazing humans, and I feel blessed to know them and form part of their support networks, too. Our backgrounds, journeys, and areas of expertise may be different, but our vision is the same: we seek to create a better world for all.

Once a Newman, always a Newman!

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"For me, it was very meaningful to have The Allstate Foundation's support to experience the Convening. This support allowed everything to run smoothly during the conference and also gave the Fellows a chance to listen to Greg Weatherford II's amazing change-making story. I felt inspired and recharged, and I know that this was made possible by The Allstate Foundation's commitment to empowering youth."

- Heily Rivas