Climbing up the executive ladder: Julia Rivera is now Chief External Affairs Officer at Congreso
With her latest promotion, Rivera is responsible for overseeing the effectiveness, expansion and vision of the organization’s future, benefiting Latinos.
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When Julia Rivera first arrived to Philadelphia in 2017, she did so with a purpose and intent of doing something positive.
A woman of Puerto Rican descent, Rivera wanted to incorporate her interests and passions into one, working directly with the Latino — and particularly the Puerto Rican — community.
While searching online, she discovered Congreso de Latinos Unidos, the North Philadelphia-based nonprofit whose mission is to enable families in Latino neighborhoods to achieve economic self-sufficiency and well-being.
“I remember finding Congreso online — I had never heard about it — and immediately calling my family and saying, ‘there’s this amazing place, and they do a little bit of everything,’” Rivera recalled in an interview with AL DÍA.
“Their mission just resonated… they’re really holistic, I appreciated their approach and their values,” she continued.
At the time, the organization was looking for an External Affairs Director. Eager to take on this new opportunity, Rivera applied and soon thereafter embarked on a new chapter in her life and career in Philadelphia.
Fast forward five years, and Rivera has put her stamp on the Puerto Rican and Latino communities in and around North Philadelphia.
In August 2022, she was promoted to her newest role as Chief External Affairs Officer at Congreso.
“I’m really excited about the promotion, and also really honored,” said Rivera. “It’s an honor to be able to represent Congreso externally and to also be tasked with telling the stories of Congreso, which are really important stories to tell.”
Rivera’s latest role is a continuation of the work she has strived to do throughout the duration of her young career.
A Trajectory of Leadership
In her role as Chief External Affairs Officer, Rivera oversees a variety of areas.
This includes fundraising and development, as well as the communications, marketing, community and advocacy work she spearheaded in her previous role as Vice President of External Affairs & Strategic Initiatives.
Each of these are elements that Rivera has a passion for.
She credits Congreso’s vision in promoting young leadership within its executive ranks for her own professional development.
“I’ve definitely benefited from that trust and that value of leadership development at Congreso,” said Rivera.
Her time at Congreso has provided Rivera the opportunity to meet prominent leaders within the community who are doing influential work to positively influence their communities.
“I think examples of that then drive our external affairs work and make us want to be civically engaged and educate folks on important issues and give folks voices and encourage them to use their voices,” she added.
Rivera has displayed that very leadership in her own career.
Originally from Silver Spring, Maryland, she grew up in a community surrounded by a population of Latinos who were primarily Central American.
“The culture is so amazing and beautiful, but it’s also very different from Puerto Rican culture,” she said.
After graduating from high school, she decided to attend Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. What drew her to Hartford was “seeing the opportunity to work so closely with a community whose culture, language [and] customs really resonated with me.”
“I felt like I was at home, but I was still able to do work that I was passionate about,” Rivera added.
Her most prominent role was as Community Relations Manager at Trinity College, helping support the President’s Office and coordinating community engagement and partnerships while pursuing her master’s degree in public policy.
It was working in community relations in Hartford that prepared Rivera to do that work on a larger scale in Philadelphia, a city closer to her home in Silver Spring.
Driven By Advocacy
Congreso’s list of services include education, housing, employment and training, health and safety, and family and parenting.
Each of those services play a crucial role in the organization’s mission to promote economic self-sufficiency and wellbeing for individuals and families.
From the lenses of both her role and her passions, Rivera sees Congreso’s mission in two areas.
The first is from the lens of the communications and marketing component.
“It’s basically all about storytelling and using different platforms to do that,” she said. “I love pushing the boundaries and making sure that our story is reaching a variety of audiences.”
She added that she continues to learn from others from the younger generations on finding creative ways to use different platforms to do this.
The second lens is what really drives Rivera’s everyday work the most — advocacy and civic engagement.
“I’ve always grown up valuing participating in my community and knowing what’s going on in my community,” she noted. “I’ve always been interested in how different issues impact communities and mobilizing communities to use their voice and be civically engaged.”
For the Latino community, civic engagement is a key, due in part to the sheer number of Latinos at the local, federal and national levels.
Congreso plays its role in encouraging civic engagement with initiatives like providing a paid day off on Election Day, distributing information on polling places, how to participate as a poll worker, and much more.
Rivera noted that it’s really all about support for the community on a broad scale.
“There's so many amazing things happening at Congreso and within our community that we just need to highlight and bring more attention to, and more resources to frankly,” she said.
With that in mind, Rivera is eager to use her new title and responsibilities to help drive that mission forward into a more prosperous future for the organization and the communities it serves.