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Grad who saw CCRI as second chance
aims for career in business, politics
May 15, 2015
There are people who thrive in highly structured environments. Keveon Gomera, 21, a General Studies major hailing from Providence, is not one of those people.
You wouldn't know it to look at him; one spring morning just ahead of his graduation, he's dressed well even though he hasn't yet had time for his coffee: natty brown shoes, a crisp gray suit with a pocket square to set off the purple of his shirt. In the process of coming into himself at CCRI, he has learned to embrace as strength the iconoclast nature that had once kept him down.
"My junior year of high school in Classical, I fell in with the wrong crowd. I fell really far behind. I was faced with the option of dropping out, or repeating the year," he said. "I never liked the structure of high school, needing to wake up early day, get in there and deal with the politics of it. I never really found my place there."
Instead of struggling through another year, Gomera opted to get his GED® credential and start classes at CCRI in the fall of 2012. With his newfound independence and fresh start, his effort increased manifold; he finished his first semester carrying five classes with A's and B's. He credits the professors at CCRI, along with advisers in the Access and Connect 2 College programs, with giving him the guidance he needed to develop himself academically, all the while allowing him the freedom to do so on his own terms.
"I was always running on fumes in high school; I never really developed study skills or learned how to write a paper," he said. "But coming here, I've been able to learn that."
Despite his performance in high school, Gomera saw CCRI as a second chance. He was impressed by the way that professors took the time to address the needs of advanced and remedial students easily, and he felt at home approaching them with questions and looking to them for advice. "You have to appreciate every second of your time here, and take advantage of your education while you have it," he observed.
Part of the reason why Gomera said he had a hard time feeling at home in high school was the fact that for most of his life, he'd been somewhat of a nomad. Under the care of a struggling single mother who lost her home to predatory lending, he learned to never get too comfortable in one place. You can still see vestiges in that from his life at CCRI; he spread his education across all of its campuses, starting from scratch each semester to make friends at each one. But still, sitting in the Great Hall at the Knight Campus in Warwick, there's no shortage of people walking by and offering him a wave or a handshake.
In fact, if there's something of a politician about him, that's because politics is exactly what he'll be striving for. He will transfer to Rhode Island College, starting classes for his political science major this summer. Gomera said he's always been interested in politics, specifically trying to suss out how to incite change in the system, "as broken as it is," he said.
During high school, he was an intern in the Obama re-election campaign, making calls and knocking on doors in New Hampshire, inspired by what he learned watching the recession unfold on the news in 2008. He was involved in student government during his time at the college, and although a run for president was unsuccessful in 2014, he still found value in that experience.
"I want to be someone who is going to ruffle feathers," he said. "If you want to make change, you have to go do it yourself."
Closely aligned with Gomera's political interests is his developing business acumen. When his mother got her tax refund last April, she took him to buy his first suit at Franklin Rogers, a men's clothier in Providence. He struck up a rapport with the owner, and since has worked full time as the assistant manager of the store while in school.
"I love it," he said. "I've really excelled there, done things I've never thought I was capable of doing. I go to buying shows, organize weddings and events; I even do intermediate-level accounting. It comes naturally; I'm not a salesman per se, I just love treating people right."
Gomera said that being involved in a small business and helping to grow it has been instrumental in shaping his work ethic, his organizational skills and his prospects for the future. He added that he looks forward to staying with the business after he matriculates at RIC, eventually taking over the store when the owner is ready and shepherding its expansion.
"You have to have the same mentality in business as politics," he explained. "You have to get things done."
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