Erma “Linda” Rivera was born in Morenci, Arizona, a mining town in the southeastern part of the state in 1952. Although she was raised in a traditional Hispanic home that emphasized the importance of hospitality and humility, she would rise into leadership roles and become recognized as an integral part of education advocacy in every city she called home.
Throughout her life, education has been a central theme. In the Las Vegas Valley, where Linda has lived for over twenty years, she has promoted educational opportunities for youth, particularly in the Hispanic community.
After living in Arizona and later Montana, Linda would arrive in Clark County in 1986. When the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees the Hoover Dam, was hiring, Linda and her husband Felix jumped at the opportunity to move to southern Nevada. Living in Henderson, Linda rose in the ranks quickly while working for the Bureau of Reclamation at the Hoover Dam. She became an administrative officer, owing largely to her organizational abilities, and was put in charge of the affirmative employment plan for her region’s branch. At this point, she began to wonder why there weren’t many Hispanics or minorities working at the Dam, and she concluded that the Bureau of Reclamation should do outreach to these communities in order to gain a fuller representation in the labor force.
However, when she scouted the local universities, she realized that there weren’t many minority students who were engaged in the training necessary to do engineering work. The seed was sown that she might have to look further back in the pipeline to solve the problem of scarcity of these types of workers. She reached out to John Medina at the Southern Nevada Hispanic Employment Program (SNHEP) for help with her situation. He convinced her to become involved with the program, and Linda would later become its conference chair. In her work with the SNHEP, it became clear that Hispanic individuals needed financial assistance in order to pursue college educations and occupational training. She worked with the Bureau of Reclamation to set up scholarship funds for those within the company who wanted to go back to school. Meanwhile, Linda was also keeping cultural traditions and values alive at home, and she started her “second family” with her adopted children, Gabe and Clarissa.
Linda has been involved in many community projects since then, and she currently works as the Diversity Officer for the Bureau of Reclamation in Boulder City. She has received much recognition for her dedicated service throughout the years, including the Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award presented by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers de UNLV, for her continued support and dedication to the advancement of the Hispanic Community Achieving Higher Education. She also received the Manuel Lujan, Jr. Champion’s Award from the Department of Civil Rights within the Department of Interior for outstanding service in 2005, was recognized by the Bureau of Reclamation numerous times for her dedication to service, as well as received the Crystal Apple Award in 2007 from the Clark County School District for outstanding dedication to students and their education.
Photo/video/audio/&tc. courtesy of UNLV Special Collections.
May not be reproduced without the special permission of UNLV Special Collections.