The Year Up New York | New Jersey graduate continues to lift while he climbs by giving back to his community using the Alumni ACTion grants.
River Veloz left the Dominican Republic with a computer science degree, and the determination to get a job and build a new life for himself. Upon arriving in the United States, he quickly realized it wasn’t going to be as straightforward as he hoped. River wasn’t confident in English, and corporate America required a different approach than back home in the Dominican Republic.
After several unsuccessful interviews and fewer callbacks, River knew he needed to try something else. The solution came to him while speaking with a close friend who had heard former President Barack Obama recommend Year Up -- and the rest is history.
When I heard about the training and help getting my foot in the door of corporate America, I knew this was something really good for me.
River joined Year Up in 2016 with his sights set on an IT role. He showed up each day, dressed for the job he knew he wanted: a crisp collared shirt and a suit and tie. Over the next several months, River focused heavily on the skills he knew he needed to be successful. In the program’s learning and development phase, he worked on improving his interview and corporate communication skills. He even stayed after hours with a Year Up volunteer to work on his essay writing and English. Thanks to his hard work, the support of Year Up staff and volunteers, and his dress-to-impress mentality, River earned himself an internship at a leading private equity firm.
But this was only the beginning of River’s story. After successfully completing his internship, River took everything he learned about corporate communication and applied it to getting a paid internship and eventual full-time role at a law firm -- nearly doubling his salary in the process. To celebrate his success, at the age of 26, River bought a house.
“My mindset since I started the program was to get a house -- especially for my mom because she never had a home of her own,” River said.
Over the course of nearly 4 years at the law firm, River would receive two promotions, start a master’s degree, and get the ball rolling on a project that would bring him back to Year Up.
“Even after you graduate [Year Up], it’s never over – you can go back to Year Up anytime you want, and you’ll get that support," River added.
Each year, Year Up empowers alumni to serve their communities through ACTion grants. In River’s case, he was speaking with a former professor when he learned about a small community school in the Dominican Republic that lacked basic tools for successful learning. After hearing the Dominican government wasn’t stepping in, River jumped into action.
I carry the Year Up values with me. Year Up has been my most supportive community, and I wanted to do the same for others.
After successfully applying for the grant, River received funds to provide shoes, uniforms, and school supplies to the 35 students at the school. Later on, with the help of his Year Up best friend, River would end up raising funds for a basketball court for the students as well as secure ballet scholarships for 13 Dominican ballerinas.
While River Veloz has been busy uplifting the communities near and dear to him, he has also been busy with some personal milestones:
By May of 2023, River graduated with a master’s degree in data science.
By August of 2023, what started as River’s ACTion grant initiative blossomed into an official nonprofit in the state of New York.
“In each of my huge milestones, Year Up has been there in some way or another. I look forward to what comes next.”