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MIT-bound Alba-Rivera aspires to be ‘vulnerable’

By Aakash Jain ’14 & Michael Ahearne ’14

Photo by Kevin Valenzuela '13--Gabriel Alba-Rivera '13, runner up for Brophy's Man of the year poses for a photo on April 24.

With a bevy of offers from prestigious universities across the country, one of The Roundup’s “Man of the Year” runners-up Gabe Alba-Rivera ’13 plans to attend MIT this fall.

Alba-Rivera’s diverse interests include programming, video making, animation and robotics.

“When I came to Brophy freshman year, I followed the tendency of most students by signing up for a lot of different clubs, like math club, robotics and quiz bowl,” Alba-Rivera said. “I was just going through the motions. My big interest has always been robotics. Sophomore year, I became more specialized and eventually became more focused on robotics.”

Brophy robotics moderator Mr. Andy Mazzolini’s eyes light up when asked about Alba-Rivera.

Gabe is very interesting. He is very inquisitive,” Mr. Andy Mazzolini said. “He is very much his own person. He gets very ultra-focused on one thing and works on it until it’s done. He also has a great sense of humor.”

Unlike most students, Alba-Rivera took something he enjoyed and turned it into an opportunity to serve others.

“My junior year I heard about Loyola Academy and learned about that program,” Alba-Rivera said. “I had this idea that it would be interesting to start a robotics team at Loyola. Michael Sanchez (’13) and I talked to Ms. Kendra Krause and things just sort of snowballed from there.”

According to fellow robotics student Kayvan Shamsa ’14Alba-Rivera’s work with the Loyola Academy is a reflection of his strong religious beliefs.

“I’d say Gabe is an extremely motivated individual, but I think what sets him apart is the spirituality with which he approaches his work,” Shamsa said. “His faith plays an important role in his life and all of his actions correlate with this. For example, his work with the Loyola Academy exemplifies his desire to help others. Gabe is a kind, funny friend who approaches his life with a spiritual dedication that serves to better the lives of others.”

Alba-Rivera has been active on the spiritual side of things at Brophy, having led a Kairos retreat and attended the Ignatian Solidarity Trip.

“The Ignatian Solidarity Trip was really eye-opening,” Alba-Rivera said. “It was cool visiting a new place and also the issues that we talked about were just inspiring.”

Alba-Rivera has faced many obstacles in his life, but he said that his spirituality has helped him maintain hope.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but I lived a great part of my life in Mexico actually. The socio-economic situation was not great there. I had family troubles, which created a lot of instability in my life. When I finally settled in Phoenix, all the odds were against me,” Alba-Rivera said.

“I didn’t really know the language. My academic standards were sub-par. Somehow I just never lost hope. I attribute that to my faith in God that I never lost hope. Even though things weren’t going my way, with hard work I believed I could push out of that.”

To Alba-Rivera, Brophy offered the opportunity of a fresh start.

“When I got into Brophy it was a big deal for me,” Alba-Rivera said. “I was below the academic standards, but Brophy provided this platter of healthy nurturing for that hope that I had and that burning desire to trudge on. Thanks to the opportunity I have been given here at Brophy, I feel like the playing field has sort of been leveled.”

Alba-Rivera said he is uncertain what he will do after college, though he plans to seek a career that somehow incorporates robotics.

“I want to make sure that wealth is never my focus,” Alba-Rivera said. “I know I want to start a business that is robotics-related and help the earth in some hopefully grand manner.”

When asked what he wants his legacy as a Brophy student to be, Alba-Rivera responded: “I want to be remembered as someone who was vulnerable—someone who wasn’t afraid to take risks. I hope I can encourage people someday to step out of their comfort zones.”

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