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     My name is Grace Rivera; I am a single mother born in Puerto Rico and raised in Brooklyn New York. I started with health and fitness when my sons’ father said, “ Girl you’re getting kind-a-heavy and your rear is starting to look square”.  At this point I started to look in the mirror every day because of the complex I had.  I kept sucking my gut in and still no hope.  I said to myself, “Grace it’s time to take charge of your life”.  So, I joined Jack Lallane; now called Bally Total Fitness, this was in 1992.  I stuck to this gym to build my lack of self-esteem and it has helped a great deal.  While at this gym, I also learned how to use free weights to help build more lean mass.  I attended many seminars on fitness training throughout 1995, receiving two certifications in AAAI for aerobic instructor/master step class. Also in 1995 I entered the Ms. New York pageant and was the 10th finalist. Even though I enjoyed working as an instructor I felt something was missing and my future seemed empty. So I applied for college and started in September 1997 and major in Sports Fitness Therapeutic Recreation. Looking for more of a challenge, I then entered The Miss Galaxy competition in June, August and October of 1998, each time finishing in the top 20 out of 75 competitors. I then entered Ironwoman April 1999 and took 1st place physique.  A couple of months after, I competed in Miss Figure America September 1999, and took 2nd place.  Finally, I found what I really enjoyed and was looking for without realizing it.  Entering the FAP, (Fitness America Pageant) on Oct. 2, 1999 and I placed 1st place.  This was the eastern regional competition, and placed in top 50 out of 101 for finals.  For the most recent competition, The Women Tri Fitness, I placed 1st in the physique & grace round category (25-29 5’4” and under) and 2nd overall out of 120 competitors.   My ambitions are mostly to inspire single mothers, especially Latin women (which I am). I believe society puts single mothers down, and place all the blame for their shortcomings on them, not the fathers. I owe a lot to my trainer, Franco Jamil who is also a trainer for Bally Total Fitness, and has won several titles for natural bodybuilding, and especially my son, for I want to show to go after your dreams, no matter what they are or what people say. I’m currently an instructor for people with MS (multiple sclerosis), and working as a receptionist in the financial aid office in my school while full time student majoring in (Sports Fitness Therapeutic Recreation). I would like to thank my professor Dr. Levine, staff, and the Rec. majors, for all their support.  They are part of the reason why I will have a positive future. 

    Once I finish my degree, I will be a Physical Education Teacher working especially with teenage girls.  I feel they are a challenge.  At this stage, they need guidance towards a positive attitude and positive self-esteem to feel better about themselves and their environment.  Not saying that I can’t work with boy’s, I just feel the girls need guidance for their future becoming.  I hope I can be an inspiration to someone and therefore change his or her life because of it. My motto is, “If you plant a seed it will grow no matter were you grow it, it’s how you nurture it that makes it bloom”.