Barbara Rivera Berger, Mental Health Counselor at Hostos, honored for her Significant Contributions to Hispanics

April 26, 2010 | Hostos Community College

Entre Nosotras, Inc., an organization established to empower Puerto Rican/Hispanic women throughout the State of New York, holds its award ceremonies during the Annual Legislative Conference of the New York State Assembly’s Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. Also known as the Somos el Futuro Conference, this is the largest gathering of Puerto Rican/Hispanic civic and political leaders in the state. At the 23rd conference, which was held in Albany from April 16th to 18th, twelve outstanding women were honored for their “significant contributions towards the development of the Puerto Rican and Hispanic communities.”  Among the honorees was Barbara Rivera Berger, a mental health counselor on the staff of Eugenio María de Hostos Community College’s Carlos L. Gonzalez Counseling Center.
Regarding her recognition at the Entre Nosotras Luncheon on April 17th, Ms. Rivera-Berger said: “This was my first time in Albany, and I was very honored to have received this award. I met amazing Latinas, including Assemblywoman Carmen E. Arroyo, the founder of Entre Nosotras, Inc. All the women who were present talked about continuing their struggle to ensure a better future for all Latinas. As a woman with a Latina mother and a Puerto Rican husband, I am deeply touched and grateful to be part of this community and will continue to work hard to help more women succeed at Hostos Community College.”

Ms. Rivera Berger was born in Switzerland to a father who was of Swiss-German descent and a mother of Latin background. She was reared by her mother, who was originally from a Romantsch community in the mountains of Switzerland. (Romantsch is a Rhaeto-Romanche language derived from Latin that has affinities with Ladin and Friulian. All the Romantsch language communities are in the canton of Graubunden/Grisons (Grischun in Romantsch) in the eastern part of Switzerland.)

When she arrived in the United States in 1992, Ms. Rivera Berger lived in Bushwick, a Puerto Rican neighborhood in Brooklyn.

“I felt very at home there, as its culture reminded me of my mother’s culture,” she says.  “As I encountered my own difficulties in receiving services, as well as those of my neighbors, my mission in life became to help the Latin community members become more empowered.”

Realizing that she needed a college in order to accomplish her mission, Ms. Rivera Berger enrolled at the New School University in 1998 and earned her undergraduate degree in psychology/creative arts therapy in 2000. She then went on to New York University (NYU), where she received her graduate degree in drama therapy in 2002.

“I am now a New York State licensed psychotherapist and registered drama therapist. I also hold a post graduate certificate in alcohol and substance abuse counseling, and this fall I will complete a three-year post graduate training in Somatic Experiencing®, a body-awareness approach to treating post traumatic stress disorder.”

A clinician for the past eight years, Ms. Rivera Berger provides individual, family, and group psychotherapy and creative arts therapy in mental health treatment settings and substance abuse treatment centers (acute in-patient and out-patient settings) to community members in the Sunset area of Brooklyn, as well as the Upper and South Bronx.

In 2005, she married to Julio Rivera, a Puerto Rican who grew up in the South Bronx. It was he who told her about Hostos Community College and the challenges and needs of surrounding communities.  

“I became involved with community organizations when I was working with the Jewish Child Care Association (JCCA) in the Bronx. I now use my contacts with JCCA and other organizations to connect some of our students at Hostos with the resources they need to have a better chance at staying in college and earning a degree.”

About Hostos Community College

Founded Eugenio María de Hostos Community College of CUNY offers access to higher education leading to intellectual growth and socioeconomic mobility through the development of linguistic, mathematical, technological, and critical thinking proficiencies needed for lifelong learning and for success in a variety of programs, including careers, liberal arts, transfer, and those professional programs leading to licensure. In addition to offering degree programs, the College serves as a resource for the South Bronx and other communities by providing continuing education, cultural events, and expertise for further development. For more information about Hostos Community College, visit: www.hostos.cuny.edu.