Appel Fellowship helped Julian Rivera-Williams ’25 to grow globally

Juliian Rivera-Williams ’25.

Photo by Anibal Ortiz

The Legacy of John E. Allen ’73

The generosity and commitment of the late John E. Allen ’73 has made an extraordinary impact on dozens of CMCers, including Julian Rivera-Williams ’25.

Established by Allen and CMC Trustee Rossi Russell ’71 more than three decades ago, the John E. Allen Alumni Merit Award today helps students who come from underrepresented communities or show a demonstrated commitment to underrepresented communities.

Allen’s scholarship—awarded to 87 students so far—continues to guide responsible leaders, like Rivera-Williams, a New York City native.

“I’d like to thank the founders of the John Allen Scholarship, and those who have acknowledged my academic achievements and commitment to my future development through awarding me money towards completing my unparalleled educational experience at CMC,” said Rivera-Williams.

“Their commitment to my success has empowered me to focus on my commercial real estate career aspirations, while I worry less about the burden of affording college.”

Without the generosity of the funding, “I never would have been able to afford CMC, nor would I have decided to make the trek all the way to California.”

One of 11 Black students to graduate from his class, Allen majored in Political Science and played football during his undergraduate years. Allen was the first Black president of the CMCAA Board of Directors, elected for the 1990-1991 term. In 1998, he received the Jack L. Stark ’57 GP’11 Distinguished Service Award for his commitment to the College, the Alumni Association, and the alumni of CMC. In 2001, after Allen’s sudden death, the College renamed the fund in his honor, calling it the John E. Allen Merit Award.

John E. Allen.

Julian Rivera-Williams ’25 has always wondered about his multicultural heritage. His mother, Evi Rivera, traces her roots to a village in central Puerto Rico. His father, Peter Williams, is a third-generation New Yorker of African descent with family ties in Panama.

Last year, Rivera-Williams started digging into his roots with an Ancestry DNA kit. The results were intriguing.

“My top two ethnicities are Nigerian, at 23 percent, and Spanish, at 20 percent,” he said. His Puerto Rican ancestry finished a distant fifth, behind Cameroonian and Portuguese. The traces of Germanic European, Northwestern European, Scottish, and Russian were completely unexpected.

Juliian Rivera-Williams ’25.

Courtesy of Julian Rivera-Williams

Using the DNA test as his travel advisor, Rivera-Williams, who grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City, set out to explore the world, journaling his experiences and snapping photographs. An Appel Fellowship took him to Puerto Rico, Portugal, and Spain in 2022 and sparked a desire to dig more deeply into his cultural heritage.

Entering its ninth year, the fellowship—started by Joel Appel ’87 P’20—provides first-year students with funding to support purposeful, independent experiences culminating in a meaningful and substantial writing project. Since its launch in 2015, 135 CMCers have visited 22 states and 48 countries.

An entrepreneur who majored in Economics and History at CMC, Appel founded Orange Glo International and co-founded Launch Pad. He shared how a conversation with CMC President Hiram Chodosh led him to follow his dream of becoming involved with humanities and writing at the College.

“‘What if we sent students to have unique experiences and write about them?’” Appel recalled as President Chodosh’s suggestion. “I said, ‘Done.’ I didn’t even need to see the details. And it’s turned out to be wonderful.”

In Puerto Rico for his Appel Fellowship, Rivera-Williams connected with his mother’s side of the family. His cousins welcomed him into their San Juan home, took him sightseeing around the capital, and on an excursion to Barrio Nuevo, a mountain village of 4,000 in Naranjito, where he learned more about his mother’s childhood from her close relatives.

Hardly anyone spoke English. “I felt like I learned more Spanish in 30 minutes than I had living in the Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights for the past 12 years,” Rivera-Williams wrote in his journal.

After Puerto Rico, Rivera-Williams traveled to Spain and Portugal. He has no known relatives to connect with in Europe, so he backpacked through Lisbon, Nazaré, Porto, Madrid, Valencia, and Barcelona, immersing himself in the cultures of his ancestors. Later that summer, Rivera-Williams traveled to Ghana on an NAACP Amos C. Brown Fellowship, which included several excursions to seaside ports where Rivera-Williams stood inside dungeons that once held enslaved West Africans bound for colonial ships.

Juliian Rivera-Williams ’25.

Photo by Anibal Ortiz

A desire to improve his Spanish so he could converse with his great-grandmother compelled Rivera-Williams’ return to Spain this past fall semester. An International Relations major with an Economics concentration, he studied abroad at Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville. Rivera-Williams dug into his courses in business communications, global economics, European art policy, and, of course, advanced Spanish.

Next, Rivera-Williams plans to explore more of his European heritage. Trips to Germany, Holland, and the United Kingdom are on his to-do list.

Back on campus, Rivera-Williams is active in the Commercial Real Estate Club and Black Men in Leadership, as he cultivates a career goal to work in commercial real estate investment and development. He interned with Monachil Capital Partners in Greenwich, Conn. and this summer will join Brixmor Property Group in New York City as a financial asset management intern. Rivera-Williams has also taken on several leadership roles, including his work as a program manager for Project Destined, representing CIM Group, a major real estate company.

With several real estate certifications and licensing credentials under his belt, Rivera-Williams is positioning himself to capitalize on a global perspective that continues to deepen and expand.

“I see a lot of opportunity in Africa. In fact, I’m thinking of buying land in Rwanda,” he said. “In 10 years, it could quintuple in value.”

This feature originally appeared in the Spring 2024 CMC Magazine. To view the full issue, click here.



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