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Nancy Fernanda Rivera Gomez & Zhen Ren Teo

Nancy Fernanda Rivera Gomez, 21, & Zhen Ren Teo, 22
Swim Team Captains
Pictured with Athletic Director Reggie Ellis

Hometown: Mexico 
Transfer Aspiration: Cal Arts or CSULB
Desired Degree: Masters degree

Zhen Ren
Hometown: Singapore 
Transfer Aspiration: UC Berkeley
Desired Degree: MBA

SMCF: Tell us about your role as a leader at SMC.
NFRG: There were two dreams I had coming to Los Angeles: the biggest one was and still is to become a professional dancer and develop my dance career in the industry. The second dream, which was not as important, but I wanted to do since I was 10, was to become part of a swim team. My small town in Mexico had a small team which only competed locally with the little towns nearby. Therefore, as soon as I set foot in SMC, I decided to ask about the sports teams. I started from scratch and needed to catch up with the other teammates. I knew it was going to be a big challenge, but once I put my mind to something, I need to do it full out. My first year at the SMC swim team was good. I won the award for the most improved swimmer due to my dedication and commitment, but it was not until the second season that I started shining. In the second season, I became the captain of the women’s team and was the only girl who passed to finals in all of my disciplines. This was a great achievement. Consequently, I won the Best Athlete of 2016 of the women’s swim team and became part of the Scholar Athlete Wall of Fame. This whole journey as a swimmer changed my life and my personality, and shaped me tremendously to attempt the things I might have thought were impossible before. Additionally, as a dancer in Santa Monica I have choreographed in Global Motion Company in 2015, which opened other doors for me outside the school as well. The artistic director of the Global Motion Company invited me to choreograph a dance in her company for her upcoming South American tour in 2017. Also, I was selected to choreograph for Synapse Dance Company this semester at SMC. I am very excited because out of 15 applicants they only selected 4 choreographies to be presented at their performance in November. Being a choreographer represents a leadership role due to the responsibility the person has with the dancers. I am the one who has to teach and be the leader in the whole creation part. I need to find people to do my music and customs to match the story. I love the whole process involved and the satisfaction after seeing your work performed in front of 1,500 people. Finally, this semester I decided to become a Commissioner of Fellowship at the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. Unfortunately, due to my two jobs on campus and being a full time student, I could not take a full-time position on the club board. However, I loved that they wanted me to be part of the fellowship team because I love to invite the students to be more involved in the community and to have the opportunity of meeting new people through events and activities.

ZRT: I’m currently the team captain for the SMC Men’s Swimming Team and also one of the President’s Ambassadors in SMC. It is definitely a huge responsibility to be a great leader with certain standards expected of me, but I thoroughly enjoy my roles in SMC. As the swimming captain, I had to not only lead by example by racing fast, but I also had to inspire and motivate my teammates for their races as well. It all paid off spectacularly when we finally won the final race of the season, which was the 4x 100 Freestyle relay.

SMCF: Why did you choose to attend SMC?
NFRG: I was between going to a conservatory of performing arts and starting my career at the college level. I spoke with one of the directors of a dance certificate program in Hollywood, and she recommended Santa Monica College to start my path as she did when she was my age. Her advice made me decide to come and check out the dance program. I was honestly very surprised with not only the great dance program they have, but also the opportunities and help SMC gives to students, such as the different programs and activities provided to feel involved in the college experience. In the beginning, I did not know if my journey was going to lead to a 4-year university due to the high tuition for international students, so I was very interested in the option of having an AA degree as a backup plan. However, while at SMC I rapidly searched for financial help through scholarships and the staff at SMC has provided me with different kinds of scholarships and awards that have helped me to keep my dream on track. I am currently on my way to apply to a 4-year university institution and hope that my resume will help me to be eligible for scholarships at the institution I select. I am very happy to say that I have acquired more than just academic knowledge here at SMC. I feel like I’ve become a well-prepared person to keep growing and fighting for what I believe in and for what I want to achieve in my life.

ZRT: I chose SMC due to its incredible reputation as the number one transfer community college in California. It is also famed for being home to many widely respectable professors and amazing counselors. I always dreamt of pursuing my studies at a prestigious UC, and as such I felt that SMC would provide me with the perfect platform to do so.

SMCF: What about the SMC environment motivates you as a student?
NFRG: The environment in SMC motivates me to push myself and become more organized and focused. I love the diversity in the cultures and the student’s background, which I would have never found in the conservatory. I currently have friends who have helped me with my dance career at no cost although they are not related to this major. Photography students have helped me with free photo shoots, music students have helped me to remix my songs for my choreographies, the last PTK president became a very close friend who is now helping me with my website, film students have helped me by creating some of the videos I needed to upload for my dance portfolio and so on. Santa Monica has all the help you need in your surroundings – it is just about searching for help. Everybody here is willing to help and give up their services to grow as well. Whenever I feel disappointed or tired, I look around and see how everybody is pushing forward and giving their best to what they do. This makes me look forward and never give up on my dreams no matter how hard or tired I can be. I have explored my abilities thanks to the inspiration from others. It is necessary to be inspired in order to transpire your own history into the world. Therefore, I am very happy to participate in this program which is going to help students get their textbooks. I am sure it will make a difference in their lives and inspire them to keep on going with their dreams.

ZRT: The vibrant look of the college never fails to cheer me up no matter how tough the semester is going at the time. It is imperative for the college to look fun and welcoming in order to encourage students to keep coming to the college. Furthermore, SMC is filled with students that have equally ambitious goals in life. Their tenacity and positivity ripples around, making it impossible not to be motivated by it.

SMCF: “PROUD TO BE SMC” is the alumni chant. What are you, as an individual, most proud of?
NFRG: I am proud to be part of an organization that is willing to help others without receiving anything in exchange. I am proud to represent an institution that has shaped my personality, will and confidence to face the world. I am proud of myself for having made the decision to apply to SMC, which will always be in my heart and will resound wherever I decide to go in the future.

ZRT: I am most proud to be able to represent the college as both an athlete and an Ambassador. It is an incredible honor and a tremendous privilege.

SMCF: What three (3) words best describe your experience as an SMC student?

ZRT: The 3 words are passion, discipline, and community.

SMCF: Final question: What words of inspiration would you share with a new student starting at SMC?
NFRG: It does not matter how slow you go as long as you do not STOP. My goal was to become a better dancer and performer to be prepared for the industry in Los Angeles. Now, my perspective has changed. It is not just your talent that is important. It requires focus, passion, dedication, responsibility, time management, confidence and a strong personality to perform the best in whatever path you follow. Through the experiences I have had, I can tell you that by taking advantage of the opportunities SMC offers to students you will find your way to your goal and it will be clearer once you finish your time here. Do not be afraid to ask, do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, and do not judge yourself. The only person that can stop you from achieving your goals is yourself.

ZRT: Be positive and always be proud of your individuality. SMC is a wonderful place to experience life in college, so don’t be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone.

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