LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Westwood College - Anaheim campus graduate Guillermo De La Riva has been selected by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) to receive a 2014 Graduate Recognition for Excellence, Achievement & Talent (GREAT) Award.
The GREAT Awards are given out annually by APSCU to career college graduates nationwide who have persevered through adversity and exemplify the transformative power of career-focused education.
De La Riva is one of just five graduates selected from more than 180 nominations for the 2014 awards. As part of the award, De La Riva traveled to Washington, DC during APSCU’s Hill Day (March 3-5), where he was honored at an awards luncheon.
An army veteran who served in Afghanistan and later worked for the Los Angeles Police Department, De La Riva attended Westwood College to earn a bachelor’s degree with the goal of advancing within the LAPD - specifically to earn a transfer to the gang unit of the LAPD in order to serve the same gang-affected community where he grew up.
Under the mentorship of Westwood College Criminal Justice program chair Alfonso Valdez, Ph.D., a nationally recognized expert and author on gangs, De La Riva successfully earned the transfer, becoming a South Central LA gang unit officer. As an extension of his duties, he became a well-respected court-certified gang expert, testifying on complex gang investigations.
De La Riva worked full time while attending Westwood. Dr. Valdez commented, “He would get off work sometimes at 5 a.m. and attend class without any sleep. But he made his school work a priority nonetheless. That, to me, shows a lot of perseverance and says a lot about him as a person. He genuinely cares for people and wants to help the public - and he’s not afraid to put his life on the line.”
De La Riva completed his bachelor’s degree from Westwood in the fall of 2012.
In June 2013, he was shot and severely injured while on duty with the LAPD. He has undergone several surgeries, and despite lingering problems with pain, he continues to visit with Criminal Justice students on the Westwood campus and to work at the LAPD.
Dr. Valdez says of De La Riva, “He remains passionate about making a difference in the community. He truly is a hero.”
About Westwood College
Westwood College is an institution of higher learning with 14 campuses located in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois and Virginia. Westwood offers a hands-on, career-focused curriculum in fields such as healthcare, technology and business. Westwood is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). A 2012 survey conducted by Noel-Levitz showed Westwood students are significantly more satisfied than the comparison group of approximately 125 public and private colleges, particularly in the areas of course content, quality of instruction and the school meeting their career goals. For more information, visit westwood.edu.