A Local Puerto Rican woman Aurea Rivera may be retired but she’s not slowing down any time soon. She spent over three decades as a civilian electrical engineer working at Wright Patterson Air Force base. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Aurea is looking back on her career and paving the way for men and women of all backgrounds to follow her lead.

“I just decided that it was the price I had to pay to open the door for others,” said Rivera.

A hefty price that ended up leaving a priceless legacy, 69-year-old Aurea Rivera was one of six females in her engineering school in 1980. It ended up being the first challenge of many to come.

“It gave me the opportunity to survive in an environment that was not very friendly to the women and specifically a latino woman,” said Rivera.

Fast forward 34 years, Aurea is now a decorated retired civilian electrical engineer. She carved the way for many latino women and men in the military, crushing barriers and receiving countless awards or honors along the way, proving to many that she is an unstoppable force. Aurea dedicated her life to being a mentor to everyone on base, regardless of skin color, race, gender or background.

“One of the biggest achievements of my life is to see a like-minded community, not only being established but prospering in mentoring others into STEM and engineering,” said Rivera.

That kind of mindset created a pathway for 34-year-old Air Force Veteran Abigail Gonzalez.

“I loved what Aurea was saying that she didn’t see a lot of people who looked like her and I felt the same way growing up alot, especially in Fort Wayne, Indiana it was pretty difficult,” said Gonzales.

Abigail is carrying Aurea’s message of inclusivity and love into the next generation, a dream come true for Aurea.

“Growing up it was difficult feeling like I belonged,” said Gonzales. “People like her made the way for people like me to step in and have a voice and it’s just so inspiring.”

Marine Veteran Edgar Saucedo served from 2019 to 2023 and says Aurea’s impact is crystal clear in his generation.

“She set the way for a lot of women to do the same, it was definitely a lot harder for her,” said Saucedo. “Obviously now you can see all the people who were there before you so you know you can do it, you just look at them for inspiration and motivation.

Auera had no idea when she was just 22-years-old, the life, the impact, and the story that was ahead.

“When it’s time for me to go, I want to make sure there are men and women, not just latino but many others who have benefited from the work that I did,” said Rivera. “I believe the future is the children and I want to be a part of that.”

However, her story isn’t over yet.