WADESBORO — Wadesboro-native and current East Carolina University student was selected to intern for a national award-winning program.
Ben Rivers, a junior supply chain and operations management major at ECU, is working towards his third degree. He already received two associate degrees in radiology technology and general education. Now Rivers is handling school, working in Radiology in Monroe, and interning for RISE29.
But Rivers didn’t find RISE29. The program, funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation, reached out to him.
“I’m very thankful they found me,” Rivers said. “All my hard work day-to- day is paying off. I’m doing the right thing. They found me.”
Rivers originally had his mind set on a different internship, until he received an email from Derrick Welch, RISE29 program manager, encouraging him to apply.
“Ben had an interesting resume and application,” Welch explained. “He is not a traditional undergraduate student. He had another academic career. He blew us away in the interview. He was polished and professional and asking the right questions.”
Luckily for Welch, Rivers felt the same way. Rivers said he clicked with the RISE29 program instantly and never looked back at the other internship.
RISE29 launched in 2019. The program puts together teams of students from different ECU majors. Those teams then work with small rural businesses facing growth and systemic challenges, according to Welch. The hope for the program is to encourage rural entrepreneurship and not lose rural students to urban areas after graduating.
In January 2020, RISE29 received the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship award of Excellence in Co-Curricular Innovation. This annual award is given to a program that encourages creativity, equality and sustainability, while making an impact on its community.
Rivers is working with Taylor Walden and her personalized gift business, Simple and Sentimental, which started out of Walden’s ECU dorm room.
“My team and I assist with market analyses, supply plans research, operations and fundamentals,” Rivers said. “It gives exposure into project management and leadership skills.”
In a non-COVID world, Rivers and the rest of the interns would be working with their clients face-to-face. But because of the uncertainty of the pandemic, Welch said the internship is taking place virtually.
“Technology is amazing though,” Welch said. “It is so much better than just a phone call. It losses some of the personal aspect, but it still gives a sense of what clients are going through.”
Working with the fundamentals of business is nothing new for Rivers. While an Anson New Tech High School student, he was very interested in growing Wadesboro and the county. Students were tasked with trying to bring in new businesses to the area, but didn’t have much success, according to Rivers.
Now in this internship position, Rivers can really see a business take off. One day he may apply those skills he learned from RISE29 back to Anson County. Rivers would like to reach out locally and get Welch to grow the program beyond just the 29 eastern counties in North Carolina.
“A lot of things need to happen in Anson for this to happen,” Rivers said. “I would love to be able to help with economic development.”
He may only be one person, but he believes that with his skills, he can make a change in rural communities.
Reach Liz O’Connell at 267-467-5613 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @_eoconnell.