Rivera was one of 18 graduates from Cumberland Academy Saturday afternoon. The event took place at North Clay Middle School.
Rivera was also one of three graduates who took time to speak. He focused on the day at hand and how proud he was to overcome his past.
"Today is what matters," he told the crowd Saturday.
The father of five and grandfather of three said he moved to Brazil nearly 10 years ago after growing up close to Chicago.
He moved here to get away from trouble but it found him here and he wound up in the Clay County Justice Center.
"I made a few mistakes when I first moved here," Rivera said. "When I went to jail, it didn't just affect me. It affected my family."
Rivera said he took the GED test while in jail in November. He received his results in February.
Despite his past, he had graduated with an honors diploma Saturday.
"I didn't want my mistakes to hold me back anymore," Rivera said. "I had every desire to not let my past hold me in the past."
Rivera currently works as a machinist and said he's interested in moving forward with his education. His classmate, Morgan Judd, also graduated with an honors diploma.
In addition to Rivera, Jenna Zickafoose and Crystal Ornduff also spoke at Saturday's festivities.
Cumberland Academy Director of Adult Education/Principal Lisa Showalter said Clay County has had an alternative education program for close to 13 years.
On Saturday, she told the 18 graduates to keep moving forward.
"Graduates, you've made it and you've made us proud," Showalter said. "Today is the day when a new life begins for you."