By: Riley Sullivan
NORTHRIDGE — Erica Benford-Riley grew up in Inglewood, about 26 miles from California State University, Northridge (CSUN). For most of her time, she was a commuter student, willing to make the drive north because even then, she knew the value of a college education.
“The value of a CSUN education, and education in general, is priceless. Education is very important in order to excel, no matter if it’s a trade school, or what, it is important to excel in life,” Benford-Riley said.
Now, she has done just that: excelled. Benford-Riley currently works as a national sales manager at Paradise Point Resort and Spa where her main goal is to persuade guests and clients to rent the hotel for their events.
Prior to holding her current position, Benford-Riley worked her way up the ladder, holding jobs from a front desk clerk to a sales assistant. As a CSUN alum, she also worked for the University Student Union (USU) as a clerical assistant for the Human Resources Department.
While working for the USU, Benford-Riley was faced with a challenge: she was failing her classes and thought she would no longer be able to work for the school. When she brought this to her boss’ attention, they immediately discussed her options. Under the guidance of Kristen Pichler, Associate Director, Human Resources & Professional Development, Benford-Riley changed her major to one that better matched her: recreation and tourism management.
Shortly after graduating with her bachelor’s degree and working, Benford-Riley was itching to get back into the classroom.
“I didn’t want to move forward with a graduate degree, but after graduating, I was like ‘I have to do this again,’” Benford-Riley said.
Growing up, education was something that her parents were passionate about, however, when it came time to start hercollege search, Benford-Riley wasn’t allowed to go out of state. As the youngest sibling with six older brothers and a father that passed away when she was 14, her mother wanted her to stay closer to home. This led her to look at local campuses, but she fell in love with CSUN the moment she stepped on campus.
“I felt as though it was diversity. I felt as though it was heavily resourceful, family oriented. When I walked on campus, I was like, ‘This is my school,’” said Benford-Riley.
When her five-and-a-half years came to a close and her time came to walk across the graduation stage, Benford-Riley felt liberated and accomplished. The only one of her siblings to graduate from college, she knows that she not only made her parents proud, but can also show her kids the power of knowledge and a CSUN education.
For those looking at attending CSUN, Benford-Riley hopes that people understand the many resources offered.
“Even though it costs to go to college, there’s ways to work around it. There’s ways to get help that you need in order topursue a career. Don’t allow excuses,” said Benford-Riley
As for current CSUN students, she believes that taking your time and networking with your peers is one of the most important aspects of college.
“Enjoy it, don’t rush it. Just embrace the moment; enjoy it because you only get this once. Meet as many people as you can. You never know what kind of connections may open up for you just by meeting someone and helping them,” Benford-Riley said.