By Joshua Herring
If you have been to the Sheetz convenience store and restaurant located in Fleetwood, a few miles from the Kutztown campus, then chances are Nicolette Mandes has delivered your burger and fries with a cheerful, quirky smile.
Nicolette Mandes-Rivera, named after the actress Nicolette Sheridan, is currently a sophomore accounting major and has worked for Sheetz for about five years. She says she “loves the repetition” of accounting and if she didn’t have to work, she would get more involved in extracurricular activities in school and on campus.
Aside from her work and school, Mandes has close ties with her family. She explains that she was excited to go off to college, but “It’s hard to be away from my parents. It was always just the three of us.”
Her family moved to the United States from Puerto Rico when she was three years old. Most of her extended family still lives there, including her grandfather.
As she talks about him and his battle with Alzheimer’s, memories of her early childhood light up the conversation. She says, “I remember when he showed me his chickens. He has 60 at his home in Puerto Rico. One of my earliest memories is feeding them while holding his hand.”
She wishes she could see him more than just once a summer when her family goes to visit. After growing up in Bethlehem and attending Bethlehem Catholic High School, Mandes continued her education at Northampton Community College. However, since she had never been to public school, Kutztown’s appeal for its mix of quality academics and rousing social life ultimately drew her towards the campus.
“I wanted that college experience and to be with a different crowd of kids,” says Mandes. She now resides in the University Place dormitories.
Her carefree smile and fuzzy Bohemian boots accompany her lighthearted persona, lending to her fairly notorious reputation among her friends as having a peculiar knack for confronting and embracing troubling situations. She says, “Sometimes, I feel like my life is movie.”
In a giggling stream of consciousness, she rattles off middle-of-the-night antics and almost always ends with, “For some reason, I make it back to my room by 4:30 a.m.”
To a bystander, Mandes might seem a bit silly and careless, but she is far from your typical “party girl” or rash college student.
Those who acquaint themselves with the twenty-one-year-old realize that she defies the irresponsible stereotype, and embodies a characteristic that often pervades throughout the millennial generation: optimism. Mandes displays this quality in one of her many funny stories, which makes light of this winter’s icy troubles.
Late for class one day, she was running to board the shuttle. “My friend ran ahead of me and I tried to catch up, but I slipped on ice and fell flat on my butt. I got up and fell three more times. I was so embarrassed, especially when I realized the shuttle wasn’t leaving for another five minutes,” says Mandes.
The word “refreshing” immediately comes to mind as she giddily retells these embarrassing anecdotes. Juggling work and school make her an average young student, and she may not form to the mold of an outstanding over-achiever, but her uniqueness comes from her ability to diffuse trouble into brightness.
For life after college, she has a clear image for herself. She says, “This is how I picture myself in ten years: I want to be the executive boss at a giant corporation in a big city, where everyone looks up to and respects me.”