Tyneeha Rivers vividly remembers the day she called home to tell her father she was pregnant nearly 26 years ago. 19 at the time, the young college student was terrified.

“The level of disappointment my parents had was almost crippling because they wanted more for me,” Rivers shared with Essence. “They did not want me to be just another statistic—another young Black girl from the city.”

Raised in Philadelphia, Rivers said it was important to her family that she set herself up for success, something that was atypical for her environment.

“Where I grew up, Philadelphia…West Philadelphia at that, the neighborhoods weren’t great, she said. “Philadelphia still has their struggles, but back when I was growing up, the crime was high, and it just was a tough time to live in the city. And I was one of the first people in my family to go to college, which was very important to my dad, because he strongly believed in education being the great equalizer.”

Although Rivers said she viewed the pregnancy as a blessing, she also knew it would pose a significant challenge to her goal of graduating with honors and immediately pursuing her career after graduating. She also knew her family would be immensely disappointed, particularly her father.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” she started. “Being the Marine that he was, very stern…and I get choked up every time I tell his story because he literally said to me, ‘this is on you,’” Rivers emotionally recounted, saying that her father all but told her she wasn’t allowed to move back home despite her condition.

Although it was devastating at the time, she said she now views it as the tough love she needed to persevere.

“He told me I needed to figure it out—to not return home,” she said. “But looking back, I know that’s what I needed to hear to push forward because I didn’t give myself the option to fail from that moment on.”

Rivers had her son Mikal in the summer of 1996 and immediately jumped back into work and school. She remained enrolled part-time, while employed full-time. It was a challenging period but she remained steadfast.

For example, it took 10 years to earn her college degree through night courses, but she wouldn’t have had it any other way because she knew who was watching throughout her journey.

“My son says that he is who he is now because he never saw me give up,” she said, sharing that the two-time NBA champion admits his winning spirit was inherited from his mother.

After earning her degree in business administration, she Rivers held leadership roles with Merrill Lynch, the Philadelphia 76ers, and sports entertainment giant Harris Blitzer. After earning a stellar reputation as the go-to HR exec in the NBA, she’s turning her sights in a new direction: cannabis.

In May 2022, Rivers was named as Chief People Officer at Curaleaf, a leading medical marijuana brand.

“The core values of their organization resonated with my own,” she said. “They immensely believe in the power of diversity, equity and inclusion and that really spoke to me.”

She said Curaleaf checked every box.

“I’m just super excited to do the work here and help take this organization to the next level of excellence.”