Generations of Successful OCPS Graduates - The Rivers Family

Friday, April 16, 2021

Johnny, Djuan and Dwain Rivers photos and titles

Orange County Public Schools has educated our community’s children for more than 150 years, so it is no surprise to see generations of local families graduate from our schools and go on to make a strong, positive impact on life in Central Florida. 

We recently had the pleasure of visiting with Johnny Rivers, Sr., and two of his sons, Djuan and Dwain Rivers. It was fascinating to see how Orange County Public Schools helped shape the lives of these community leaders.

Johnny Rivers, Sr.

Johnny Rivers, Sr., owns a USDA- and FDA-certified food production plant and several restaurant partnerships, including a restaurant in the Orlando International Airport. Rivers, Sr., entered the food world as a young teenager and worked his way up to the role of Corporate Executive Chef of Disney Resorts, where he developed and opened Disney’s restaurants around the world before opening his own food company.

He reflected, “I was excited to be an entrepreneur with a world of opportunities through the worldwide business relationships that I developed over the years. Darden offered me a position with them, but instead I made them a proposal to consult with them. Together we developed the Bahama Breeze concept.”

The pandemic has laid several challenges at the feet of the hospitality industry. Rivers, an alumnus of Jones High School, currently serves on the Orange County Economic Recovery Task force, developing and reviewing policies to safely rebuild the local economy.

Rivers, Sr., added, “Jones High was such an incredible school. They used to grow these fresh vegetables and had a program that taught people how to eat healthy.”

Djuan Rivers

Djuan Rivers, one of Johnny Rivers, Sr.’s sons, was about to make some big movements in his career when we met with him. Currently the Vice President of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Djuan plans to retire May 1 after a career at Disney spanning close to three decades. Djuan is an avid world traveler: he has visited close to 70 countries so far, and has even climbed the Seven Summits – the seven highest mountains on each of the continents.  His career at Disney allowed him to cross the globe for both work and pleasure, and he links his keen interest in touring the world to an assignment from Miss Myrick, his Middle School English teacher at Memorial Junior High (now Memorial Middle School). The class project sparked a desire to travel in Djuan, who then received a globe and spent hours looking at countries on the map. Little did he know that he would eventually visit many of these distant lands.

Djuan added, “I attended West Orange High School. I was treasurer of the National Honors Society. I was in the debate club and the Spanish Club. It was foundational in developing who I am today. Working in the clubs gave me confidence by allowing me to take on leadership roles.” These activities allow students “to make decisions, and even at an early age, you can probably predict who will do what in life. This is where kids can explore and motivate themselves and build their confidence.”

Dwain Rivers

Dwain Rivers, Djuan’s twin brother, not only attended OCPS schools; he was also an OCPS employee and a parent of an OCPS student. For the last 17 years, Dwain has been in charge of Internal Affairs for the Orlando Police Department, leading the team that responds to police complaints from the public. Responsibilities include managing the drug testing program and reviewing complaints about profiling, excessive force and officer-involved shootings.  Dwain was the first of only four civilians in this role around the country; last year, he was appointed to head Internal Affairs for Orlando’s Fire Department, too.  The experience that he gained at OCPS led him down this path.

Like his brother, Dwain graduated from West Orange High School in 1983.  However, he joined the United States Army where he served various roles, including military police at Ft. Bragg, NC.  Dwain was later recruited to serve by the Orlando Police Department, where he served both in uniform and undercover. After suffering a significant injury during S.W.A.T. team training, he was forced to retire from the Police Department. He then joined Orange County Public Schools, starting in Site Security protecting OCPS schools and worksites. Dwain rose through the ranks to eventually become a Senior Manager in Employee Relations, earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a Master’s degree in Public Administration along the way.  Dwain said, “In seven years in Employee Relations, I gained a lot of experience in employee discipline, wage and hour investigations, and EEOC complaints. Working for the school board, with so many employees interacting with so many students at so many different work sites, was my preparation for the role in OPD Internal Affairs.”

Dwain’s connections with OCPS run deep through his family. His wife, LaTonjua Rivers, graduated from Oak Ridge High School, and Dwain’s other siblings are also alumni of OCPS.  Positioned prominently in Dwain’s office is a poster of a member of the third generation of Rivers who attended OCPS: Dakota Rivers is now a sophomore and basketball forward at Florida Gulf Coast University. Dakota’s younger brother, Stone, will graduate from his brother’s alma mater, Windermere High School, this summer and attend USF in the fall, adding to the Rivers family’s impressive list of OCPS alumni.

Do you know of a graduate of OCPS who is a community builder and should be profiled?  Contact the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools at

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