TikTok Creator Influencing His Community to Try MassReconnect
Getting to know Northern Essex Community College Business Transfer student Pedro Rentas is like peeling an onion. Each layer reveals another fascinating tidbit of his life. The onion metaphor is especially apt considering his cooking TikToks have earned him more than 110,000 followers on the social media platform.
Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Rentas was an endlessly creative child. He loved cooking, drawing, video production, and entertaining his family. But it wasn’t easy to find outlets.
“It’s frustrating when you have the talent, but there’s no support,” reflects Rentas.
He persevered, and eventually, his talents and magnetic personality landed him hosting jobs on radio and television shows. First, he covered events and interviewed new artists for a local station. Then, he moved to the capital city of Santo Domingo and reported for a nationally broadcast, weekly magazine-style show.
Rentas worked in broadcasting in the Dominican Republic for about ten years until the opportunity to move to the United States with his siblings presented itself in 2016. While he hesitated to give up a career he’d worked hard for, he thought the move would lead to bigger and better things. There was just one problem: learning English.
“I didn’t know a lot of English when I moved here,” he says of settling in the Merrimack Valley with his family. “I had to clean bathrooms; that’s about all I could do for work.”
Once again, Rentas saw he’d have to create his own opportunities. “I realized if I study, I can make more money.” He committed to learning English, and soon, his language skills were strong enough that he landed a job in customer service at a bank.
With more financial security, in his spare time, Rentas returned to what he loved the most: being in front of the camera. By then, TikTok was gaining popularity, and the platform was a natural outlet for Rentas. His fun and light personality resonated with this new audience, as it had in the Dominican Republic. His account has now grown to 110,000 followers, with top videos getting hundreds of thousands of views.
Rentas has monetized his feed, which provides a nice side income. He hopes to expand to Instagram, where he says the pay is even better. As he’s seen his personal brand grow, he thought he could benefit from some business know-how. Rentas, who lives in Haverhill, initially came to Northern Essex for a training program but then learned about MassReconnect. The new state program provides free community college for Massachusetts residents ages 25 and older who don’t already have a degree.
“I think many people who come here from my country think that college here [in the United States] means taking out loans. I’m old, I’m afraid of loans,” jokes Rentas. “I heard about the MassReconnect Program, and I said, ‘Sign me up! Right away!’”
At 38, Rentas is now enrolled as a Business Transfer student. His goal is to graduate with his associate degree in just two years. He says he’s enjoyed getting back into the groove of going to school and appreciates the support of professors who understand the challenges of returning after so much time away from the classroom.
“Little by little, it’s coming back. I’m surprised I remember how to do math!”
Not surprisingly, Rentas has connected with many of his classmates, too, and recently treated them to that cooking that’s made him TikTok famous. He hopes that his story will inspire them and others to take advantage of the opportunities they have.
“When I was young, I wanted to work. I wished I’d taken advantage of that time to study. I especially hope my community sees that we have this opportunity. It’s a blessing. It will open doors to better opportunities; we’ll get something for us that’s forever.”
Rentas says all his success is possible because of the support he’s received from his family and husband, Jesse. You can find Pedro Rentas on TikTok as @harold1985.