For Angie Torres there was no Girl Scouts, after school clubs or sports team participation when she was a kid.
Her extracurricular activities involved translating English into Spanish for her aunt during doctor visits, helping her cousins fill out job applications and translating legal documents for family friends who didn’t speak English very well.
The first-generation UCF student said she didn’t have a lot of extras as a kid, but the one thing she did get was unconditional moral support.
“Even though my parents could not read or write English when I was younger, they would always sit down with me and made sure I finished my homework—and then some,” Torres said. “My mother would always make extra homework for us — still does for my younger siblings. My parents did not want me to have the life they had and they knew that getting an education was my only way out.”
So, the Astor, Florida native worked hard in school and got her first job at 15 as a grocery clerk. The Sanford roofing company her father has spent the past 13 years of his life, gave her an $8,000 scholarship, which she uses for college tuition and expenses.
“It was difficult,” she said about her journey thus far. “My parents did not know how the American school system worked and a lot of the time, I had to figure it out on my own. I remember being scared that I would do something wrong and let my parents down.”
But Torres is a very motivated student, said Nicholas Schenk, her academic advisor in the College of Sciences.
“Over the many times, we have met and covered many topics and issues, she has always been attentive and asked critical questions,” he said. “She is one of those students that you meet and quickly know they are capable of doing great things.”
Schenk said that his best advice to Torres and other first-generation students is to apply for “everything” from internships to fellowships and to not be discouraged when obstacles get in the way.
That’s something Torres knows all about.
“When I was 5-years-old, my parents were separated from me, but that did not stop them from coming back (from Mexico) and working hard to get their resident cards and eventually their citizenship,” Torres said. “I continue to work hard for them because I want to make sure that the risks they took to get here were worth it.”
The work ethic instilled in her as a child has proved valuable. She currently has three jobs. She serves as research assistant to political science Assistant Professor Jonathan Powell, as a mentor for the campus CREAR Futuros program aimed at helping students succeed, and as a substitute teacher in Volusia County. In addition she interns at the Global Perspectives Office on campus.
She also finds time as a volunteer to help fellow students. She serves as the vice president for the Student Advisory Council in Student Development and Enrollment Services, making recommendations for helping students feel at home on campus, and she helps make the Knight-Thon dance event a success so students at Arnold and Winnie Palmer Hospitals can benefit.
She’s on track to earn her bachelor’s degree in international and global studies in Spring 2018 along with a minor in global peace and security studies. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in political science and eventually teach at a university.
“Whenever I feel discouraged I remind myself that I made it this far,” Torres said. “I can certainly finish this journey.”