Elizabeth Torres arrived at Clarion University four years ago armed with determination and direction. When she was growing up, she witnessed injustice, and she decided she would become a lawyer to help right wrongs.
As Torres considered colleges, Clarion's diversity appealed to her. Having taken part in a leadership program through Clarion University while she was in high school, she already knew about the campus, its academics and opportunities. Torres, who said she was shy and reserved in high school, felt that Clarion University was the perfect place to develop educationally and socially.
Torres said her freshman year was difficult because of homesickness, but she took the advice to get involved. That year she started a Students Working Against Tobacco organization, and in her sophomore year, she fully immersed herself in involvement.
"I stepped outside my comfort zone to find myself and find different organizations that I knew would enable me to help other people," Torres said. "Because Clarion University is very diverse and has so many different organizations, I found the perfect organizations to display my leadership skills and to make my mark on campus. I learned I was more outgoing than I thought," Torres said.
Since then, she has emerged as a leader. The Student Leadership Development Institute of the Pennsylvania Black Conference on Higher Education awarded Torres for her leadership at Clarion. Her experiences have reinforced her decision to pursue a law degree and have helped her to develop essential skills for her career and life.
She is the multicultural chair for University Activities Board, secretary of the Clarion University chapter of NAACP and an academic resource mentor, and she speaks to prospective students touring campus. She is a member of Minority Student Services Leadership Council. Last year she ran the Social Norms Campaign, which was geared toward educating about underage and binge drinking. She is planning a spring event, "Week of Women," which will honor and recognize women in history and women on Clarion's campus who are making a difference.
Torres is the youngest of five children. Her family lives in Reading, Pa., now, but when Torres was a toddler, her mother emigrated from Puerto Rico to create a better life for herself and her children. Torres grew up speaking English and Spanish, and she is also fluent in French. When she graduates in May with a bachelor's degree in political science, she will be her family's first college graduate.
When she enters law school in the fall, she will do so with confidence.
"Get out there. Get involved," she recommends to other students. "That will help you find yourself and it will enhance your college experience.