Nick Torres

Nick Torres

Name: Nick Torres
Age: 20
Major: BA in English with teaching certification for grades 7-12
College: College of Liberal Arts
Hometown: Donna, TX
High School: South Texas ISD Science Academy, Mercedes, Texas

There remains a weighty stigma behind choosing to stay in your hometown for your undergrad, especially when all those close to you are leaving. However, I hold a deep love for the Valley. Our region has a history of suffering from a critical brain drain, meaning many individuals seeking to further their educational and professional careers end up leaving to pursue better opportunities. Though, if our native mesquite trees and nopales have whispered anything to those willing to listen, it is that La 956 produces life that grows and thrives in the heat of adversity and arid barrenness. A natural and effervescent demonstration of a beautiful and rare strength that has no need for outside intervention because all that is necessary is held within and deeply rooted. I desire to help shift the looming narrative because there is such beauty to behold here. UTRGV has so many amazing things to offer, especially in the realm of education. Now, nearing the end of my undergrad race, I have no regrets behind my choice. I have had a myriad of professors and experiences that are actively expanding the territory of Latinx learners and empowering me to aid in the fruitful undertaking of showing the true beauty of our region. My progression as both a leaner and mindful individual has only improved since my journey began three years ago.

What made you decide on your current major?
One of my favorite musical artists, Mitski, has a song titled, “I Bet on Losing Dogs.” When I first saw the title, the statement struck me deeply. Education is in essence the beautiful profession of taking risks and chances on people. And most of the time, the odds are stacked against those who desperately need just one more chance. Educators figuratively bet all they have: time, energy, dedication, intention, etc.  on those entrusted to them. While at first it seems nonsensical, everyone at one point or another will be the one placing the bet, or the one racing. Life is a great comedian in that regard. During my own race, I have had the great blessing of key educators who took a chance on me at times where I felt I couldn't go on. Had they not demonstrated that belief, that risk, and that vision, I dread to think what would’ve become of me. I used to think I chose education simply because I was brought up in a family of educators; but as I have advanced in my journey, it is the perfect field for those who are hopelessly in love with hope. Those who endlessly give chase to what could be, and do not fear what is.

How are you maneuvering being a student during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I deeply wish there was some crash course, or YouTube tutorial on being a student during unprecedented circumstances. However, that isn’t my reality, so my plan of attack when dealing with academics amid great grief coupled with uncertainty has been what I think all human beings have had to do: fail and adapt and fail and adapt. I can’t think of one college student in my life who has walked through this period unscathed. We all have been greatly affected, and the best we can do is support one another now more than ever. Connection, which during the height of the pandemic was greatly feared, is simultaneously our greatest source of healing.

What are your greatest strengths and what are some challenges? 
One of my greatest strengths is that I refuse to give up. I truly discovered how deep my perseverance runs in the face of adversity. I am not saying that in any shape or form it has been a walk in the park but throwing in the towel is something I just cannot do. One challenge that has arisen because of COVID is reconciling the loss of time. I’ve allowed myself space to grieve over not having truly experienced the university because a year-and-a-half of my time here was spent virtually. The collegiate period of a student’s life is so special and formative, and I had to make peace with the fact that mine wouldn’t align with the “normal” definition.

What do you hope to achieve beyond completion of your major?
I am an artist. I have struggled so hard to call myself that because of bad experiences and feelings of inadequacy. I will do what artists do: create. I will do so in the classroom and in all aspects of my life. Through the act of creation, the rest will come to fruition. I have found that when I engage with this essential part of myself everything else falls into place.

What do you like most about UTRGV?
One of my favorite things about UTRGV is the campus. I am biased in my thinking because of the global interruption that occurred during my undergraduate experience. I think I have really come to value the gift of walking around campus and being able to nonchalantly exist in public spaces. I don’t think I will ever complain about having classes far from each other when I recall my experiences. I now know how much of a blessing it is to be able to even walk on campus. There is a fresh gratitude to be found for the times I was able to get my steps in.

What does being a Vaquero mean to you?
Being a Vaquero means being the bridge between multiple worlds. Even examining our mascot name, the Spanish word vaquero, is an example of an individual who would be the connection between various parts of the cultural world. They were outsiders, neither from here nor there, yet needed everywhere. They were constantly on the move, well acquainted with the art of adaptation and endurance. Vaqueros had to understand how to function and thrive in a multitude of contexts. In its fullness, being a Vaquero means being adaptable and acknowledging the plethora of worlds that comprise my identity.

What opportunities has UTRGV helped you find throughout your community?
UTRGV has helped me realize how many individuals are doing their absolute best to improve our region. Specifically, my first job that I found through the university is a TRIO program that constantly engages with the local community. They allow their students ample opportunities for community involvement in various locations. I have seen them participate in beach cleanups, paint apartments for survivors of abuse, make Christmas stockings for children in need, and donate canned goods to food pantries. It is a source of pride to be able to work in an environment that is constantly doing deep community work for the RGV.

What advice do you have for fellow students pursuing degrees during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The most crucial thing that I can say is to fight for meaningful connections with others. There is a huge temptation to isolate and carry everything by yourself, and a great deception that tells you that you don’t need others. Though this is tempting, especially when you have been wounded by relationships, I have found this to be extremely detrimental. We were made to exist within the freeing constraints of community. Pursuing the degree is so much easier when you surround yourself with the right people. When it gets difficult and you're burnt out, that one hangout, word of encouragement, kind text, or hug from people who believe in you makes all the difference.