Four Years Later

Four years ago, Leonel Torres, or Leo as his family and friends know him, was interviewed for Weber State University’s 2011 annual report. It was the first day of his freshman year. He was so new to   Weber State he didn’t know where the information booth — the meeting spot for the interview — was. At the time, he timidly said: “I’m sorry I’m a little late. I didn’t know where I was going exactly.”

Fast forward to the summer of 2015. Leo — again being interviewed for the annual report — arrived at the information booth on time. The shy Leo of four years ago was gone. This Leo had confidence. He had just come from his summer job at the Boys & Girls Club of Weber-Davis. “It’s fun,” he said with a sparkle in his eyes. “Tomorrow is Sports Day, but we do all kinds of things, like take them to the planetarium, swimming, hiking.”

A psychology major who is double minoring in zoology and chemistry, Leo likes being out in his community. Last semester, the Ogden resident was a research assistant for the Community Research Extension of WSU’s Center for Community Engaged Learning. He specifically worked with Ogden United Promise Neighborhood, an organization whose goal is to ensure the children and youths of central Ogden have access to great schools and support systems.
“I worked on a lot of different projects,” he explained. “One was to research what keeps people in minority groups from graduating and what gets them motivated to go to college. I sat in with a focus group, asked questions and talked to people about what we can do to help them.”
  The focus group participants’ answers didn’t surprise Leo, a first-generation college student. “Many students, many of  my friends, don’t know where to start,” he explained. “They don’t know about programs like Dream Weber; they don’t know about FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid); and many of them, like me, don’t have a parent who went to college and could help them through the process.”

Today, Leo is happy to share what he knows with others, especially when it comes to financial aid. “I wouldn’t be here without it,” he said.
Leo expects to graduate next year. It will make his parents proud. “They’ve always encouraged and supported me,” he said, smiling. “I’ll be the first one in my family — even my extended  family — to graduate from college. After that I plan to keep going to school. It’s a little crazy.”