Victoria Torres started her road to recovery at a sober living home in the city of
Compton. At Victoria’s arrival, her renter, Ms. Gonzalez, provided two options: get
a job or go to school. Ms. Gonzalez connected Victoria to Compton College, and with
the help of the Extended Opportunity Program and Services (EOPS), she enrolled in the following semester. Victoria wanted a rewarding career that
fulfilled her life, and Compton offered a supportive path to get there.
“Many people are embarrassed about their past, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished,” Victoria says.
In 2020, Victoria enrolled at Compton College to gain new skills so she could build a better future for herself. After years of drug use, Victoria began to rediscover who she was and what she enjoyed doing. Victoria knew she loved science and biology quickly became her first choice. In Victoria’s second year at Compton, she visited the STEM center, where she came across the Make it Happen workshops.
At Compton, Victoria participated in the Make it Happen program, which helps students choose what to do to achieve what they want. In the program, students interested in robotics engineering met once a week to assemble robots that could operate wirelessly via cell phones. Her professor, Lorenna Carlos, encouraged her to join the club so she could put the student organization on her resume.
“I loved working with my hands and building what I am learning,” Victoria explains. “I enjoyed the program so much that I changed my major to engineering.”
Despite this support, learning has been challenging. Victoria is legally blind, and her unique disability requires additional support. She takes full advantage of the Special Resource Center (SRC), which assists students with disabilities, so they have equal access to educational programs and activities on campus. Victoria also gets extra time to focus in class, a camera to see the whiteboard, and CCTVs to magnify documents so she can read them.
“All my classmates and faculty are so helpful and kind,” Victoria says. “They understand what I need, which goes a long way.”
Victoria chose to be an engineer because not many women of color are in the field, especially ones with disabilities. However, she appreciates the industry because it has hard workers with good reputations, and she wants women with disabilities to know they embody these qualities too. From excelling at math to pursuing an engineering degree, Victoria has made strides in her education that she never thought were possible.
“I want to graduate to be a good example for the next woman who wants to be an engineer,” Victoria says.
As Victoria completes her studies, her classes are getting harder, but Compton continues to provide reliable support. From SRC to STEM and EOPS, Victoria has developed strong relationships with caring students, faculty, and staff, who have supported her along the way.
Eventually, Victoria wants to transfer to Cal State Dominguez to earn a bachelor's degree. Then, as the first woman engineer in her family, she hopes to inspire others to overcome their challenges to gain lifelong rewards. Victoria is grateful to Compton College for helping her gain new skills to take care of her family and one day have a successful career.
To students facing considerable obstacles, Victoria says, take a deep breath and try your best. “It won’t be easy, but I promise it will be worth it.”