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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

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Undocumented Resource Area coordinator Cynthia A. Torres (back) with students Undocumented Resource Area coordinator Cynthia A. Torres (back) with students

Undocumented Resource Area Coordinator Committed to Supporting All Students

The Undocumented Resource Area, led by coordinator Cynthia A. Torres, celebrates a grand opening on May 2.
By La Monica Everett-Haynes

In many ways, the life story of Cynthia A. Torres connects seamlessly with the experiences of San Diego State University students who hold undocumented status.

The daughter of a mother who immigrated to the United States from a small town in northwestern Mexico, Torres said she closely observed her mother’s experiences with discrimination. Most often, she said, it was based on her mother’s socioeconomic and immigrant status.

Torres turned her aspirations toward formal education, believing it to be an essential conduit for personal and professional growth.

Today, Torres is a two-time SDSU alumna, having received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and a master of arts degree in postsecondary educational leadership. Recently, she was appointed as the Undocumented Resource Area (URA) coordinator, a position she said aligns with her “commitment to keep doors open.”

Through her own training and her work with SDSU students since 2001, Torres strives to motivate and elevate those whose experiences parallel her mother’s.

“Seeing what obstacles and discrimination my mother endured as an immigrant sparked a fire in my belly,” Torres said. “And I realized that if I endured obstacles as a first-generation student, I could only imagine what our undocumented immigrant students had to endure.”

Supporting academic achievement, excellence

The URA, housed within SDSU’s Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs (EOP), collaborates with campus partners to offer students with undocumented status specialized, often one-on-one, attention.

The URA is open to all undocumented students, including those from mixed-status families, said Torres, who has worked with students of diverse cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds throughout her career at SDSU.

URA staff will provide students with academic support, career advising and, when needed, referral to off-campus community service providers—all of which are known to help improve student retention, persistence and graduation.

The support URA offers under Torres’s leadership helps ensure students are successful in fulfilling their academic and professional goals, said Miriam C. Castañón, director of EOP.
“San Diego State University has long affirmed its commitment to supporting students, regardless of their immigration status. The Undocumented Resource Area is an extension of support, as we have invested years providing students with resources that enhance their overall achievement,” Castañón said. “This consolidated support is also aligned with our drive to best prepare students to work and engage in our binational community and the global workforce.”

Full-circle commitment

As a transfer student to SDSU, Torres enrolled in the EOP Transfer Bridge Program. Later, during her studies, she became involved as a student leader with organizations such as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A) and Association of Chicana Activists (A.Ch.A). She also served as the College of Sciences representative and vice president of finance for Associated Students.

Since 2001, Torres has served as a SDSU outreach and recruitment officer, then an admissions counselor. Prior to being named the URA coordinator, Torres was assistant director for EOP’s Outreach, Recruitment and Admissions unit, as well as a counselor.

“For years, Cynthia has helped our students to enhance their educational achievement and, through the introduction of the URA, she will continue to support them in their well-being,” Castañón said. “She is compassionate, caring, dedicated and passionate. In her work, she has a huge heart for our students.”

Torres was involved with the Leticia A. Network during the earlier part of her career, working to protect higher education access for immigrants. She also trained middle school students to improve their college-going habits through Access Initiatives. For seven years, Torres served as co-advisor for Education Without Borders, a student-run organization supporting undocumented and other underserved students.

“Despite many challenges and barriers, our students forge ahead and are often the first in their families to obtain not only a high school diploma, but also a college degree,” said Torres, whose vision to grow the URA includes the launch of a peer mentor program and expanded scholarship support. “What we offer through URA will help build on our students’ already existing resiliency so they can be even more successful during and after their time at SDSU.”