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Beatrice Torres, UT21 Senior

Neuroscience senior Beatrice Torres puts her heart into service on the Forty Acres and beyond.

UT21 Senior Beatrice

Beatrice Torres has a knack for relating to people and finding little pieces of home everywhere she goes. As a member of The University of Texas at Austin’s chapter of StudentsCare, she has spent some of her time brightening the hospital experience for kids. She remembers a young girl she met before the pandemic who was a patient at Dell Children’s Medical Center. Soon after becoming acquainted, they talked about their shared experiences as natives of the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. The young girl’s face would light up as they spoke in Spanish about their love of Mexican food and how important family is to them.

“Experiences like that are really humbling, and it teaches me a big lesson on appreciating life and wanting to serve others,” she says.

An outstanding senior from the class of 2021, Torres says she was motivated to major in neuroscience after witnessing family members struggle with neurological disorders. “I grew up with a mom who had a brain tumor, so I was enduring the repercussions of that and trying to help her whenever she had seizures and with her medications,” she says. “I very much wanted to help her in any way that I could, but I knew that I couldn’t do much given that I wasn’t a doctor or her specialist. So that was one motivation.”

Other motivations included her desire to help her sister, who has autism, and a grandmother, who has schizophrenia. “I really wanted to learn why they were facing these things, how can I help them and how can I better understand what’s going on.”

With the support and encouragement of her family and high school teachers, Torres chose to move five hours away from her hometown to attend UT Austin. She says this was a crucial decision, and she recalls her dad emphasizing the importance of attending college. “You need to go — you’re first-generation, you’re going to do things that none of us could ever do,” he said.

Beatrice Torres with her family.
Beatrice Torres with her family.

During this past year, Torres and her family were personally and devastatingly affected by the coronavirus. In July of 2020, Torres and the rest of her family tested positive for COVID-19. While most of her family members fully recovered, her father suffered complications and passed away two months later. Family members leaned on one another during this sad time. Torres says she also began to worry about how she would be able to finish paying for her tuition and apartment rent since her father was the family’s sole financial provider.

“We’re a family of six, and we live in a traditional household. Once we lost our dad, we didn’t even know what to do or where to begin,” she says. “We weren’t sure how we were going to manage our finances. We were just completely lost.”

Torres found an abundance of support from the Texas community and on the Forty Acres, raising over $20,000 to fund her education and housing. “I felt so much love going through that. Everybody was just being so helpful and so kind,” she says. “It was just a beautiful thing.”

Despite the tragedy she faced this past year and a monthlong absence from school to mourn her loss, Torres says the fall 2020 semester was one of her strongest academically. “I was proud of myself for performing so well. It was the final stride, and I knew my dad would be saying, ‘You can’t let something keep you from doing your absolute best.’ I knew I needed to keep going, no matter what.”

While at UT Austin, Torres has dedicated some of her time to research opportunities, including Project SEED, where she studied the health and developmental effects on Latino children who are language brokers or translators for their parents. She’s also been a part of Project JUNTOS, where she’s listened to Latino youth share their stories about cultural struggles. The findings from these conversations are used to help the Project JUNTOS team cultivate a school program that will provide proper resources for Latino student success.

What’s next for Torres? She is currently applying to programs for a master’s degree in public health, where she hopes to learn more about health care policy before attending medical school. In the future, she plans to return to Mission, Texas, to work in the hospital where her father was treated. She says seeing the health disparities in her hometown community has motivated her to be a part of a step toward improvement.

“Going back to work in that hospital would be an honor. It’s a way to reconnect and give back to the community that made me who I am,” she says. “And I know by attending UT, I have the tools to carve out my path and do it confidently.”

Media Contact

University Communications
Email: UTMedia@utexas.edu
Phone: (512) 471-3151

The University of Texas at Austin

Luke Heckmann, UT21 Senior

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