By Reginald Stuart
When Fisk University goes on the hunt this school year for prospective students, its recruitment and sales team will likely include one of its most recent super boosters: Tanya Torres.
Torres, a 21–year-old public school graduate from Houston, Texas, won’t need a sales script or note cards to make her pitch. She talks from her heart, touting the family-oriented nature of the Fisk community, giving props to teachers for their passionate push for excellence and crediting the university for helping her get good summer internships that help her stretch beyond what she knows in order to learn more and be better prepared for the job market.
Torres, who had served on the student judiciary council for several years and once ran for and lost a bid for campus government office, was earlier this year elected president of the Fisk Student Government Association (SGA), making her the first Hispanic elected to lead the Fisk SGA in the 151 year hisstory of the university.
“I was in love with the school (Fisk) before I stepped foot on campus,” Torrres fondly recalled in ra ecent interview. “I could tell how family oriented it is,” she said, echoing a sentiment frequently voiced by others with a Fisk legacy.
As for teachers and classes, Torres says “The professors are very interested in their students. If I’m having troubles with their studies, teachers will help.”
Torres heard about Fisk from her high school debate coach, Tonya Naylor. When Fisk alumni and representatives visited her school during prospect week, the Fisk team included a lot of inspiring people, she said, including former high school classmate Brianna Herman who was elected Fisk SGA president while she, Herman, was Fisk student. Herman now attends law school at the University of Texas-Austin.
“The fact that they were so welcoming,” helped sell Torres on considering Fisk, she said. “It was so overpowering.”
After the visit, she read up on Fisk, learned of its history makers and deep thinkers from W.E. B. DuBois to Diane Nash to Nikki Giovanni and others.
Not soon after the high school prospect week, Torres visited Fisk for a ‘scholars weekend’ where prospective students visit campus for a look-see. Fisk won her heart.
“My first visit was scholars weekend, ”Torres recalled. “The second time was move-in day.”
With a Fisk scholarship helping address the family financial concerns, Torres, the oldest of three children in her family, became the first family member to pursue a four-year college toward completion .
When the university held its fall convocation last month, at which Fisk’s new president, Dr. Kevin Rome Sr., was introduced, Torres was there to speak too. In the audience were her mother, father and siblings.
Torres has already spread her Fisk sales pitch to her family. Lorena, her younger sister, is a Fisk sophomore and serves as SGA alumni affairs chair. Her 14-years-old eight-grade brother already knows of his big sisters’ love of Fisk. They hope to make it a family affair, carrying on a legacy that spans dozens of Fisk graduates and their families.
Torres says being one of only a handful of Hispanics on the Fisk campus is not an issue for her, as she grew up in a very diverse high school community and has like learning about getting to appreciate and understand her fellow human beings of different backgrounds.
“When one door closes, another door opens,” Torres said of her desire to achieve.
“My constant dedication and drive” keep her going, she said, noting the normal ups an downs involved in being a student leader. “You could lose and still end up winning,” she said of college experience.
As for goals as SGA president, Torres said, “We want to give back to the community.” The SGA plans after school programs in the park associated with nearby Andrew Jackson Homes. The SGA plans to have local food trucks on campus once a month to “showcase their foods. I think students would appreciate this,” she said.
The SGA will also prepare this fall for Hispanic Heritage Month for the area “Black and Brown” community and work with the campus safety department on a “collaborative” effort to promote “better” relations with student.
Reflecting on the work past SGA presidents have done to help keep Fisk appealing, Torres said: ”I know I have large shoes to fill.”