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A feeling of empowerment

SJU junior wins honor from U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute

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March 2, 2015

By Mike Killeen

Edwin Torres has earned a number of honors in his lifetime, including a handful at Saint John's University.

But when his name was called and he strolled up to the stage to receive the Dr. Juan Andrade Scholarship for Young Hispanic Leaders at the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute's 33rd annual conference Feb. 13 in Chicago, he had a very emotional reaction.

"When I was going up and receiving my award, it was one of those feelings I'll never forget," said Torres, a junior political science major at SJU from San Pedro, California. He was one of 20 individuals to receive the award, which is named after the president of the USHLI.

"I'm looking at the entire crowd of thousands of people, and I'm like, 'Why me?' Why do I get the title of a Young Hispanic Leader. Why?" Torres asked. "The image I get from this experience is a feeling of empowerment — a feeling that I can and will change and have the resources to change the community that I'm part of."

Torres said he was the first student from SJU or CSB to be recognized with the award, which was established in 1994. And, he was the only student from a Minnesota college to receive the award this year.

"I was super-honored to represent our community, and to be the first to be awarded at the conference," Torres said. "I brought Saint John's University with me to the conference, and now Hispanic people know about us. I was just very honored to represent our community."

He was able to meet a number of Hispanic leaders at the conference, including Andrade, former Gov. Bill Richardson and Roberto Llamas, who is the executive vice president and community empowerment officer at Univision Communications.

"Very often, I don't get to see my own culture getting represented where I'm at, at any level of administration or professorships or anything of that nature," Torres said. "After being able to see them in person, who say, 'You know what? There are actually successful Latinos. I'm just not the only one.' It just brings a lot of pride, brings out a sense that I could make it."

Torres said he was also excited to make connections with the other award recipients.

"It is a very powerful tool to connect with them. That's one thing I'll say about the conference is that those friendships will last for many, many years," Torres said. "I told (the other award winners) that some of us, if not all of us, will be winning those medallions (in the future) because they give those to national leaders."