Sergio Torres' passion for the law and human rights was honed at the University of Maryland, but it was formed long before by his own family and in the conflicts of his native country, Colombia.
Growing up in Ocaña, a town in northern Colombia, Torres was let out of school early one day because of a power outage and, once home, had what turned out to be a last conversation with his mother before she fled the country and sought asylum in the United States.
Torres was only 10 years old when his mother, a human rights activist, left under threats from paramilitary forces. It would be seven years before he saw her again.
"I didn't have the chance to enjoy my mother a lot, but I did learn a lot from her," he says. "My passion for law began with my mother's work."
After graduating from high school at 15, Torres went to the National University of Colombia and started organizing events to defend affordable and merit- based education from budget cuts and to protest policies favoring the wealthy and connected. As the situation worsened, he left with his sister to join his mother in the United States.
"Knowing the law wasn't enough—you had to know the right people," he says. "The law is not only behavioral standards.It's a sense of community and union, and how we should do things."
Hardship continued in his new country. During his first year at Maryland, his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died. Thanks to the kindness of a friend, Torres and his sister were welcomed into another home.
"Giving up was never an option," he says. "It's not about whether you get bad news or good news—keep on going."
Torres majored in finance and is graduating cum laude, having placed on the dean's list three times and winning academic excellence honors from the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Education. Professors describe him as an articulate, active student who would enthusiastically volunteer and always bring extra questions for discussions after class.
"He is an excellent, exceedingly motivated student," says William McClenahan Jr., a lecturer in business law and public policy who taught Torres in two classes. "Mr. Torres is exactly the type of person that an excellent state institution, like the University of Maryland, should take pride in."
Torres plans to attend law school, then get a doctorate in public policy or economics, with the ultimate goal of helping to shape the future of Colombia.
|May 22, 2014|
|Campus-wide Commencement Ceremony, Comcast Center|
|8:30 a.m. Doors open|
|8:45 a.m. Graduates report to Lot 4B Comcast (no later than)|
|9:20 a.m. Procession of graduates begins|
|10:00 a.m. Ceremony begins|
|May 22 and 23, 2014|
|Individual College or School Ceremonies|
|Various Campus Locations|
|Area Accommodations and Dining Information|