With dozens of her family clapping and crying in the audience, Gloria Torres took her seat at the school board table, offering Latino students in the district something she never had when she was younger.
“Growing up in Oklahoma City I didn’t have those role models,” Torres said. “Not [role models] that looked like me.”
Torres was sworn in Monday as the newest member of the Oklahoma City Public School board, becoming the only current Hispanic member and the first Latina on the board.
In a school system that is nearly half Hispanic, Torres’ appointment to a vacant board spot is a voice for the city’s fastest growing minority.
“As board members we are the voice for our children, for our community, and it’s difficult to be that voice if you are not representative of that community,” Torres said.
Torres was appointed by her school board colleagues to fill a vacancy for the District 6 board seat, which includes south Oklahoma City. Torres has an education background and was also the first Hispanic female in Oklahoma City to serve as principal.
At the end of Monday’s meeting, members of the school board took turned welcoming Torres and speaking to the importance of having her on the board.
“[We are] making our board look a little more like the population we represent,” said Ruth Veales of District 5. Veales also admitted that it can be a “struggle at times” when dealing with some of the predominantly Hispanic schools in her district, and she looks forward to working with Torres.
“I will call on you to help,” Veales added.
Following the meeting, Torres spoke about the multigenerational make up of the Hispanic community and the importance of helping families become more engaged in the education process.
“For many of the current parents they come from a different educational system where parental involvement had a very different meaning to it,” Torres said. “So learning the American system and learning how to become involved is one step for many.
“The [Hispanic] population has grown tremendously … we have multi generational populations here … and you have different experiences that come with that.”
While talking about her role on the school board, Torres continued to circle back to the message she hopes to send to young Hispanic students and and the responsibility that requires.
“There is a great source of pride within our community,” Torres said before pausing to fight back tears. “We have somebody that can understand our culture and speak intelligibly about our needs … but not just our needs, but our strengths.”
“I understand the weight.”
- Second generation Latina born and raised in Oklahoma City of Mexican descent
- Her family is originally from Juarez, Mexico.
- Torres holds degrees from Oklahoma City Community College, the University of Central Oklahoma and a masters in education administration from Texas Women’s University.
- Torres currently serves as the coordinator of the Capitol Hill Center at Oklahoma City Community College.
- Torres has worked in education for over 20 years in OKC and Texas.