This spring as Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland, transitioned to distance learning for students as a result of the government restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and the resulting closures of school campuses, Yasmine Torres remained connected to her Cristo Rey teachers and classmates. 

In addition to offering classes through online platforms, the school’s teachers emailed students to see how they were doing and to tell them they missed them, and administrators arranged for virtual hang-outs for students, so they could still feel like they were together and part of their school community.

Now as Torres prepares to graduate as the valedictorian of Don Bosco Cristo Rey’s class of 2020, she said that connection with her school will continue.

“Don Bosco will always have a place in my heart,” Torres said. “It has shaped who I am now, and it has given me the opportunities I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”

Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, which is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Salesians of Don Bosco, is part of the Cristo Rey Network of Schools providing a college preparatory education to students from low-income families. The Takoma Park school offers an innovative Corporate Work Study Program, where students gain professional work experience at leading area businesses, corporations and institutions, and help pay for a significant part of their education.

Torres, like many Don Bosco Cristo Rey graduates, will be the first member of her family to go on to college. She plans to attend the University of Maryland at College Park and major in computer science.

“I feel it’s my job to motivate the rest of my family, especially the younger kids, that they can do the same,” she said.

Through the school’s Corporate Work Study Program, Torres worked for the past four years in Arlington, Virginia, for Deloitte, which provides consulting and financial services to corporations and government agencies. At Deloitte, she worked as an IT support assistant, where her duties included installing Microsoft software on clients’ computers and upgrading and fixing issues with clients’ computers. 

“I’ve always thought about working for the government with cyber security, that’s always interested me,” Torres said. “My experience at Deloitte is what made me want to do computer science and pursue something in the technology field.”

Torres, who has a younger sister Jaqueline in middle school, expressed gratitude for the love, support and example of her parents, Dagoberto and Gilma Torres. Her father, a native of El Salvador, works in construction, and her mother, a native of Guatemala, cleans houses.

“They’ve always supported me through high school, because they wanted me to have a better future,” she said. “…They’ve always worked hard for what they want. They’ve shown me I should do the same, too.”

Since 2015, Torres has volunteered at her home parish, St. John Baptist de la Salle in Chillum, Maryland, assisting teachers working with students in the religious education program there. In 2017, she served as an usher at the Gala Theatre in Washington, D.C., which stages Spanish-language dramas. Last year, she volunteered as a teacher’s assistant at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Hyattsville.

Torres said her favorite volunteer activities over the year were serving as a translator at the Latino Health Fair in Columbia, Maryland, last year, and serving as a teacher’s assistant in 2018 at English classes offered for Hispanic adults at St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Hyattsville. At the health fair, she assisted Spanish-speaking guests, helping them find booths, and translated for health representatives who couldn’t speak Spanish. At St. Mark’s, she helped the students improve their skills in speaking English.

“When I was helping them, I felt like I was helping my family,” Torres said.

During her years at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, Torres served as a representative in the Student Government Association, participated in the Latin Dance club and played on the school’s softball team. Last year, she participated in the Georgetown University Summer College Immersion Program, and since 2017, she has participated in the Deloitte Quest Program.

Torres said her Cristo Rey experience helped her grow in her faith, and the school will continue to be part of her life as she moves on to college and then to a career.

“We were like a family,” she said of her time at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School. “I’ll always have the memories and relationships I built at Don Bosco, my teachers and my friends that motivated me, and I’ll always have that support.”