De La Torre hopes to revitalize historic City of San Fernando.
colleges are about second chances and choices. The mayor of San Fernando
will tell you that. Community college gives you a chance to grow. Mayor
Maribel De La Torre would agree.
De La Torre, a 1994
graduate of Mission College, harbored a childhood dream to attend UC Berkeley.
"When I was about 11 years old, I read an article about Berkeley,"
she recalled. "I really loved how the campus stood for all the civil
rights causes. Even at 11, I realized Berkeley had such a great personality
that I knew I wanted to go there."
But the dream was not realized and after graduating from San Fernando
High School, De La Torre found herself instead at another college in Southern
California. She left after one semester.
"It wasnt the right time in my life," she said. "I
wasnt serious about it."
De La Torre subsequently married, got an office job, and had her first
child. But she soon realized that without an education and a degree, she
would never achieve everything she wanted for her family. So, in 1992,
she enrolled at Mission College. Admittedly, she chose Mission for the
convenience of attending a college "in my back yard" where she
could occasionally bring along her one-year-old son "without feeling
he was the only child there."
But once she started taking classes, she said her attitude toward learning
changed. Favorite instructors such as John Orozco, Richard Rains, George
Mucherson and (former adjunct) Gerald Resendez
inspired her with the reading they assigned.
"When I heard those instructors lecture and talk with such passion,
I really wanted to understand those books," she said. "Before
that, my educational pattern had been to memorize and recite back. At
Mission, I learned how to become a critical thinker, to analyze things
De La Torre was a driven and ambitious student at Mission College, sometimes
taking up to 25 units a semester. She did so well, she was accepted at
all the top UC schools. The last acceptance letter brought with it a second
chance from Berkeley.
Married and with a child, De La Torre contemplated the difficulty of attending
Berkeley at this stage in her life. It would require living apart from
her husband, separating her son from a supportive family, and living in
non-dorm housing. Despite the downsides, "Berkeley was a dream that
was too hard to give up," she said.
By loading up on units each quarter, De La Torre graduated with a B.A.
in philosophy in two years just before giving birth to a second
son. She never regretted her Bay Area decision and, in fact, said that
son Dominic though quite young then still remembers and
talks about "
the time we were at Berkeley."
Mayor De La Torres goals have now gone beyond personal ones to include
an entire community. She and her family appear to have strong local support
sister Cindy Montañez is the assembly member from the area
and are committed to revitalizing "historic and visionary"
One very personal vision will be realized soon: a $7 million aquatics
center that she has spearheaded will open next year at San Fernando Recreation
Park. Growing up, she and her siblings were avid swimmers, but her mother
would have to drive them to Glendale for the nearest competitive swimming
program. There were none in the San Fernando area. The new aquatics center
will have both an Olympic-sized pool and a warm water recreational pool.
"I want every single member of the community to be able to go there,"
she said. "Little tots and children, high school swimmers, working
professionals who want to swim after a day at the office, seniors, the
disabled every segment of our community will be able to use the
That is a dream worth realizing.