De La Torre hopes to revitalize historic City of
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.
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
"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 for myself."
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
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 "
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" San Fernando.
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
"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 center."
That is a dream worth realizing.
BY EDUARDO PARDO
/ Photo: Lydia Chung