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On the road to success: Former MFV youth leader is using civic action to spur change

06.19.2019

Sonia Torres is a Rice University graduate and former youth leader for Mi Familia Vota, Texas. Her passion and determination led her to discover the organization a few years back. She has since been involved in key civic actions, including interviewing Texas gubernatorial candidates for the 2018 midterm elections. We caught up with her and asked her to reflect back on the experience and share her future plans:

Name: Sonia Torres
Age: 22
Hometown: Caguas, PR & Houston, TX
Degree: Bachelor’s in Mathematical Economic Analysis from Rice University

Q: From your experience, what role, if any, should young Latin@s play in to Texas politics?

A: Put simply … I believe young Latin@s should fill Every. Single. Role. I think we have the qualifications, experience, passion, and work ethic to be city council members, county commissioners, judges, mayors, congress people, governors, researchers, policy analysts, journalists, and activists. As the co-founder of Civic Duty Rice and collaborator with Mi Familia Vota, I have seen the political power youth have as voters, volunteers, and active community members. I have seen how young Latin@s are consistently overlooked, and that our generation is finally bringing together our educational experiences, our parents’ hard work, and our own ambitions, to make our state a more inclusive and successful state. We contribute a singular passion for righting structural inequality in all sorts of communities (rural and urban) that will make the state of Texas stronger for our involvement.

Q: How has your experienced growing up Latin@ affected the issues you care about?

A: As a child, I saw the life-altering impact of poverty on people’s material realities first-hand. My family was forced to leave everything we knew… our family, friends, culture, and home because of an economic recession forged in the vestiges of colonialism and corruption. And we were some of the lucky ones. The cousins and elementary school friends I left behind have had to overcome a struggle I will never know. For instance, more than 44% of the population of Puerto Rico lives in poverty, almost four times the mainland average. Similarly, my experience living in rural Mont Belvieu and urban Houston has similar spotlighted how wealth and income inequality heavily impact access to the American Dream. I studied math and economics at Rice University because I want to tackle systemic oppression that results in wealth and income disparity for marginalized individuals.

Q: Who would you say has been your role model(s), and how have they impacted you?

A: Latin Inspiration: My family members have been my largest role models, and they consistently inspire me to better myself. Also, I remember Sonia Sotomayor (¡mi tocaya!) getting sworn into the Supreme Court in sixth grade, and seeing a Puerto Rican woman achieve such an important post in the federal government, was the first time I imagined the possibility of a career in public service for myself.

Q: What do you want to do after graduating?

A: After graduating, I will be completing a one-year research fellowship at the Stanford Center for Poverty and Inequality. I will be traveling the Gulf Coast (TX/OK/FL/PR) of the United States and interviewing Americans about their experience with economic opportunity. It’s an opportunity that I look forward to.