BA, New York University; MBA, William Paterson University
“I always share with my students how I navigated through college, in hopes that it will be easier for them to accomplish their goals. There is significance in our first-gen journey. The more questions we ask and learn about systems and processes, the clearer path we can create for the generations that follow.”
When applying to college as a first-gen student, Johanna Torres recalls picking up a paper FAFSA application at the local post office and mailing it in even though she didn’t understand the form. “I was not sure my family could afford college. My parents did not provide guidance and they barely spoke the language. It turns out I made a mistake on my FAFSA and only one financial aid counselor, at one school, took the time to help me correct it and understand it.”
Torres brings lessons from her own college journey to her role as director of student enrollment services, where she assists students with financial aid questions and works to help those with limited resources to meet the financial gap and get one step closer to graduation.
“I always share with my students how I navigated through college, in hopes that it will be easier for them to accomplish their goals. There is significance in our first-gen journey. The more questions we ask and learn about systems and processes, the clearer path we can create for the generations that follow,” says Torres, who has served on numerous student support planning committees over her nine years at WP.
During her career, Torres is proud to have helped pave the way for many first-gen students who longed for a college degree, but did not think they belonged. “I help them understand that they deserve a college education. I’ve guided families through the financial aid process and pointed them to scholarship opportunities they were not aware they could qualify for,” she says.
Most of all, Torres encourages first-gen students to speak up, make connections, and get involved. “William Paterson is your school. These are your buildings, your library, your labs, your study rooms. Use them!” she says. “Connect with groups and participate in campus activities. The more people you know, the more ‘at home’ you will feel. And most important, don’t be afraid to use your voice. Your voice is what is going to get you what you need, all throughout life.”
William Paterson University
300 Pompton Road
Wayne, New Jersey 07470