La Salle University tradition has the President of the Students’ Government Association (SGA) address the incoming freshman class and their families at the University’s Opening Convocation, and this year’s SGA leader, Ashley Torres, is no stranger to speaking before large crowds.
“I still get nervous right before speaking, but the freshmen are just as nervous with starting their new journey!” she said of her address on August 21. “Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to about 100 young people at the Redemptorists’ Young Adult Dialogue in Canandaigua, N.Y., which was a religious retreat for Catholic youth from Redemptorist order parishes.”
More than 1,000 freshman students, transfer students, and their families were in attendance at the convocation. Torres’s talk focused on the Lasallian community and values that will change the new students’ views on the world.
A senior political science major, Torres decided to run for President when other SGA members encouraged her.
“That was truly a compliment and a risk I could not turn away from,” she said. “Since I was a young girl, people have told me I was a natural-born leader, because I have always been fearless when in social situations and taking initiative before I was asked, and you would find me leading a game or teaching a quirky song to friends. In addition, I was always the one in our family with creative ideas and made sure we acted upon them. But I never thought I would be the student government president at the college I attended.
“La Salle University has given me numerous opportunities and has broadened my perspective, and this role is the least I could do,” she added. “I truly care about the students and their ideas. After all, this is our school and I want to make sure our voices are heard.”
In addition to the SGA, Torres has been involved with AIDS Outreach, service trips with Project Appalachia and to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. She spent two years volunteering with AmeriCorps, where she was a college-prep mentor for students in Philadelphia’s Kensington section, and she interned at the city’s chapter of the Arthritis Foundation of Eastern Pennsylvania.
Torres had been an SGA senator, and last year she was the organization’s Vice President of Public Affairs. “I sat on the community-building team and student media committees, started a new video blog with SGA updates, and managed our social media,” she said.
One goal she has for her presidency is to “make sure students know the potential SGA has to make their campus better. Students are not readily seeking Senate members out for improvements. SGA is looking for better communication methods; whether mock town hall meetings or more social media outreach, we have to find the best ways to serve.
“The Students’ Government Association is composed of dedicated members who work towards the well-being of our community,” she added. “I want to make sure that we are coming up with innovative ways to gather input from our constituents, the students, to strategize and get needs met this year. I want students to know that La Salle’s administration is lending their ears and is here for our success.”
After she graduates from La Salle, Torres said she’d like to spend a year of service on the U.S.-Mexican border and further her education in either law or politics.
During spring break last year, Torres was in a class that travelled to El Paso, Texas, to learn about immigration up close. They roomed at a church there that has a program for college students to visit and learn about border issues.
“The horrific and desolate conditions I witnessed forever changed my perspective on the privileges I have as an American,” said Torres, whose family is from Puerto Rico. “I had the chance to speak to migrants from Mexico who shared their life stories, which were both disheartening and inspiring at the same time. I want to be an advocate for Mexicans and South Americans because nobody deserves to be treated as a subhuman.
“I plan to apply to a few service programs to reaffirm my passion of working toward a better future for the immigration system,” she added. “That is where my heart is and I know with the experiences I will have, this could be my driving force through graduate school.”