Simpson University ASPIRE Student Pursues Educational Dream

For Immediate Release

09.16.2014

Marybel TorresMarybel Torres’ desire to teach and help the children in her community took her on a journey to earn her B.A. in liberal studies through Simpson University’s School of Adult Studies, ASPIRE degree-completion program. In addition to being a full-time student, she works multiple jobs and is busy raising her children, Deanna, 5, and Jesus Jr., 4.

“Teaching has become my passion, and Simpson is that big step which will allow me to achieve my dream,” she said.

Before the 31 year-old Gerber, Calif., resident started college, Marybel worked as a waitress to help support her family after her father suffered a serious back injury. When she was 21, she was hired to work in the SERRF (Safe Education & Recreation For Rural Families) Afterschool Program at Los Molinos Elementary School. Even though she had no teaching experience, Marybel’s bilingual skills as a Mexican-American made her an asset in the classroom.

Marybel started taking classes at Shasta College in Redding in 2003, and over the course of 10 years, earned associate degrees in human development and language arts. She was the first person in her family to go to college.

Marybel planned to transfer to Chico State to finish her bachelor’s degree, but ever-changing transfer requirements kept putting that goal out of reach.

“I felt disappointed,” she said. “Being a single mother of two children and working two jobs, I felt defeated.”

Marybel first visited Simpson in April 2013 when one of her classes at nearby Shasta had been cancelled and she had time before her next class.

“I was introduced to a calm and loving campus with welcoming staff,” she said. “I was given the best information and introduced to the ASPIRE program. I left the coffee shop with my heart telling me, ‘this is where you need to be.’”

That same day, Marybel decided to transfer to Simpson. She started classes in May 2013 and will graduate in January. She plans to begin credentialing classes through Simpson’s School of Education this fall and eventually teach at the elementary-school level.

“I want to be a positive role model for Hispanic students in Tehama County,” she said. “I want to change the lives of students and encourage them to attend college and be an active participant in their local community.”

Marybel is part of a 16-month-long liberal studies degree program that meets one night a week, a typical format for the ASPIRE program, which is designed to provide affordable and convenient schooling options for working adults to complete their bachelor’s degrees.

“The ASPIRE program allows me and fellow students to focus on one subject at a time, allowing us to retain information so much better than with traditional schooling,” she said. “The hours are reasonable and allow us to be employees, parents, or even volunteers.”

Marybel also enjoys the cohort set-up of the ASPIRE program.

“The relationships made in the cohorts are relationships for a lifetime,” she said. “We found many similarities in our lives; our cohorts are like an extended family. Support for one another was always there.”

One of the biggest obstacles Marybel overcame in obtaining her bachelor’s degree was finances. “As a single mother, the cost of a higher education is expensive,” she said. “I was lucky enough to receive several scholarships which have allowed me to focus on my school work and not the financial strain of college.”

The scholarships Marybel receives includes Simpson’s Extended Opportunity Programs and Services/Care scholarship, which covers 60 percent of her tuition. She is grateful for this financial support.

“The cost of a higher education can turn away or even intimidate people, allowing them to assume that a higher education is out of reach—I know this because I was one of them,” she said. “But now I am proof that a higher education is possible, and that is because of wonderful donors and scholarships. Their money was well invested, and I am truly grateful.”

This article was featured in the fall/winter 2014 Transform newsletter.

Article by Elise Wilson / Photo by Matt Murnan