"I felt that Adelphi, my professors, and the exposure I received in my field placements prepared me to get on a fast track in the field." - Ray Torres
Members of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Memorable professors: “Dr. Holmes, Dr. Lockhart, Professor Julian Rivera, Dr. Henry.”
Involvement at AU: “We were a part of La Union Latina. It was a small but very active group on campus. It was very important to us…we were taken in by the union and made to feel welcome at the University.”
On Adelphi: “Adelphi was a fabulous place for us during a formative time in our lives,” said Mr. Torres. “Adelphi had a tremendous impact in terms of what I’ve been able to accomplish over time.”
Feeling Fortunate to be Helping Others
How many of us can say, without hesitation, that if we won the lottery we’d continue working? Aristi and Raymond Torres can. An educator and a social worker, they share a remarkable passion for what they do.
Born in Puerto Rico, Mr. Torres and his family moved to New York City in the late 1960s. “During my formative years in East Harlem, I was exposed to an environment that had great need. There was a lack of education and health care; people faced challenges with housing and employment,” he said.
When it came time for Mr. Torres to consider what he wanted to do with his life, he discovered the field of social work. “I learned that in social work, I’d be able to, in a way, go back to my beginnings and help people who were facing the type of issues I grew up around,” he said.
Mr. Torres began his college career at a small liberal arts college in Vermont, where he met Aristi Kalfa. “We came from very similar backgrounds,” said Mrs. Torres, who is Greek and immigrated to the United States from Istanbul with her family in the mid-1960s. She credits her parents with teaching her and her siblings about the power of education. “They knew the way out of poverty was through education. Whether or not we would go to school was never a question. They would find a way to make it happen.”
“Ray and I came from humble beginnings,” she said. The two, who have been together for nearly 40 years, were both interested in transferring from the college at which they met. They came to Adelphi together in 1977. “By that time I knew what I wanted to go into, and after doing my research, I found that Adelphi was one of best schools for social work,” said Mr. Torres.
Looking back at his undergraduate experience, Mr. Torres is thankful for the financial support he was provided. “Adelphi assisted me in being able to attend by providing me a financial aid package consisting of grants and other forms of assistance,” said Mr. Torres. “It was phenomenal. The University was very accommodating, which made a big difference at the time because I didn’t have the means to pay otherwise.”
When it came time to decide where he would pursue his master’s degree, Mr. Torres—who had been accepted to prestigious programs such as Columbia’s—remained at the University for his graduate studies, based on the education he had received at the undergraduate level, and because Adelphi offered him generous support to assist him in pursuing his degree.
Because of Adelphi’s close proximity to New York City, Mr. Torres was able to land field placements with organizations such as Covenant House and Legal Aid Society in New York. These experiences introduced him to child welfare, which led him to his first job, working for Catholic Guardian Society of Brooklyn in Red Hook, where he visited families who had been reported for abuse and neglect and were under investigation.
This position was followed by a series of other jobs in the same field before he landed his first directorship at the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs at the age of 27. At 34, he became the head of the foster care system in the state of Oklahoma.
He credits his Adelphi education with preparing him for leadership positions at a young age. “I felt that Adelphi, my professors, and the exposure I received in my field placements prepared me to get on a fast track in the field,” he said.
In 1992, he joined the Annie E. Casey Foundation as the executive director of its direct service agency, Casey Family Services. “They were looking for someone who had the ability to work with the macro, but also be sensitive to the needs of families on the ground,” said Mr. Torres, who had experience at the state level, as well as with smaller, private agencies.I In 2008 he was named a vice president of the Foundation.
Mr. Torres, who served in this role until 2012, provided administration and oversight of the child welfare services operation in seventeen locations across the six New England states and Baltimore, Maryland. He oversaw an operating budget of $52 million, with over 360 full-time staff. At its peak, Casey Family Services was serving approximately 4,500 children and families a year. Today the Annie E. Casey Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the country dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged children.
Among all his professional successes, Mr. Torres and his wife agree their children, Nicholas (age 29) and Michael (age 27), are their proudest accomplishment. They receive praise from each other for the sacrifices they both made during the years; she, for putting her career on hold to stay home with the children; he for working three jobs, six days a week, from morning until night, during the early years they started their family.
When their youngest son was in college, Mrs. Torres decided to return to school to pursue her master’s degree. In 2009, 30 years after earning her bachelor’s from Adelphi, she received her master’s degree in teaching, and is currently teaching fifth grade in Fairfield, Connecticut. “She is a great teacher,” said Mr. Torres of his wife. “The kids love her, she has high energy.”
Her enthusiasm for her students and their success is palpable as she described her favorite part of her job. “Seeing the kids have their ‘aha’ moment is the best feeling…when a student looks at you and you know they got it because you helped them understand,” she said.
Knowing that, in the profession you have chosen, you are making a real difference is what drives Mr. Torres as well. “We changed lives,” he said of his work with Casey Family Services. “My agency worked with kids who had been in foster care the longest and were considered too old and too problematic. The focus of the agency was to find permanent families for these children. There’s nothing more rewarding.”
The message Mr. Torres shared with his staff members at each orientation session encapsulates the outlook he and his wife have maintained throughout their lives and careers. “Whatever your role is, you are fortunate to be here helping others. It’s not about having a job. It’s about being given an opportunity—an opportunity to do good for others.”
Published May 2013
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