Adventurous. Focused. Intelligent. Fun.
It’s almost impossible to pick just one word to describe this multifaceted student, who seems to be at home in any environment in which she chooses, whether that is in a college course, high level internship or hanging out with her friends.
But Cristal Torres has found a way to balance all these things and more, excelling in every direction.
A full-time student at the CEC Middle College of Denver, Cristal has worked hard to get to where she is and isn’t slowing down anytime soon. If things go her way, following graduation next month she will be heading the furthest from home of all of CEC’s graduates. Cristal has her eye on Franklin College in Lugano, Switzerland. She learned about the American and Swiss accredited institution at a college fair earlier this year at Kennedy High School. “At first my parents thought oh, you know, it’s another one of her crazy ideas,” she said. But her heart is set on studying abroad, so she applied and was determined not to take no for an answer. Even though it seemed like a long shot because of finances, Cristal was not deterred. She applied and kept contacting the admissions administrator to find out the possibility for an interview. “I asked if there was any way we could set something up so maybe if my personality didn’t come across in what I wrote, it would in the interview,” said Crystal.
When she was granted the opportunity to interview with a local alumna, she must have done something right. She received her acceptance letter on Christmas Eve. And by that point, her parents realized she was serious about the opportunity. “I was so happy that I got in and I was proud of myself too. I proved not only to me, but to my parents and everyone that I could do it.”
Cristal was born in Denver, but her parents are from Mexico. Spanish is her first language and she learned English in elementary school. To her, learning new languages and different cultures is an exciting prospect, which is why she hopes to pursue a degree in International Relations.
Having attended CEC for four years, Cristal has had many opportunities to try on different careers. “I originally picked CEC for criminal justice,” she said, but she has also taken advantage of courses in photo, fashion, business, law and now she takes part in the Executive Internship class. And with each course, she has found a variety of interests and talents. “I loved photography. It was my favorite career class. But in Business, Mr. Hoffman really influenced me and made that class enjoyable. Then I took law. I had never thought about it, but now I’m thinking about involving it in my career. I do mock trial and I really like it.”
Cristal will leave CEC with at least 30 college credits under her belt, but not only that, she will graduate with an amazing internship experience on her resume. She is currently working in a paid internship with Shell Oil Company. Even though she wasn’t sure it was what she wanted to do at first, she has learned that every experience has its benefits and she has been given a great deal of responsibility and accountability through what has proven to be an intense on-the-job experience. “I do a lot of the economics. I show them how much oil was produced in a month, how much money they made and how much they lost. I also do truck reports to track where the barrels of oil are going and making sure they get to the correct places,” she said.
Most high school students would never have this opportunity, but Cristal has embraced it and done well. “It’s a little pressure sometimes—one of the employees had me working on changing some of the oil prices and I was like, what if I mess up? What if something goes wrong? And she said, I’ll check your work. I did everything and now I’m not that scared anymore. And then they said you’re going to be canceling oil rigs and changing oil prices, and I thought, Whoa! That’s a lot of responsibility. I like it though. I’ve learned a lot. And I like that they have the confidence and faith in me to do that kind of stuff,” said Cristal.
While she is a confident young woman in her own right, Cristal admits that CEC has helped her find her independence, grow up and learn to problem solve in all areas of her life. Being on her own to get to her college classes, be responsible for the material and keep track of everything is her responsibility and she takes it seriously. “You’re very self-reliant—that’s what I’ve learned senior year. You’re on your own. But you also have to know when to ask for help. If you don’t, it’s your fault. You can’t blame anyone else,” she said.
Overall, CEC has been a great experience for Cristal and even though she doesn’t know what’s coming next for her, she has her feet on solid ground. “CEC has offered great opportunities. You’re exposed to so many different worlds and a network of people who will help you get to where you want to be.” she said. One person she credits for being a mentor is Mr. Farrimond. “He’s always telling me, don’t pressure yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself. You’ll figure it out,” she said. I’m very open-minded about everything. I used to be very hard on myself and think I needed to have everything planned and organized. I have come to learn to be more laid back, more go-with-the-flow, because it can all change.” But with her versatility and work ethic, one thing is for sure, Cristal will find a way to fit in wherever she lands.