Agustin Torres traveled a long road to discover what really matters in life.
The native of Veracruz, Mexico, graduated from Tri-C with an Associate of Arts degree and continues his education at Case Western Reserve University. It’s a long way from the future Torres envisioned when he moved to the U.S. more than 20 years ago.
In 1996, he was a bartender at the Hard Rock Café in Cancun when the company transferred him to its Cleveland location. He planned to take full advantage of the opportunity. “I came to Cleveland, I worked to save money, and I was going to start my own bar and restaurant,” Torres said. “I had a vision of what success looked like — defined by material wealth — and that’s what I wanted.”
He found co-owners willing to help finance his ambitions and by 2008 was operating a pair of restaurants in Lake County. It was the quintessential immigrant success story: come to America with little more than a dream and build a business from the bottom up.
But there was trouble behind the scenes. “Long story short, I ended up in jail for a day, and I lost just about everything — including my car.” Torres said. He had a bicycle, though, so that’s how Torres started his long journey back.
“My probation officer told me that Cuyahoga Community College had a GED program,” he said. “I never graduated from high school in Mexico, and I decided then that education would be the key to turning my life around.”
Torres spent much of 2010 and 2011 pedaling though the streets of Lakewood to get to class. Released from probation upon completion of his GED, he enrolled full time at Tri-C, where he discovered a new passion: helping others who need a second chance.
He was honored to be selected as a Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Scholar in 2017. “Tri-C opened up a new world for me,” he said. “I’ve grown as a person in ways I never imagined.”
Financial gifts to the Tri-C Foundation provide support to students like Agustin, who are seeking a new path.