Oklahoma City’s Capitol Hill district is growing in recognition for its bastion of culture, art and thriving businesses. Behind the incredible development in Capitol Hill is University of Central Oklahoma graduate Gloria Torres. Torres has accomplished a lot in her district and in her life. An elected school board member- the first Latina woman to serve- and the executive director of Calle Dos Cinco, she is an advocate and leader for her community, from its youngest members up to its economic drivers. Her numbered accomplishments go back to Torres’s high regard for the value of a good education.
As a young, single mother, Torres knew a good education would make a huge difference in her family’s life. Having left high school for a marriage she was no longer a part of, she prioritized education, earning her GED, then taking classes at her local community college before moving on to complete her bachelor's degree in education at the University of Central Oklahoma.
“I was raising a little girl on my own, so I had to consider what were the most prudent steps to take to get this degree. UCO had a highly ranked education program, it was easier for me to commute to, and it was the most affordable option,” said Torres.
At UCO, Torres enjoyed small class sizes and the personal guidance of her professors. As a first-generation college student, she says she would have struggled to navigate the university system without their help.
“Considering the guidance that I needed for my situation, I don’t think I would have thrived in large classes of 100 or more students, like I would have found at other universities. I got one on one time with professors frequently and I knew they were preparing people to teach in the schools I had come from.”
Torres forged a future for herself in a field she loved, and accessible and affordable education changed her life. Her success to come would not only create a brighter future for her family, but also for her entire community.
She went on to serve as assistant principal at Capitol Hill High School, and was later hired as the first Latina principal in Oklahoma City Public Schools history at Jefferson Middle School.
Today, Torres serves as the very first Latina elected to the Oklahoma City Public School Board. She also leads Calle Dos Cinco, a community nonprofit, that helps uplift local businesses and shares the Latino culture of south OKC to build connections with the rest of the city. Her work throughout the community is extensive. Torres has played a role in nearly every major, community building initiative in Oklahoma City, including:
As a public servant and community liaison to the predominantly Latino parts of Oklahoma City, Torres has built connections across the city. Initiatives like Fiestas de las Americas, an annual festival, and the constant work to support and attract businesses to Capitol Hill, her work has helped bring the city together.
“Being a part of the community and serving the community is so important to me,” said Torres. “In the past, I know most people in south Oklahoma City who spoke a different language felt very disconnected. I want this city to understand that it is non Spanish speakers who are missing out on the culture Capitol Hill has to offer.”
For all the impact Torres has had on students, businesses, and central Oklahoma broadly, it all began with a supportive educational system. Professors guided Torres and helped a young mother to not just graduate, but to thrive. Thanks to her success and her service, Oklahoma is more connected than ever with the rich culture of south OKC.