Meet Jose Torres, National Guard veteran and health education champion

Jessica Peterson
November 10, 2016

After 22 years as a combat medic in the National Guard, Jose Torres decided to head to DePaul to continue his education and earn a degree in health education in the College of Science and Health. His military service took him all over the world, from Central America to Iraq, but adjusting to civilian life, and life as a student, was much harder than he anticipated.

"When I left the military, I did not feel prepared to successfully transition to student life or to civilian life," Torres says.

In the military, Torres knew he could count on his fellow soldiers, but in the civilian world, one must proactively seek out support and assistance. Knowing this, Torres carefully selected the college he would attend.

"I chose DePaul specifically because it has a great support network for student veterans," he says. He notes that the Center for Students with Disabilities has been very supportive of his academic journey and helped him transition to student life. The Adult, Veteran and Commuter Student Services office, he adds, has provided valuable information on being a student and a veteran, connecting him to peers with similar backgrounds.

A full-time student and now a junior, Torres decided to pursue the health education track in CSH's health science program. He believes many conditions in society and the military can be addressed through health education initiatives, such as suicide prevention outreach programs.

"After completing my degree in health education my plans are to work with military veterans in health education and prevention initiatives," he says. "I want to advocate for health initiatives for all veterans, and in particular for Latino veterans who are currently underserved and underrepresented in the VA health system."

In addition to being a full-time student, Torres volunteers with The Mission Continues, a non-profit organization that helps veterans transition to civilian life by providing new 'missions' to veterans within their communities. Torres has contributed to several community projects in a number of states - refurbishing interiors, maintaining grounds and constructing garden beds. He is also working with the wellness center at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago to form a support group for Latino veterans.

As Veterans Day approaches, on Friday, Nov. 11, Torres reflects on the significance of the day for him.

"It is a day to honor my brothers and sisters in arms who paid the ultimate price in protecting the freedom and way of life of all Americans," he says. "It's also an opportunity to remind veterans to advocate for health initiatives and outreach programs that offer assistance and support."

Read last month's Student Spotlight about Amber Colón, aspiring journalist and mental health advocate