January 2021

Awty Alumna was awarded the 2021 University of Rochester Undergraduate Women’s Leadership Award.

 

Ximena Reyes Torres '17

Each year, The University of Rochester recognizes five women of the university community who have distinguished themselves through their achievements, service, and contributions to the common good. 

This year, one Awty alumna was among them! Ximena Reyes Torres, Awty Class of 2017, obtained the Sue S. Stewart Leadership and Community Service Award. The Sue S. Stewart Award, made annually, recognizes a senior undergraduate woman whose life in the University has been distinguished by a commitment to justice, equality, and community service, as these relate to diversity and inclusion.

Ximena received this award in recognition of her contribution to a research project to evaluate services provided by YWCA Kalamazoo's Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) specialized services for Victims of Human Trafficking Prevention Program (HTP) at the Susan B. Anthony Center. The goal of this project is to evaluate a housing program for human trafficking survivors, and Ximena played a key role in the inclusion of Latino women in the study by interviewing them in Spanish, her native language, thus including historically marginalized communities in academic research.

Ximena attended Awty between 2013 and 2017. Before that, she was a student at KIPP Academy Middle School in Houston. Through the “KIPP through college” program Ximena received the support of a counselor who helped her prepare for and select the right high school based on her interests and passions. Her interest in Political Science and Cultural Diversity drove her to apply for Awty. After successfully passing the selection process, she was granted a full scholarship to attend. 

Many teachers made a profound impact on her educational journey at Awty. From Mr. Sload, who was her track coach at Awty, and with whom she has kept in touch while being an athlete at the University of Rochester, to Mr. Page and his refreshing intersectional approach to history that included women and minorities, to Ms. Peeran who helped her discover her passion for economics. At Awty, Ximena also started learning Japanese, a language that she continues to study to this day, and will hopefully one day speak fluently as she does in Spanish, French, and English. 

For all the students who would like to follow her path in Political Science and History, Ximena has the following advice: “Go beyond the walls of your school, work with different communities, and discover what you want to do. Step outside of your comfort zone and serve other people." 

Ximena firmly believes in the transformative potential of education and criminal justice institutions to protect people from the systematic oppression of sexual and labor exploitation.

Mr. Sload and Ximena Reyes Torres during graduation

2021 University of Rochester Undergraduate Women’s Leadership Award Winners

Her one-on-one work with human trafficking survivors, judges, attorneys, and researchers has cemented her ethical commitment to prioritize the needs of those most vulnerable in the community. In her four years at the University of Rochester, Ximena has, among other things: conducted evaluative research on housing assistance services for survivors of human trafficking, written research reports and presented research finding for the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and legally assisted human trafficking survivors clear their criminal charges at the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office.

After she graduates in May of 2021, Ximena plans on working for at least two years in organizations that work with human trafficking survivors. After that, she intends to go to law school since she thinks legal knowledge is crucial when trying to support victims of human trafficking.

We couldn’t be more proud of Ximena and wish her all the best in her career!