When her parents decided to move their family to Mexico to be closer to family, Cielo Torres wasn’t sure how it would go. She had just finished her freshman year at John Hancock High School, and while she had grown up going back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico, high school completely in Spanish seemed a little daunting. But Cielo never let her worries get the best of her, and pushed on to reach her goals – a trait that has served her well so far.

Cielo, who now lives in Gage Park, has had an exciting year. She graduated from Malcolm X College in the Fall of 2021 with an Associate in Science, and just a few months later was named as a recipient of the prestigious nation-wide Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship, which supports community college graduates as they pursue a bachelor’s degree. One of six City Colleges of Chicago recipients, Cielo was chosen out 1,200 applicants from 332 community colleges – and was one of only seven chosen in Illinois.

“I was so excited when I learned I earned the scholarship, and my parents were more excited – they still are!” Cielo said.

Always encouraged by her parents to pursue a wide range of interests, Cielo has been particularly fascinated by space since her dad took her to get her first telescope at the age of six. Focused on a career in aerospace engineering, Cielo participated in NASA’s Aerospace Community College program, was part of METAS, a student society for Hispanic engineers, and is now headed to the University of Central Florida to earn a bachelor’s degree in the subject.

“I chose the University of Central Florida for a few reasons,” Cielo explains. “I looked at the data and many UCF graduates go on to work at NASA. But also, you can see every single Kennedy Space Center shuttle launch from campus!”

Cielo is grateful for the friends who helped her find Malcolm X College. Upon returning from Mexico after finishing high school, Cielo had no idea where to start her college journey. A few friends took her to see their high school counselor, who told her about Malcolm X College and got her started on her path to her dream career.

To students who are not sure City Colleges is right for them, she says “City Colleges is a really good idea – it lets you explore and gives you an idea of what you want to do. I had so many opportunities here. I never thought I would graduate with this huge full ride scholarship, for example, but I would never have even applied if it weren’t for the Transfer Center Director. For me, Malcolm X College has been an amazing experience.”

Watch an interview with Cielo below.

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