Above and Beyond

Above and Beyond

Reflections from CUNY’s Associate Director of Admissions, Guillermo Rivera

How many times in your life do you get to look back and scream to the world how proud you are of a student? As a counselor, and former student myself, I have spoken to many students over my career. What people often forget is that medical school is just one step along the journey to becoming a doctor. Over 25% of students will fail in taking that final step in the journey. Let me share with you a little story about the time I was able to help a family out and watch as their daughter went from college applicant to medical student and then to doctor.

It was a cold day in January about 7 years ago, and I was just getting ready to head home from work. As I was walking down the sidewalk a gentleman, Danny Torres, pulled me aside and asked me, “Do you work here? I need to drop off a letter for my daughter.” The deadline for applications to the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Medicine program, formerly the Sophie Davis BS/MD Program was just days away. His daughter, Talia, had applied to the program but was missing one letter of reference from her application. Danny was there to make sure it got turned in, and his daughter Talia stood a fighting chance of being accepted.

I could see in his eyes how much this meant for him and his family. My own journey from a youth in the Bronx to become the Associate Director of Admissions at the City College of New York had been a long one, full of late nights, hard work, and tough decisions. It was the opportunity that I needed to improve my life and I wish that opportunity for everyone. Changing my plans, I escorted Danny over to the office where he needed to go. He thanked me as I left and I wished his daughter good luck; little did I  know that was just the beginning.

Danny’s daughter, Talia, was accepted into the medical program and was one of the 72% of students who continue on to become doctors. I was privileged to watch her grow. To be able to wave hello as we passed on campus and to support her family when they needed help navigating the world of college bills. Out of the blue, I was contacted to help find a student worthy of receiving the Herman Badillo Scholarship. This scholarship is reserved for students in the Hispanic community and is a gift that Herman Badillo passed on to CUNY students when he left this world. Right away a name came to my mind, I was able to recommend Talia to the scholarship committee and they selected her to receive the award.

A few months ago, I received an email from Danny. As I read it, a smile was painted on my face when I saw the words “Dr. Talia Torres” in the message. Talia is a boon for the Latino community and someone that young girls can look up to. Being a father myself, every day I look into my little girl’s eyes and know that one day she could become a doctor too. CUNY has been a life-changing experience for me and for many people that share my story. I started at the bottom, holding three jobs helping in different offices as I was a full-time student as well. One person stepping in to guide your life can change your world; that worked for me so many times at City College. I look forward to watching Talia continue to advance in her career and I am going to make sure to be there for other students like Talia.

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