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Family comes first

Hospitality and tourism management grad credits parents with putting her on the right track
By: Antoinette Mercurio
June 13, 2017
The Torres family, from left: A.J., Raquel, Alyssa and Castor

Photo: The Torres family. From left: Younger brother A.J., mom Raquel, Alyssa and father Castor. Photo courtesy of Alyssa Torres.

When we see graduates cross the stage at convocation, we don’t always think about the families behind the students.

For Alyssa Torres and her family, the path hasn’t been direct but on June 15, her parents and younger brother will proudly watch as she accepts her degree in external,hospitality and tourism management.

“They’re stage parents, they have to be there for everything,” Torres says.

For six years the family lived apart – Torres, her father and brother stayed in the Philippines when Torres’ mother went abroad to make a better life as a nanny. She spent two years in Hong Kong before eventually moving to Canada in 2004.  

“I remember when I first heard she was applying, I was crying,” Torres said. “I was in Grade 1 when she went to Hong Kong. I was sad – for six years she wasn’t with us. I didn’t understand why she left. It was very difficult.”

In 2008 the family reunited in Toronto, finally starting life anew together. Torres says the large Filipino community of family and friends she made at school helped her adjust to life in Canada.

“My mom wasn’t a complete stranger to me when I moved here because I spoke to her every day in the Philippines,” Torres said. “I would go to an Internet café every day after school to chat with her.”

“When I first came here, I was scared to go out of my comfort zone. Coming to Ryerson made me more independent and my network has really expanded,” she said.

Originally intended to go into nursing, Torres changed her mind after reading the program description for hospitality and tourism management.

“I’m the life of the party,” she said, “I love bringing people together, helping them, putting on events. You have to have that personality in hospitality.”

Currently an event co-ordinator and marketing assistant at the external,Social Media Lab, Torres has worked part-time in hospitality since she was 16. The downtown location, program and small classroom size at Ryerson are what drew Torres to the university.

“Being the first child of my parents to graduate is a big deal, especially from university,” Torres says, adding that her mom posted her graduation photo on Facebook to boast of her daughter’s success.

The magnitude of the family’s support isn’t lost on Torres. She commuted to and from Scarborough for more than an hour to make it to classes and appreciates the small and large sacrifices her parents have made for her.

“Between school and work there’s no time for laundry or cooking or cleaning, so my mom is a big help,” she said. “My parents are very supportive of my decisions and I think that’s very important in university. The support your family gives you is motivating. If my family wasn’t involved, I wouldn’t be as on-track as I am now. I need to finish university so I can give back to them and start sacrificing for them.”