The Power to Persevere

Alverno student Alexis Torres is pictured above, at left, with her mother Jessica Schmidt, a triple Alverno alumna.

By Alexis Torres, communication major, class of 2023

For my mother, educator Jessica Schmidt ’10 ’13 MA ’15, perseverance is power.

This perseverance is something I have always admired. It has continuously inspired me during my time as an Alverno student and will forever motivate me to carry forward in my own life.

All my life, my mother supported my personal and academic achievements – always saying that I could do anything I put my mind to, including going to college. Her motivation pushed me to work hard and be put on the course for college readiness by the time I was in sixth grade.

Growing up, attending college hadn’t been introduced as an option for my mom. “[A] high school diploma was the ticket to life back then,” she recalls. She was proud to earn her high school diploma, and, with a baby on the way, eager to create a good life for her and her daughter — me.

My mother realized that a college degree could help her do that, and by the time I was nine months old, she had enrolled at Alverno.

My mother appreciated the support she received from Alverno not only as a first-generation college student but also as a single working parent. That support continued as our family grew with the birth of my brother in 2004. I still remember attending classes with her in the computer lab when I was four years old and pretending to be a student myself.

Originally a nursing major, my mother discovered that her true calling was education. She sought to provide the stability and support that her teachers had provided her.

“I thought that maybe someday I could be that for another person and for many students I think at some point I was,” she says.

Her first teaching job, at Penfield Children’s Center, introduced her to working with young children with different abilities and special needs. Around the same time, my brother had been diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADHD. This inspired her to return to Alverno in 2013 to get her licensure in special education so that she could serve students with unique needs.

In fact, Alverno has consistently helped my mother grow as an educator. She completed her master’s degree in education in 2015, and she plans to return to campus this fall to prepare to earn a new license: Director of Pupil Services and Special Education. She is clearly proud to be Alverno Strong, and I’m proud of her. My mother is my inspiration to take advantage of what Alverno and life in general has to offer, and to know that you can always learn new things and work toward new heights. Her motivation and belief in me has encouraged me to get more involved with campus life and to never be afraid to try out new classes and experiences.

“A lot of people are strong when they enter college. It takes a lot just to get to the first step, but to be able to finish and to become something and to take what you learn here and use it in real life, in your job, in your house —  I think that is what being strong is. Not letting the world get ahead of you,” she says. “If you know something is off, is not right, is too hard, you keep persevering and take it to the next level.”

Alexis Torres interviewed her mother earlier this year as part of an Alumnae Engagement video series. You can watch the clip here.

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