San Miguel High School graduate leaves an impressive mark at TMC

Marissa De La Torre San Miguel High School graduate

Marissa De La Torre
San Miguel High School graduate

With high school behind her, 18-year-old Marissa De La Torre is packing up her car, waving goodbye to Tucson and heading to Phoenix to attend Grand Canyon University.

It’s certainly a milestone – but it’s just the beginning for this Tucson native.

When she graduates from GCU, she’ll certainly make lots of people proud. She’ll also make history in her family. “My dad completed high school, and that’s it. My mom attended the University of Arizona, but never finished. When I get my degree from GCU, I’ll be the first person in my family to have graduated from college. Hopefully I’m setting the bar high for my five younger siblings,” said De La Torre.

De La Torre recently graduated from San Miguel High School, which is in Tucson’s economically depressed south side. Half of adult residents do not have a high school education. Forty-two percent of San Miguel neighbors earn less than $25,000 a year. The high school serves families of limited financial means to give students a private Catholic and Lasallian college and career preparatory education. All students are required to participate in the school’s Corporate Internship Program, which helps them chip away at their $11,500 a year tuition. By working at a professional business in Tucson, students are able to earn almost 40 percent of their tuition. That’s were TMC comes in.

We checked in with De La Torre in 2012, when she and three other San Miguel students had started working at TMC as part of this program. At that time, she had tunnel vision about what she wanted to become: an anesthesiologist. Since then, she spent countless hours inside the hospital shadowing employees in food and nutrition services, the pharmacy, the finance department, hospice and most recently, imaging services. She especially loved shadowing X-ray technicians. “I’ve had the opportunity to gain so many experiences inside the hospital. Now that I have a better idea about all the options that are out there I’m trying to figure out if a career in medicine is really what I want to chase. My time at TMC has been a real eye-opener about all the things I can do with my life,” she said.

De La Torre also spent a significant chunk of her TMC time as a student assistant in Human Resources where she even surprised herself with the amount of multi-tasking that was required while working at the front desk. “TMC staff treated me like an adult – an employee – and trusted me with so much responsibility. San Miguel helped prepare me. My work experience at TMC helped prepare me. But it’s the people I’ve met along the way who have had the most impact on me and really helped get me ready for whatever life throws my way,” De La Torre said.

“Marissa is the first San Miguel High School student we had working in HR, and our entire staff will miss her terribly,” said Pat Wise, executive assistant for TMC’s HR department. “Marissa has a great energy. Her smile is one of the first things everyone notices, and it’s how she greets everyone who comes into HR. She has an impressive work ethic and consistently went above and beyond what was expected of her. She was efficient, and when she’d finish her work, she’d reach out to others to see how she may help them. When we welcomed new students, Marissa would help with the on-boarding process, stressing the importance of treating others with kindness and respect.”

It’s people like Wise who have made De La Torre’s time at TMC so treasured. “Going to college and entering the real world used to be a scary thought for me,” she said. “But it seems a lot less intimidating now that I have this TMC stint under my belt. Everyone I met or shadowed was so nice. I know they believe in me and they’ll support me in whatever I do.”

That may be something in medicine. It may be something in law, or law enforcement. De La Torre is at a crossroads, exploring all her options.

One thing’s for sure. She’s entering college with a lot more work experience than most students leave with.

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