WILMINGTON – Wilmington is not Worcester, Mass., but Yachira Torres sees similarities between her hometown and her new city. Torres relocated to Delaware this summer to take over as principal at Nativity Prep.
She will be in a familiar environment. A first-time administrator, Torres spent the previous eight years teaching at the Nativity School of Worcester, part of the Nativity Miguel Coalition of Schools. They provide a tuition-free Catholic education to students in need.
Torres, 29, said the two schools have similar student bodies, although Wilmington has more African-American boys. The cities both have good and bad points, and each has neighborhoods that are ignored and students with needs that are tough to meet. That’s where Nativity and its families come in.
“There’s a stereotype that people don’t want to help themselves, when they really do. I think the way that they want to help themselves is by helping their children get the education that they feel they deserve,” she said.
“Like everyone else, they want what’s best for their kids.”
Torres was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Worcester at age 4. She attended College of the Holy Cross in Worcester and went directly to Nativity Worcester upon graduation. There, she taught every subject, and she was the lead teacher in sixth grade, then eighth grade.
She said the Nativity network of schools is fairly small, so when an opening occurs, names tend to get mentioned and people connected in a variety of ways. But Wilmington was not the job she originally envisioned.
“There was a Nativity school in Baltimore where I was interested in working, and then my name got moved around to the one here in Wilmington, and Wilmington reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in the position,” she said.
Torres believed she would spend her career in a classroom, but she believes she can accomplish more from an administrative side.
“Even though you’re directly impacting students in the classroom, in order to make an effective and true change, you have to figure out institutionally what needs to happen for students in order to make education more accessible to them and more important in value than it is right now,” she said. “You can’t always do that in a classroom.”
As principal, Torres believes she will be able to better understand what goes into making a school run, how to fulfill its mission, and be able to help students from a larger perspective. She will focus on individual needs, but also the kind of institutional support Nativity should be offering to help the boys live up to their potential.
“I think being a principal is kind of an ideal where you can work with students directly, but also communicate with “a network of people who are going to support that student outside of your school’s walls.”
She plans on listening a lot this year before making decisions. She realizes that Nativity Prep has its way of doing things, but she brings a new perspective and eight years of experience at a high-functioning brother school.
In the meantime, Torres is getting to know her new city. She believes one way to do that is through its food, so she has been sampling some of Wilmington’s restaurants. She also likes to walk, find green space and read and write.
Travel is also high on Torres’ list of interests. She hopes to be back in Massachusetts in early September to see Holy Cross, her alma mater, play football at Boston College. That also would give her a chance to see one of her former students at Nativity School of Worcester, who will be playing in that game.
A Boston Celtics fan, she hopes to see the C’s when they come to Philadelphia to battle the 76ers. She’s also hopeful that winters of more than 100 inches of snow are in the rearview mirror.