Q&A: Counselor helps students overcome obstacles, succeed

Eastfield counselor Jaime Torres connects students with campus and community resources and gives them tips on managing stress Nov. 1 in room N-221. Photo by Chantilette Franklin/The Et Cetera

Eastfield counselor Jaime Torres connects students with campus and community resources and gives them tips on managing stress Nov. 1 in room N-221. Photo by Chantilette Franklin/The Et Cetera

Eastfield counselor Jaime Torres spends his days talking to students and helping them find resources they can use to reach their goals. He’s also involved with a group that brings awareness to sexual violence. Torres sat down with Et Cetera contributor Eduardo Chavez to discuss what led him into counseling and how students can manage stress and overcome obstacles.

Q. I did some research and saw that you went to the University of Texas at Brownsville. You originally started on the business career path?

A. Yes, my bachelor’s is a Bachelor of Business Administration with a focus on accounting, and I decided that it wasn’t for me after all. Then years later, I decided to go back to school and got a master’s in counseling at the University of Houston. 

Q. What took you off the course of business?

A. It just seemed like I could be doing something more or something different. It didn’t have as much interaction with others as I wanted. … I’ve always liked the idea of working with college students to help them achieve their goals.

Q. How did you end up coming to Eastfield? 

A. I was searching for a new challenge, new changes. I took a look around to see who was hiring for a college counselor and saw Dallas College had a position. … I figured, throw your hat in the ring and apply. The worst they can do is say no. I ended up getting interviewed here, got a job offer and decided to make a major life change. 

Q. What does a typical day look like for you?

A. On a typical day, I would meet with some students for counseling, I might do a class presentation to promote counseling services and meet with a community partner to see about doing an event on campus. … It’s really varied. It just changes every day, and that’s what I like, because I’m not in the same place doing the same thing over and over again. 

Q. Is it difficult to find the right answer to give students?

A. I focus more on listening and working with the students or collaborating with the students so that we work together to come up with an answer that is right for them. Something they can achieve or accomplish. It’s not so much about me telling them what the right answer is but working with them to come up with what is a good answer for them.

Q. What has been your biggest challenge so far?

A. I would say one of my biggest challenges has been adjusting to Dallas. It just feels very different than Houston. It’s not bad, it’s just different. 

Q. What has been your biggest accomplishment?

A. I’m most proud of getting my master’s and successfully managing a grant. I was assigned to manage a three-year $300,000 grant (at Eastfield), and we met all of our objectives and we met them on time. But really, my biggest sense of accomplishment is whenever a student lets me know that I was helpful in some way. 

Q. What was that grant for?

A. The grant was from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. The grant is about educating students, faculty and staff on sexual violence prevention. Things like domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and sexual assault prevention. So we teach students and employees about things like warning signs of unhealthy relationships, recognizing the signs of a good, healthy relationships. … and a lot of other subjects related to sexual violence prevention.

Q. Are you still managing the grant?

A. The grant ended this year. However, I’m proud to say that we are still continuing the work of the grant. We formed a group called CAASA, and that stands for the College Alliance Against Sexual Assault. We meet once a month and we arrange for a lot of programming or events to educate students on sexual violence prevention or intimate partner violence prevention. We work with a lot of agencies in the area like DARRC, the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center.

Q. What advice would you give students with the stress that comes from midterms and finals? 

A. You’re always welcome to read up on or come see a counselor about developing healthier coping skills like focusing on breathing techniques to help you manage anxiety and help you better cope with things like panic attacks. We also work with students to help them find out what else they are doing to better manage their anxiety or their stress. We teach them a lot of skills, a lot of ways to better deal with it.

Q. What has inspired you the most? 

A. I’m inspired by stories of people who overcame obstacles, who didn’t give up and who didn’t have it easy. It could be anybody. … I’m always fascinated by that and always inspired by that. It doesn’t have to be a leader like a world leader. It could be someone who lives in your neighborhood who overcame the struggle.

Q. What is some general advice you would give to students? 

A. If you run into an obstacle, don’t let that obstacle lead you to give up. Keep at it. The reward is worth it. It may not be tomorrow, it may not be immediate, but it is worth it. Keep in touch with people here like with your academic adviser or success coach. It is OK to change your mind if you’re not sure about a career. … You can still achieve it. Hang in there and reach out for help if something gets in the way. I know sometimes it feels like it’d be easier to call it quits. Before doing that, reach out for help.

Q. If you weren’t a counselor, what do you think you would be doing?

A. I’d probably still be in a helping profession of some kind. Something where I help people achieve their goals. Maybe a social worker, maybe a life coach, things like that.

Q. What are you hoping to achieve in the next five years? 

A. There’s some additional training I’d like to get in counseling. You never stop learning as a counselor. A lot of personal and professional growth as a counselor is what I see myself doing within the next five years.  

Q. Is there anything you would like students and readers to know?

A. One thing I want them to know is that there is a lot of help at Dallas College for students that may be going through any kind of struggle. We have a lot of services. … I want students to know that there is help. Just reach out, talk to your instructor, talk to somebody, an employee on campus. Say, “I need help,” “I’m not sure what I’m doing,” or “I’m going through a personal problem.” And even if you get the wrong person, they will direct you to the right person. If you or a fellow student are going through some kind of problem, there is help for you here. Reach out, ask us for help. We’re not here to judge, we’re here to help. Because we want to see you succeed.