CENTRAL FALLS — Just call it “girl power.” The two young women who have earned the honor of representing Central Falls High School's graduating class as the valedictorian and salutatorian said they were inspired by the fact that these positions were held by young men last year.
Solyris Vega, valedictorian, and Josmari Torres, salutatorian, also happen to be best friends who have been encouraging each other in their own “race to the top” ever since they met at Calcutt Middle School. The two also share a Puerto Rican heritage, and say there was an element of pride in representing that country as well as their hometown with their academic achievements.
Vega, the daughter of Marisol and Elmo Vega, will head off to the University of Rhode Island in September, where she plans on pursuing a pharmacy degree. She said she feels that her study habits and the way she challenged herself to do her best during her high school career will serve her well as she embraces seven years of rigorous study in the pharmacy program.
Likewise, Torres, the daughter of Margarita Borgos and Jose Torres, said she feels that Central Falls High School, despite its tumultuous year with teacher unrest, has prepared her well for the road that lies ahead at Providence College. She plans on pursuing classes in music, communications and Asian studies as she develops her career goals.
“It was a year of ups and downs,” admitted Vega, of the high school's atmosphere that was often overshadowed by negative press and tensions between the staff and the administration. “But, a lot of good things happened as well.”
Torres agreed, saying, “There was a lot of pressure, but I think we became stronger and learned to overcome obstacles because of it. It definitely prepared us to be strong in the future.”
Besides saying they are “like sisters,” Vega and Torres share a love of music and singing. Both participated in the Central Falls High School chorus, and Torres sings at her church, New Life in Christ, located in Pawtucket. Torres also said she intends to keep up with her singing while at Providence College.
Both young women have also been involved for the past couple of years in the Rhode Island Special Olympics, where they played and coached unified soccer and basketball. The two traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska last year with local participants for the Special Olympics National Games. “People there thought we were twins,” noted Torres, with a smile.
Torres and Vega both expressed their enjoyment in playing sports and working with the youths in the Special Olympics organization. “It's so beautiful. God put people who are disabled in this world and there is so much help for them,” said Torres. “It touches me when I see it in a way that's hard to describe. It's very much an influence in my life,” she said.
Sports also played an important role in Vega's own high school experience, where she was part of the girls' softball team and was pitcher this year.
As to what kept Vega and Torres motivated to reach the top of their graduating class, both credited their families with instilling in them the will to succeed. Torres noted that her mother graduated from college as well as her older sister, while her younger brother is a high school freshman. “My mom wanted me to go to college, too. And then we'll all make sure my brother gets though,” said Torres.
Vega, who has three younger siblings, said, “I'm proud to be the first in my family to graduate.” She said that she, too, wants to be a role model for her siblings in obtaining a college education.
Both also possess a good amount of self-motivation and said that ever since middle school (where Torres was ranked at the top of her class) they have pushed themselves to do their best. “I would think, even if I got a B, I know I can strive for that A,” Torres said. “Yes, I know we both have the potential,” agreed Vega. Torres added, “There is also that friendly rivalry, which helped us keep each other on track.”