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Luis Torres wasn’t always passionate about engineering. The Eastside alum and 2010 MIT graduate entered the doors of Eastside with the expectation that he would be a writer-- because that’s why his middle school teachers encouraged him to apply to Eastside in the first place. He now says he could hardly have imagined how life-changing his high school years would be.

He was born in Modesto, California and when he was a toddler his father was shot and killed while traveling in Mexico. Luis’s mother briefly moved him, along with his sister, to Mexico to be with family. A few years later, they moved back to California-- this time to East Palo Alto-- where the three shared a room in his aunt’s house until Luis was 12 years old.

Luis says growing up in East Palo Alto was “like living in a bubble” because the wealth and opportunities in the surrounding, more affluent communities were apparent. “You see what life could have been like for you if you had just lived on the other side of the highway.”

At Eastside, Luis quickly found that he was challenged as never before, and he learned that his academic interests extended far beyond writing: he discovered his passion for math and science. “I learned to exercise skills I never knew I had.”

“Even more impressive than Luis’s intelligence was his drive. He was determined to learn as much as possible about math and physics, simply because it fascinated him,” says Ryan Atkins, Luis’s AP Physics teacher at Eastside. “He really was an unstoppable force.” 

Ryan says that after teaching Luis for less than a week, he realized two things: “One, Luis was not only ready for a rigorous college engineering program; he was also destined to thrive there. And two, I was going to have to make my curriculum much more intense.” 

Luis says he still appreciates the way his Eastside teachers made him think like an engineer. He learned early on that what he learned at Eastside would provide the basis for his success in many fields once he graduated.

While at Eastside, Luis got involved in a series of activities that had what he calls a “domino effect” on his path to engineering. He got involved with NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) and met with Stanford engineering students every Saturday. He started competing in tri-math-a-lons, giving his SAT studies a jumpstart. He learned about the MITES program at MIT and spent a summer studying on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts before his senior year of high school.

When it was time to fill out college applications, he applied to MIT and was accepted into their nuclear engineering program. 

“It was the most challenging chapter of my life,” says Luis of his four years there. He says he sees what it’s done to his character and is still awed by the experience of studying shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the brightest minds in technology and engineering.

Luis is now an engineering project manager at Bloom Energy in the Bay Area. 

Want to see more? Watch Luis’ video.


Profiled in the fall of 2010