Freshman sells breakfast tacos to raise scholarship money for students in the Valley

Farah Merchant

Victor Torres Jr., communications and leadership freshman, is from America’s poorest region, the Rio Grande Valley. The poverty and lack of resources there makes it so that many community members cannot leave and pursue a higher education.

Torres decided to alleviate the issue by raising funds to start his own nonprofit called Lending a Helping Hand, which will provide students with scholarships for college essentials.

“For myself, especially my senior year, I realized there weren’t any local scholarships,” Torres said. “Lots of them were these big national ones that, at the time, I didn’t really feel like I had a fair chance or much of a chance to actually get them.”

Due to the lack of resources, Torres had little help implementing his nonprofit while in high school. Without anyone skilled in starting nonprofits or charity work in general, Torres’ ideas never became a reality throughout high school.

However, after coming to UT, Torres learned from other nonprofits in the area about their structures and ways to fundraise. He said he hopes to apply that knowledge to his own nonprofit.

“Being a part of this huge network (of nonprofits) is helpful and has made me realize how realistic (my goal) actually is,” Torres said. “Now, it’s a matter of getting the process started. It’s not … an idea that seems too far-fetched because now it seems like a reality I can execute just through the networks I have access to.” 

His goal is to gain funding to apply to become a 501(c)(3) organization, also known as a nonprofit charitable organization. He plans on doing this by selling breakfast tacos on weekends with orders placed through Facebook. He sells two tacos for $3, and if the order totals more than $10, he will deliver them.

Once Lending a Helping Hand is a 501(c)(3), Torres plans to contact small businesses by sharing his story, offering incentives such as publicity and informing these organizations of the possible tax breaks they will receive for donating to a good cause. 

Sandra Cardona, Torres’ Advanced Placement U.S. history teacher, helped Torres with his nonprofit idea by answering questions and guiding him. Cardona said Torres’ passion for helping his community was evident even while he was a high school student.

“(Torres’) vision of helping to that degree is very impressive for a person his age,” Cardona said. “He just has that maturity and understanding of the environment that pushed him to his goals.”

Seeing the poverty of Rio Grande Valley herself as a teacher, Cardona said she hopes his nonprofit comes to fruition and helps students struggling to receive the funds to attend college.

“He has the drive,” Cardona said. “He has the ambition. He has the right intentions. If he was able to launch this and get this off the ground, it would provide a great service for students in the area, and it would provide another avenue for them to seek out the help.”

Bryan Lopez, longtime friend and MIT electrical engineering and computer science freshman, has always seen Torres as a compassionate and caring individual. As a result, he was not shocked by Torres’ desire to start a nonprofit.

“I think (Torres’) personality represents his ideas and nonprofit,” Lopez said. “It’s a unique personality — really altruistic. It’s almost as if it’s him trying to help people, talk to them and give them resources. He’s just trying to reach more people through a nonprofit.”