Giselle Torres’s father immigrated to America as a teenager. A social worker helped him along the way. Now, Giselle is pursuing a career in the field.

Giselle Torres doesn’t often have heart-to-heart conversations with her father. It’s not that she feels his love and support any less as a result; he just tends to show his affection in ways other than verbal affirmations.

But on a November morning in 2021, the conditions were right for the father-daughter duo to have a meaningful chat, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

The Horicon native had stumbled through a COVID-ridden end to her high school tenure, started college at Concordia University Wisconsin in a still-altered social environment, and was feeling a bit lost. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. She tested the waters with a few classes her freshman year at CUW, but nothing felt right until she enrolled in an introductory social work class. 

Career options abound within the social work field

Prior to this class, Giselle admits that she had a narrow understanding of the social work profession.

“I thought it was just Child Protective Services,” Giselle says. “I didn’t realize all of the different options a person had within the social work field.”

She was newly learning about the profession when she traveled to her home over Thanksgiving Break and joined her dad for one of their favorite seasonal traditions: deer hunting.

“It was around 4 a.m. and we were sitting in the tree stand together. Everything was calm and quiet, and we had the chance to just kind of whisper conversation to each other,” Giselle explains.

In the midst of the quiet, Giselle’s father asked a question that was uncharacteristically probing for him: “What are you thinking of doing with your life?” He knew Giselle was struggling to find her footing. That’s when Giselle began to share about her social work class. To her surprise, her father knew all about the profession.

“He told me, ‘You know, a social worker helped me on my citizenship journey,’” Giselle recalls.

Immigration journey

Both of Giselle’s parents immigrated to America as teenagers. Her father traveled from Mexico to California at age 17. He spoke very little English at the time, and the only person he knew was his brother who had joined him on the journey to citizenship.

Having not even completed high school, Giselle’s father found work as a laborer. He attended night classes to earn his high school diploma and become more fluent in English. Eventually, work took him to Horicon, Wisconsin.

“He had to start from the bottom and work his way up,” Giselle says. “Both my parents have gone through so much to get me and my sister to where we’re at in our lives.”

Her parents worked hard to navigate the citizenship process too. Giselle’s father shared with his daughter how much the help of a social worker had meant to him during that journey. This was enough to solidify Giselle’s career plans.

Giselle is currently interning with Lutheran Social Services in Milwaukee and is helping with their refugee resettlement program. She plans to graduate in May 2024 with her bachelor’s degree in social work.

In Giselle’s opinion, there is no better way to honor her parents than to show kindness and care to others who are in a place where they once found themselves.

“Everything I’m doing is partly for my parents, because it’s their hard work that I’m honoring,” says Giselle. “It’s their pride that I’m carrying.”

Want in?

Concordia’s social work program uses Christian service, quality research, and hands-on learning to grow you as a competent professional. Earn your bachelor’s degree at CUW and then continue on to acquire an MSW, the most sought-after social services degree. Learn more about our programs by clicking below.