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Sandian Juan Torres receives HENAAC’s Pioneer Award

Sandian Juan Torres receives HENAAC’s Pioneer Award

In ceremonies held Oct. 13 at the 19th Annual HENAAC (Hispanic Engineering National Achievement Awards Corporation) Conference in San Diego, Calif., Juan Torres (6332) received HENAAC’s Pioneer Award. He was honored for his development of US critical infrastructure assurance roadmaps, helping establish the National SCADA Test Bed, and for leading a Bureau of Reclamation program to secure dams in the western US.

Looking for a better life, four-year-old Juan, his parents, and Juan’s two-year-old brother emigrated to La Junta, Colo., in 1971, from Leon, a small city in central Mexico. But they found the streets of La Junta weren’t paved in gold. His father, Juan Sr., had attended only first grade, his mother, Clementina, third. Jobs were hard to find, but slowly life improved for the family.

Mama Tina, his grandmother, believed that many of life’s hardships could be overcome through education. “Estudia y un dia te bendicira Dios y tus manos estaran llenas de dinero,” she said. (Go to school and someday God will bless you, and your hands will overflow with money.)

“My grandmother, who passed away at 94, could barely read and write,” says Juan, “but what she lacked in formal education, she made up for with wisdom and experience.”

Juan’s parents knew that education was the key to their children’s success. Clementina enrolled Juan in a Head Start program as soon as possible. Juan was fluent in English by the time he entered kindergarten. “Their love, work ethic, and constant emphasis on education contributed to our family’s success,” he says.

Juan’s interest in science and math led him to the engineering technology program at DeVry Institute of Technology in Phoenix, then on to the University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo, Colo., and a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering technology.

Just before graduation, his life took on new meaning and value as he received what he calls a “priceless privilege” — he became an American citizen. His parents followed suit. This privilege opened doors to challenging career opportunities, beginning with a job offer from Sandia in 1990.

At Sandia Juan supported the design of mobile command and control systems for the Air Force. He also attended the University of New Mexico and earned a master of science degree in electrical engineering. As a member of the technical staff, Juan became the engineering liaison for a command and control system at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.

He sat on the Leadership Advisory Group of the DHS Control System Security Center and has supported congressional testimony on supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. He is currently manager of Energy Systems Analysis Dept. 6332.

Juan says his wife Michelle has been his support in career, education, and life decisions. “Michelle is devoted to our children, Andrew and Mikaela,” says Juan. “She has made sacrifices so that we can prosper and grow as a family and as individuals.”

“My hope is to continue to encourage others, especially Hispanic youth, to be open to the possibilities this world offers,” says Juan.

“Mama Tina would have been proud,” he says. “She was right when she said life’s hardships could be overcome through education.” — Iris Aboytes