West Bronx Native Brings Change to the Borough
By Jason Cohen
Dayanna Torres dreamed of being an anchor on Univision. While she is not on TV, she has been impacting the Bronx for more than a decade and recently helped launch the JARC (Jerome Avenue Revitalization Collaborative).
However, life has not always been easy for the Bronxite. Torres, 36, was raised by a single mom in Morris Heights and Mt. Hope and they struggled to get by.
Her mother, a native of the Dominican Republic, worked hard in Bronx factories earning minimum wage doing manual heavy machinery labor.
“Growing up in the Bronx in the 90s was a very tough time,” she told the Bronx Times.
They lived in a Section 8 apartment in Mt. hope in an area surrounded by crime, drugs, homelessness and violence.
Her mom didn’t know English and wasn’t treated well. Torres would serve as a translator when it came to any type of legal document. But, through all of this she was in a loving home.
“We ultimately had nothing, but I never felt like I was lacking anything,” she recalled. “She made so many sacrifices with very little resources.”
However, Torres was always focused on school. She did so well she went from a bilingual class to a gifted and talented class.
“I was really motivated and I didn’t feel there was anything that could stop me,” Torres said.
There is one incident in Mt. Hope she will never forget. As a teen she was chased by an undercover cop into her own apartment who thought she had drugs on her. The officer made her empty her entire bag and quickly saw there was no contraband.
Needless to say this was traumatizing. They filed a complaint with the police and were never issued an apology.
“That was the main reason we moved to Morris Heights,” she explained.
Torres continued her love for education at Syracuse University. There she obtained degrees in communications and information technology and dual masters in international and public relations.
Since graduating college she has made her mark on the community. Torres has worked at city agencies such as NYCHA, NYCEDC and CUNY developing partnerships to advance economic opportunities for first generation college students, public housing and low/moderate income New Yorkers/small business.
She serves on the board of directors at Women Creating Change and Proud to Be Latina and formerly served as chair of the Youth Services Committee of Community Board 5 and a Student Sponsors Partners program mentor.
Previously, she formed part of the inaugural partnerships department at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), where she led projects aimed at spurring inclusive economic development and talent pipeline solutions for the City’s high growth industry investments, city assets undergoing Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and company expansions.
“I decided to use my experience and really represent organizations who want to do positive social work,” she stated. “My experience led me to realize that I was able to navigate opportunities and resources that many families and friends may not have access to.”
Torres, who is an independent consultant focused on projects in the areas of inclusive and equitable economic development, credits a lot of her success to her mom.
“My passion and values were instilled in me by my mother who sacrificed everything for me and always worked very hard and with very little resources protected and raised me to be focused, hard working, of service to the community and with the confidence that anything I set my mind to I can achieve,” Torres said.