The early afternoon sun filters through the family room window in the humble home of Naaman Torres and it softly introduces his face.
He looks up, a shadow covering the opposite side and he reflects on a single moment in time that changed his life and he hopes others.
It’s 5 o’clock in the morning in Rincon, Puerto Rico and Naaman Torres is sitting up in his bed. It’s late winter. Naaman lives in Elyria but escapes to his parent’s homeland when the cold winds blow to enjoy the beaches of Rincon that line Puerto Rico’s west coast.
He is reading the newspaper. “I get the Chronicle Telegram,” he said. The exact same paper that is thrown on his porch back home is on his phone now and he’s reading the morning story about Lorain County Community College’s announcement of bachelor’s degree program in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).
Naaman is 67 years old and retired. He started working at United States Steel in Lorain after graduating from Admiral King High School in 1972. He grew up on 29th street and the mill was on 28th. He couldn’t escape the shadow. He enlisted in the Army too and served our country for three years. Then, after his service, he went back to work at U.S. Steel. “I had a year of electrical engineering technology at LCCC on the GI Bill,” he said. “The apprenticeship sent me to the college for one week a month for 18 months.”
What does Naaman’s early years at US Steel have to do with his interest in LCCC’s bachelor’s degree program in MEMS?
“The apprenticeship program paid my wages and my class fees,” Naaman said. “When I read the story about the MEMS program, I thought I would like to give somebody an opportunity to get something like I had gotten.”
So, he did.
In 2018, Naaman had his investment banker contact LCCC’s Foundation with a desire to set up a scholarship.
“This is a kick start for someone who’s serious about becoming a useful, productive person who might not have had the chance.”
He knows opportunities do not come easily.
Naaman’s father went to school for one year and it was the second grade. He taught himself how to read and to speak English. “My dad had to work,” Naaman said with a shrug. As a child, Naaman’s father cut cane in the sugar fields of Puerto Rico. He moved to Lorain in the 1950s and worked as a laborer and machine operator for 33 years at U.S. Steel.
He was an electrician and in automation at U.S. Steel for 37 years. “The wiring we did were works of art. If it’s sloppy, it’s poor workmanship. I like things nice, neat and straight and I apply that to everything I do.”
That includes his commitment to scholarship.
“How do people get credentials today,” he asked out loud as he held his arms wide. “People who are studying MEMS, they can get credentials at a place like Lincoln Electric and they can go places.”
Naaman is standing in his garage now as he speaks. It is impeccable. A place for everything and for everything a reason for its existence. In 2004, Naaman found out he had leukemia in his blood and bone marrow. He thought he had beaten it but in 2014 it came back in the form of tumors and then again in 2016 in his joints. “So,” he said as he held a tool in his hand that measures electric current, “I realized my mortality. That’s another piece (to investing in scholarship) you’ve made it but you can’t take it with you.”
“Opportunity,” I said repeating his reason for the money he gives.
He looked down at the amphere meter in his hand again and nodded in agreement. Then, he looked up. His eyes big and hard to ignore and he said, “If you don’t believe in something, then you have nothing to rely on.”
For information about LCCC’s MEMS program, visit http://www.lorainccc.edu/mems.
To learn more about the LCCC Foundation, visit http://www.lorainccc.edu/foundation.