By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 13, 2010
Jeannine Torres is wrapping up her senior year at Holy Spirit Prep School in a whirlwind of activity starting with prom, then a weeklong jaunt with the senior class to see the antiquities of Rome and ending with graduation.
But rewind four years and, but for a persistent mom, high school would have been very different.
Jeannine wanted nothing to do with the private Catholic school in the leafy neighborhood in North Atlanta. Her focus was on hanging out with friends at her public school. She sabotaged her first interview, and the admission office was ready to reject her. But her determined mother got her a second shot.
“I did everything I could not to come here,” she says. “I’m so happy I did. It’s not weird to do community service. It’s not weird to spend time in a nursing home. I love it.”
Jeannine, 18, is the second oldest of seven children of Patty and Celso Torres. The family lives in Lilburn and attends St. John Neumann Church. She and her father share driving duties since six of the children attend Holy Spirit’s elementary and high schools. Her oldest sister is a sophomore at the University of Georgia.
She’s received many honors. She was recognized with the team motivator award for the 2009-2010 football cheerleading season, as well as being selected the homecoming queen.
Jeannine is also community minded. Her volunteer work earned her the school’s St. Zita of Lucca award, which recognizes the top three students in service hours in the school year. In addition, she was given the Community Service Award.
When financial troubles kept more than a dozen seniors from the traditional class trip to Rome, Jeannine brainstormed with others to raise money to help her classmates to make the trip. Calling it “Roma,” the night combined a pasta dinner, art and dessert auction with a student talent show. Some $6,000 was raised and five more students are making the trip because of the work of Jeannine and her colleagues.
“That was the most incredible feeling. Hard work really does pay off,” she says, smiling.
She heads off to Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville in the fall. Her heart is set on studying nursing, which in part comes from time spent in Costa Rica.
She traveled to Central America last summer on a mission trip. The few days spent at a nursing home run by the Sisters of Charity was emotionally and spiritually moving as she fed senior citizens abandoned by their families and wiped their faces, she says.
“It really did touch my heart,” she says.
To prepare for nursing classes, she is taking an organic chemistry elective to build a foundation for her college studies. And she credits the chemistry teacher, Matthew Reger, with being one of her favorite faculty members. Jeannine says she liked his teaching style, breaking down the complex subject into parts she can understand. She also says he never complains when she visits the chemistry lab after class for more help.
Reger says he watched as Jeannine matured into a student leader. He says faculty and her peers alike recognized the change when an unusual turn of events required the appointment of a new head girl, the representative of the student body to the school administration.
“She’s been one of the leaders of the school,” says Reger.