WNPR

Vanessa de la Torre

Reporter

Vanessa de la Torre comes to WNPR after more than a decade as a newspaper reporter at the Hartford Courant, where her storytelling and investigative work on Hartford education was recognized regionally and by the Education Writers Association. She has also written for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida and interned at the Washington Post and the Imperial Valley Press in her native El Centro, Calif., a desert town near the U.S.-Mexico border. Vanessa received her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and her master's from Stanford’s journalism program.

Ways to Connect

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Minutes into touring the Mark Twain House in Hartford, the visitors came across a black-and-white photo of a young Clara Clemens, a daughter of Mark Twain. Soon, it dawned on everyone that Clara looks a lot like Milianis Rivera, a Puerto Rican evacuee.

Bulkeley High School senior Yeicy Alejandro, smiling at left, talks to her new mentors from Central Connecticut State University. They're in the new "Ambassadors" program - Puerto Rican evacuees helping other students displaced by Hurricane Maria.
Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Communications major Marivelisse Acosta attends Central Connecticut State University. But on Wednesday night, she stood in the cafeteria of Hartford’s Bulkeley High School, contemplating what to say as a mentor to the school’s displaced students from Puerto Rico.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

A sprightly “Good morning!” awaited students and parents who approached Sanchez Elementary School on the Friday before spring break.

Maybe the school staff was in an extra good mood? But Merelys Torres, secretary of Sanchez’s parent-teacher organization, said it’s like this every morning. She noticed it right away when her family came to Hartford from Puerto Rico last fall — a sensitive time for her two kids.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

They came from countries like Haiti, Italy, Canada, Mexico, and Ghana. And on Thursday, inside the downtown Hartford Public Library, 50 immigrants took the Oath of Allegiance from U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Like many of his neighbors, Bernie Michel came to Hartford from somewhere else.

In Michel’s case, Ohio.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

It’s lunchtime at Central Connecticut State University and 10 students converge on their usual spot in the dining hall. They start talking about the food — and it becomes clear that they don’t love the rice. They explain that it’s not as seasoned as the homemade arroz in Puerto Rico.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

It’s mid-March and Hartford Public High School teacher Bridget Allison goes over essay-writing tips for her fourth-period class. After a while, she checks in on a group of students who are seated together — a few of the evacuees from Puerto Rico.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Show me the money.

That’s the message from Hartford Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The disaster last fall uprooted many Puerto Ricans who fled the island, including children who ended up enrolling in Connecticut schools.

Before a screening of "Black Panther," artist Martha Walker-Dawkins paints the face of Zaniah Welsh, a fourth-grader at West Hartford's Smith STEM School. Engineer David Johnson sponsored the event to inspire students.
Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

As a child in the Midwest, David Johnson said he dreamed of becoming an engineer.

Katie Hanley, head of Oak Hill's Center for Relationship & Sexuality Education, teaches students about the different types of relationships.
Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

The title for today’s lesson is written on the whiteboard of this Hartford classroom: #Relationships.

Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

The State’s Attorney in Waterbury has cleared a Bridgeport police officer in the fatal shooting last year of a 15-year-old boy.

Spectactors at Tuesday's Hartford school board meeting in the Naylor School auditorium.
Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

The Hartford school board voted Tuesday night to close two neighborhood schools this year, endorsing the first wave of a plan to downsize a school system with high needs and declining enrollment.

Marchers head down Main Street in Middletown during an annual celebration Monday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
VANESSA DE LA TORRE / WNPR

Evan Davis was still on the school bus Friday morning, rolling up to Middletown High School at 7:00 am, when he saw a fellow student in the campus parking lot holding a Confederate flag.

Antonio Cruz, a city school bus driver, addresses the Hartford school board at a public hearing Tuesday night. Cruz is the father of Paola Cruz, 9, a student at Batchelder Elementary School, which would close under the district's consolidation plan.
Vanessa de la Torre / WNPR

Antonio Cruz is the father of a 9-year-old at Hartford’s Batchelder Elementary, one of the city neighborhood schools that the superintendent has proposed shutting down this summer.