Freshman Josue Flores finds a home in America at Southwest

If there is such a thing as a model Saluqi, then Josue Flores may be the very picture of one.

Flores came to Southwest in the fall of 2017 from Cordova High School as a Tennessee Promise student and has truly embraced the “Southwest way.” He is engaged in the classroom and uses his time to volunteer on campus and help others. But perhaps equally as important, Flores is a walking, talking billboard who loves to share his story about his time at Southwest and how Southwest changes lives. “Whenever people ask me where I go to school, I proudly tell them I go to Southwest,” Flores said. “I tell them it is fun and that there are a lot of opportunities.”

Josue Flores embraced the <q>Southwest way</q> thanks to the support he received from Student Development and the many activities offered on campus that helped him grow as a leader. The El Salvador native and Cordova High School graduate is pursuing a degree in criminal justice and recently applied for citizenship.

Josue Flores embraced the Southwest way thanks to the support he received from Student Development and the many activities offered on campus that helped him grow as a leader. The El Salvador native and Cordova High School graduate is pursuing a degree in criminal justice and recently applied for citizenship.

Flores admits he didn’t know much about Southwest when he was considering where to go to college. He got accepted to Mississippi State University, Ole Miss, Tennessee State University and the University of Memphis and was certain he would wind up at one of those institutions. But when his paperwork was not finalized on time and he lost out on 12 scholarships, it looked as if he wasn’t going to be able to afford to further his education. At the last college fair held at his high school, Flores met a recruiter from Southwest who told him about the many opportunities at the College and convinced him to apply. “I didn’t get the scholarships I needed,” Flores said. “But Southwest and Tennessee Promise saved my career pretty much.”

Before coming to Southwest, Flores was shy and quiet. He was afraid of public speaking because his English wasn’t perfect. But when he arrived at the Macon Cove Campus, he connected with Student Development staff who helped draw him out of his shell. They involved him in programs like the Campus Activity Board and Student Ambassador Program. “Southwest was very welcoming,” Flores said. “It’s different from other institutions. It’s more like a community and I really liked that. When I got here, Student Development helped me a lot—they saw something in me and encouraged me to connect with all of these things.”

Flores says Southwest has helped him find his career direction. When he first arrived, he was planning on taking nursing classes. But after taking a test to see what major he would be a good fit for, he discovered criminal justice. He’s now thinking about a career in law enforcement in the FBI or getting a law degree, or maybe even entering politics. He became interested in government after participating in the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature where he introduced a bill that would require all primary schools to have mental health counselors. Flores introduced the bill and lobbied his colleagues on its behalf, but because there were a lot of amendments added, it did not get passed by the time the session ended. He plans to introduce the bill again next year. “I really liked the environment of politics,” Flores said. “It was interesting. And I got an award for best representative.”

Allowed to learn and grow

Student Development Coordinator Ciara Shipp met Flores through the Campus Activity Board (CAB). CAB works with Student Development on developing activities for students to engage in while on campus. Shipp said CAB allowed Josue the opportunity to take on a leadership role. “I think we helped most by giving him the chance to be a leader,” Shipp said. “He started to take on leadership responsibilities as vice president and then became president. We didn’t hold his hand all the way through. We detached and let him learn and grow as he transitioned here.”

Flores is involved in the student ambassador program which helps students at Memphis area high schools register for classes.

Flores is involved in the Southwest Student Ambassador Program that helps students at Memphis-area high schools register for classes.

Tamera Hines, student development coordinator at the Union Avenue Campus who serves as the advisor for CAB, said Flores attended the National Association for Campus Activities planning conference in Florida in 2018 and was an excellent ambassador for Southwest. “Part of their job at that trip was to mingle with students from other colleges and universities and see what types of activities they do across the country,” Hines said. “He did that very well. I can pretty much call on him any time to represent the school.”

Hines said they also have helped Flores better manage his time. “There have been times when we have said ‘you need to sit down and make a schedule’ because he is involved in so much at the school—and he works (a job),” Hines added. “So just helping him with his time management and being able to handle all that is on his plate, I think will better equip him when he gets to a four-year university.”

Shipp said she doesn’t remember the shy, quiet Josue she first encountered anymore. “Josue had always had that bright personality,” Shipp said. “I think that is what attracted him to us—he has a super energetic and bright personality. And with that personality, who’s not going to like him? Or at least get to know him, because he is going to make himself known.”

Assistant Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences Matthew Lexow taught Flores Introduction to Philosophy and Introduction to Ethics. He says Josue is a delight teach. “When I met him, he was dynamic and engaged in the classroom from go,” Lexow said. “He stood out.”

Finding his path

Josue and his family left El Salvador for Tennessee in 2012 to escape the violence there. His family received death threats from gangs because neither Josue nor his older brother Jose would join a gang. Josue applied for citizenship this past April and will soon interview to take the two-part naturalization test. “I’m excited,” Flores said. “I’m going to be able to vote. I’m going to be able to get a passport. There are a lot of things I will be able to do.”

Flores said that Southwest has become much more than a college to him. “This has pretty much been my home,” he said. “It’s amazing. Southwest is helping me a lot to know what I want to do. At first I did not know.”

And as a student ambassador and the first one in his family to attend college, Flores is not shy about telling everyone he meets about how great Southwest is. He’s even trying to convince his older brother who works as a home builder and remodeler to attend Southwest. “I’m trying to get him to apply for Tennessee Reconnect,” Flores said. “I tell him Southwest offers classes at all different times. He can come any time.”