ORLANDO, Fla. – As the fifth year remembrance of the 49 lives lost June 12, 2016 at Pulse nightclub in Orlando approaches, the One Pulse Foundation recently announced the recipients of its 49 legacy scholarship.
Jonathan Beltrán Torres is among the second class of recipients and said the significance of scholarship goes beyond the financial aspect.
“It was mixed feelings of like, man, like, am I doing the right thing? Can I make these people happy? Can I honor his name?” Torres said.
He said he felt mixed emotions — happiness and nervousness — the day he found out he was one of the recipients and would continue the legacy of one of the victims, Darryl Roman Burt II.
“He worked very closely with lots of students from marginalized communities and he was a big influence with young men and women and he really wanted to see them succeed,” the 26-year-old said.
When asked how his story is relatable to that of Burt, Torres said it’s their sense of community.
“I do study environmental studies but my real focus is urban planning and I really wanna make people feel like they belong in communities. A lot of times, you know, marginalized communities are left behind,” he said.
Born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Torres served in the military for eight years. He said he’s also the first in his family to attend college. He’s currently enrolled at the University of Central Florida.
“Thank to God my sister is following suit and I will continue to support her like the people that supported me,” he said.
The scholarship was established by the One Pulse Foundation to honor the aspirations of the 49 lives taken at Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016.
“During the interview process for the scholarship of Pulse, one of the interview questions were, ‘What is one person that made a big difference in your life?’ And I had to sit back and find that one person and it was the women in my family,” Torres recalled.
Aside from continuing Burt’s legacy, Torres said he hopes to continue creating awareness about mental health issues, especially after Gov. Ron DeSantis stripped state funding for LGBTQ services, including mental health.
“That is so critical and we must continue to fight not just for, you know, the LGBTQ community but for the veteran community — any community. It’s not something we can talk behind closed doors. We need to talk about it in public,” Torres said.
The OnePulse Foundation will grant 49 scholarships annually, each up to $10,000. Torres said his ultimate goal is to work with urban development and help underserved communities in Orange County.