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Northeastern University’s Torch Scholars Program is dedicated to closing the achievement gap for first-generation, low-income students. Through a full scholarship and comprehensive support program, Torch increases opportunities for resilient high school students. Aimed at improving college retention, this sustainable and unique program offers continuous academic, social, and financial support over five years. Torch is unparalleled in its support for first-generation college students from diverse backgrounds. The Program not only finds, but develops bright young people who often go unnoticed in hard-to-reach communities across the country. Continuing Northeastern’s century-old commitment to educational opportunity, Torch is a bold and innovative initiative. The Torch non-cognitive admission model is rigorous and replicable, probing deeper than surface indicators of standardized tests and high school grades in order to determine academic talent and college persistence. Torch recruits underserved students across the country who are often overlooked in the competitive college market due to academic and cultural disparities and economic hardship. Torch reviews nearly 500 nominees and invites 50 students to campus for Interview Day to participate in individual and group assessment activities. With five full classes of scholars currently enrolled and an 85% retention rate, Torch offers an innovative way to increase access to higher education and ensure college completion. Through its signature seven-week Summer Immersion Program focusing on academic preparedness and 21st century “soft” skills in social capital development, Torch reduces the transitional gap between high school and college, and prepares first-generation college students to be competitive leaders in the classroom and community. Torch earns its unprecedented retention rate through a comprehensive advising and intervention system, engagement on campus and in the community, and a holistic curriculum geared towards the specific needs of firstgeneration college students.

about torch

Transforming HigH PoTenTial inTo HigH acHievemenT

about torch

Much more than a scholarship, Torch is a Program that is sustainable and replicable, with the potential to inform the way that colleges and universities recruit and retain our most vulnerable, yet most talented college-bound students.

THe TorcH mission Torch’s mission is to continue to grow the college persistence rate of first-generation college, low-income students and provide a model of recruitment and retention for other first-generation college programs across the country. With effective programs in response to first-generation college student development, and the emphasis on academic and social capital, Torch anticipates a 90-95% retention rate and increasing GPAs by class. Currently, Torch has an 85% retention rate, which is on par with Northeastern’s overall freshman retention. Torch’s success is equally impressive considering the 270-point disparity in mean SAT between Torch students and the general Northeastern freshman population. Through the Civic Engagement Program, Torch Faculty/ Staff Mentoring Program, Community Learning Space freshman program, Five-Year Plan Project, and career development, Torch expects an increased retention and involvement rate both on campus and in the community. Beyond quantifiable indicators of success in the Torch persistence data, Torch supports each student’s social-emotional stability through holistic support, academic intervention plans, and student development opportunities. Torch will increase the ability of first-generation, low-income college students to compete at high levels in the classroom and in the workplace, providing leadership opportunities and experiential learning with the support. With a solid infrastructure in place, the Torch Program provides support to ensure that students will not only graduate, but continue to be leaders in the community and globally. Pre-college Torch programming includes a rigorous, residential Summer Immersion Program consisting of College Math, College Writing, a College Skills Seminar class, community service, and a mentoring program, culminating in each student’s Five-Year Plan. A Freshman Year Advising Program and Community Learning Space/Peer Tutoring initiative offers the structure and support to aid in the transition from high school to college. Torch continues intensive support programming through graduation. Torch support includes Town Hall meetings, civic engagement, faculty/staff mentoring, one-to-one advising, career development, post-graduate transition support, and holistic support services.

“ Torch Scholars are game-changers; they

command more of themselves and rise above tough situations to excel as leaders.

Dr. PHILoMENA V. MANTELLA Senior Vice President, Enrollment and Student Life



driven. resilient. innovative. Torch Scholars are motivated by success despite difficult family situations, cultural barriers, financial challenges, or education environments. Leading through the actions they take in their communities, families, or schools, Torch Scholars are working to make difference.

Following are just four of the amazing students who make up the Torch Scholars Program. Read about all of our Torch Scholars by visiting or find us on Facebook at

SIMONA TORCH CLASS OF 2012 MAJOR: Criminal Justice with HOMETOWN: Bronx,

a minor in Sociology

New York

SIMONA’S STORY: Leaving a crime-ridden community in Lithuania for the projects in Bronx, NY, Simona and her family fought for a better life in America. Now, after years of struggling to survive in a new country, her family has put its faith in Simona to achieve the American Dream as a first-generation college student. Simona is proud to say that she wouldn’t give up her experiences for anything. “My experiences, good and bad, are my reality; they are my home.” Her background has taught her the survival skills necessary to function in life and to practice deep gratitude for even the small opportunities afforded to her. Learning how to live not only for herself, but to provide for others at a very young age, Simona started working as an office cleaner at age nine to help pay the rent. She describes her childhood as growing up in a neighborhood empty of opportunities, hope, and dreams, faced with economic hardship and violence. Simona credits school with teaching her that there was something better for her than her situation. Nearly getting kicked out of middle school, Simona received a rejection letter from every high school that received her application. In the eighth grade, she remembers her counselor handing her a letter that said “None” next to the words “Assigned high school.” rather than following her peers and dropping out of school as an eighth grader, Simona quickly taught herself the in’s and out’s of the New York Public education system with the goal of attending the Bronx School of Letters and Justice. Faced with a peer group troubled with incarceration, drug abuse, and high drop out rates, Simona worked to turn her situation around with the help of her basketball coach who recognized her potential as a student and athlete. As an all-semester Dean’s List Scholar, Simona balances her time in college with three part-time jobs, classes, and volunteering, as well as serving as a mentor to other Torch scholars. She is the student coordinator for Northeastern’s LEAD (Linking Education and Diversity Program) for Boston high school seniors, and serves on the Advisory Board of Summer Search, Inc. and Jeter’s Leaders, programs for urban youth that helped her to achieve her college dream. After spending six months studying at Bond University in Australia, Simona credits this global experience with changing her life perspective. She completed her first co-op with the Criminal History Systems Board in Chelsea, MA, and her ultimate goal is a job with the federal government. A slam poet celebrated for her poetry dealing with social change and overcoming struggles, Simona is unafraid to voice where she has come from and where she is going, emphasizing the difference between her past and future. Whether digging ditches in the Dominican republic for twelve hours each day on her spring break, or mentoring high school students in her free time, Simona embodies work ethic, perseverance, and hope. For Simona, college represents the invaluable freedom from having to be an adult as a young child. She wanted to know what it felt like to be a regular kid and credits Torch with providing her this opportunity.

With Torc h, I am somebody. nx. Bro the in here ew som c, isti stat er oth …an “Without Torc h, I would be lost resources and support through Torc h. g azin am se the e hav We . you to up s ’ t i y, atel Torc h pushes you, but ultim urces to go to college and to have the reso ers oth as te una fort as not are o wh se tho p t hel Torc h is a support to r comfort zone and getting involved in differen you of e sid out g goin ut abo is h orc T . ege coll h oug to get thr things—your talent and how you use it. are all Torc h. We all come from different backgrounds, and we not be here today if it uld wo We h. orc T in em syst t por sup a e hav I have a lot to be thankful for. reWethere for us. That’s why I feel like I have so much to give. And I want wasn’t for the people who we to do more.” of 2012

Simona - class




(Dorchester), MA

MIKE’S STORY: Exemplifying the entrepreneurial spirit of Northeastern, Mike does not take “No” for an answer, but instead works to create options even when there are no options available. Since the age of nine, he has learned to work with limited resources, making sure that his younger siblings had dinner on the table each night. Separated from his family at a young age, Mike traveled between different states with his foster parents in search of a stable home environment. Now not only is he reunited with his father, he is a primary caregiver for his younger twin siblings, attending teacher-parent meetings and helping with evening homework problems. His family motto to his younger siblings is to be humble through hardship. Mike’s early survival skills both in his home and in his Boston neighborhood gave him the courage to make what he calls “the right choices” for himself, his family, and his community. He exhibits inner resolve in his will to conquer and in his competitive spirit that pushes him to strive for better options. Although he acknowledges that he has not lived comfortably – often without lights or food, he is grateful for the opportunity of his experiences. Mike learned to have faith in himself and in other things, finding strength and purpose through his younger siblings and past struggles. As a founding brother of a Northeastern fraternity, he pushes his younger charges by teaching that it’s not always best to take the easy way out, but to learn through struggle. As an artist and innovator, Mike applies the knowledge of his past struggle to school, family, his business, and his craft. He is constantly moving forward and adapting and prides himself on giving extra effort in everything he does. After selling his original designs on T-shirts out of his dorm room, Mike and his business partner founded their hip-hop clothing company, Annie Mulz, and opened a temporary “pop-up” store on Newbury Street in Boston. recognized for his innovation and sound business plan, Mike’s company received Northeastern’s prestigious IDEA grant for $10,000 in gap funding to bring his company to the next level. In addition to running a business, designing clothes, and managing a store, Mike works at Society clothing company and mentors younger students in the community. recognized as the first Northeastern undergraduate employer to hire a Northeastern co-op, Mike is committed to providing job opportunities to his peers. Mike’s passion for graphic design coincides with his passion for urban engagement and social justice; his clothing designs reflect the angst and hope of a generation of young people.

“Torch has opened doors. Torch has changed my capacity to help my family. Torch has provided me with a great opportunity to be successful. There’s no other way around saying that. Torch isn’t here to make its students become successful; Torch gives opportunities and tools to learn to be successful. And you can get to that level of success with Torch. The Program sets up avenues to make us more involved and gives us those tools of success.”

Mike - class of 2011


TYRENE TORCH CLASS OF 2015 MAJOR: Political Science with HOMETOWN: New

a minor in Art

York, New York

TYRENE’S STORY: When asked what she is most proud of, Tyrene answers with more than one accomplishment and without hesitation. She is proud of giving back to the community over 400 hours of service, while working two jobs, achieving in high school, and supporting her disabled mother both emotionally and financially. She is quick to add that she is proud of being chosen for Torch among so many applicants – one of her newest accomplishments as a first-year college student. Tyrene is no stranger to pushing herself to the limit in order to survive daily struggles. She balanced a full week with 13-hour work days on the weekends in order to pay for her tuition at a Catholic school and contribute to household expenses. She is a strong believer that hard work pays off, but she admits that her days seemed longer than 24 hours. Living in a tough neighborhood, in the projects of Harlem, Tyrene reached her lowest point during high school when she would come home from work past one in the morning on a school night, find her elevator still not fixed, and begin her climb up twenty floors, her books in tow. These were days when she was so tired she didn’t want to go to school, but knew that she owed it to her mother to try. Despite challenges such as frequent moving and her mother’s illness, Tyrene never doubted that she would go to college. Although she almost couldn’t attend her high school graduation because she was late on her school’s tuition bill, Tyrene is proud to have paid her own way through one of New York City’s best high schools. She credits her high school with giving her the resources to get to college. She says her biggest cheerleader is her mother, teaching her everything from professionalism to coping skills in order to get through her toughest moments. She has also adopted from her mother the motto of “give to someone each day,” giving her change or one of her meals to someone in need – even if it means she goes without. Tyrene recognizes that with college she has a way out and goals of pursuing a law degree and a PhD. At Northeastern, Tyrene is majoring in Policital Science with a minor in Art and maintains her ambition and determination through new struggles as a first-generation college student. However, she openly refuses sympathy for her story, asserting that there are going to be tough days, but every day is new.

meet people who I would ll wi I h. orc T h t wi e alon ege coll h oug thr g goin “I know that I won’t be of the game in many aspects. At ad ahe p ste a am I like feel I ise. erw oth et me not be able to because of what we ts den stu er oth from nt fere dif very are rs ola Sch the end of the day, Torc h so much more am I . son per a as me ped sha has m gra Pro his have been through and overcome. T cally. I know I cannot let cifi spe m gra Pro s thi in ieve bel ple peo ny ma so motivated knowing that people down.”

Tyrene - class of 2015


MAIDUL TORCH CLASS OF 2014 MAJOR: Electrical Engineering HOMETOWN: Boston

(Dorchester), MA

MAIDUL’S STORY: Maidul embodies resiliency, and his story is a testament to the power of opportunity. Living in a village of Bangladesh, Maidul helped raise his siblings and worked on a farm but he did not attend school for fear of being kidnapped by criminals if he left his family home. At age eleven, Maidul and his family moved to America, escaping one type of violence in Bangladesh for another in one of Boston’s toughest neighborhoods. Gunshots and crime were readily apparent on Maidul’s street and he acknowledges that he grew up too fast with too much responsibility, often fearful for his safety in an unpredictable environment. Learning the culture of a new country is one thing, but Maidul had never spoken or heard a word of English, nor had he ever set foot in a school building. Mistaken for “quiet” in his classes, Maidul taught himself English without any support. In just under three years, Maidul became fluent in English, and his “F’s” in class were replaced with “A’s.” To this day, Maidul is his family’s lifeline to daily life in America as interpreter and manager of family finances. Driven by his family’s expectations to do well, Maidul is reminded every day that his family sacrificed their homeland, leaving their extended family in Bangladesh for Maidul to attend high school and college. In order to achieve for himself and for his family, Maidul separates himself from negative influences and remains focused on one thing: achievement at all costs. Maidul’s hunger for opportunity began in high school when he enrolled himself in community programs such as Summer Search to help him expand his comfort zone. As a college student and Torch Scholar, Maidul has experienced a life-change like no other, and readily accepts his responsibility to be the first in his family to attend school and graduate from college. He shares his journey as a mentor with Boston Public Students in Northeastern’s LEAD Program and as a motivational speaker on college panels. Maidul holds a parttime job on campus to help contribute to family finances. He is majoring in Electrical Engineering and has earned Dean’s List both semesters of his freshman year of college.

fits into me and I fit into Torc h h orc T y. t ni mu com my for ll we do to nt wa I “I work hard. a lot of sacrifices to get ke ma to had e hav I do. I g hin ryt eve in t bes because I strive to be the experienced so far. College is the e hav I at wh from nt fere dif is e lleg Co . now to where I am e is a way out to the lleg Co . life ter bet a is e lleg Co a. eric Am to us t reason my family brough big world.” 14

M aidul - class of 20


TorcH scholars Program

By THe numBers WHERE ARE TORCH SCHOLARS FROM?* Torch Scholars represent urban and rural communities in 10 states and the District of Columbia, as well as 11 countries including Albania, Bangladesh, Liberia, Lithuania, and Cambodia.


were born outside of the U.S.


come from the City of Boston

50% 52%

come from outside of Massachusetts speak a language other than English at home, ranging from Kpelleh and Khmer to Bosnian and Bengali

80% 20%

graduated from a public or charter high school

graduated from a private independent or parochial school

TORCH MAKES THE GRADE • More than one-third of Torch Scholars make • The average

Dean’s List

freshman GPA for Torch Scholars over four years is 2.9

• As a group, Torch Scholars represent 24 majors, ranging from Business and Biology to Behavioral Neuroscience and Biochemistry • At least 3

scholars plan to graduate with dual majors

TORCH SHOWS PERSISTENCE IN COLLEGE • Torch has an 85% the Program

retention rate with students who entered Torch and who are still in

• In 2009, the fourth class of Torch scholars entered with a 227-point SAT difference, yet half the class earned Dean’s List during their freshman year









*Data includes Torch classes 1-5.


TORCH IN THE COMMUNITY AND AROUND THE WORLD Twenty-five Torch Scholars have completed

at least one co-op at companies including Genzyme, Johnson and Johnson, Complex Magazine, and Safety Insurance, and nonprofit organizations including Yawkey Boys and Girls Club,

ACCESS, and the YMCA. As a group, Torch

scholars give back over 5,000 hours of service each

year, working in organizations that include the Boys and Girls Club, DEAF Inc., MathPower, Big

Sister/Brother of Massachusetts, Boston Public Schools, Squashbusters, Sociedad Latina, and LEAD (Linking Education and Diversity). Each Torch Scholar volunteers at least 100 hours of service annually. one-third of Torch Scholars have taken advantage of Northeastern’s Dialogue of Civilizations and Study Abroad Programs, traveling

to 15 countries for service and study, including Israel, Peru, Armenia, South Africa, India, and Japan.

Four Scholars have ventured globally for international co-ops with the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in South Africa, Esperanza International Humanitarian Aid organization in the Dominican republic, and the company Terrmar Mármol in Mexico.

for more informaTion For more information about Northeastern’s Torch Scholars Program, please visit or find us on Facebook at Torch Nominations are due by January 15 annually. Nomination forms are available online each September.

aBouT norTHeasTern Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston, and a leader in interdisciplinary and translational research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. our signature cooperative education program, one of the largest and most innovative in the world, is ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World report. We offer a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in eight undergraduate colleges, eight graduate schools, and two part-time divisions. The Chronicle of Higher Education has called our traditional campus of grassy quads and tree-lined walkways one of the world’s most attractive urban campuses. Northeastern embraces its identity as part of a vibrant city. Boston inspires Northeastern’s academic agenda and invigorates its cultural and social perspective.

Torch Scholars Program Northeastern University 360 Huntington Avenue Boston, Massachusetts 02115 617.373.7705

Torch Viewbook  

Find out more about the Torch Scholars Program at Northeastern University

Torch Viewbook  

Find out more about the Torch Scholars Program at Northeastern University