TORCH aims to improve the high school graduation and postsecondary participation of youth who are low-income, Latino, and/or potential first-generation college attendees. TORCH started when community members came together out of concern over the graduation rate for Latino youth in Northfield – only 27% of Latino youth were graduating from high school. In a community with an overall high school graduation rate of over 85%, more than 2 out of 3 Latino youth were dropping out of school. Working one-on-one with youth, TORCH provides academic counseling, tutoring, after school homework help sessions, college visits, internships and ACT preparation. TORCH sponsors a postsecondary education option program, where students earn college credit while still in high school. TORCH also: connects students with summer academic programming on college campuses; aids students with identifying and applying to college; and assists on the completion of financial aid and scholarship applications. Finally, TORCH conducts home visits with participating families and makes regular contact with the parents of participants.
The mission of TORCH is to improve the graduation and post-secondary participation rates of Northfield’s minority, low-income students, and youth who would be first-generation college attendees. Latino youth make up the vast majority of Northfield’s minority students (over 90%). The goal of TORCH is to increase the number of Northfield minority students and low-income youth graduating from high school, enrolling in post-secondary institutions, and earning post-secondary degrees.
The program began with 17 students in 2005. Since TORCH began, the four-year high school graduation rate for Latino youth in Northfield has grown from 27% in 2005 to 83% in 2015.
Results from 2014-15 (most recently completed year) speak to TORCH’s impact:
· TORCH served 572 youth. This included 132 middle school and 263 high school youth, and 177 graduates. Two-thirds of TORCH youth are Latino and 53% come from homes where English is not the primary language spoken.
· 98% of TORCH’s seniors graduated (including 100% of TORCH’s Latino seniors).
· 81% of the seniors applied to college (including 96% of TORCH’s Latino seniors).
· 100% of the TORCH seniors who applied to college were accepted at 1 or more schools.
· Graduating seniors were awarded more than $634,000 in scholarships last year.
· TORCH has maintained a graduation rate over 95% for participants since inception.