The Northfield TORCH program is a collaboration among members of the school district and community partners to address the issues of the achievement gap. Originally TORCH served Latino students, but because of our success, our programs are now available to all traditionally under-served students, including first-generation college students and low-income youth.
We offer tutoring and academic advising, as well as ACT preparation, leadership opportunities and career exploration. We also facilitate college visits and experiences. Among our many programs, we offer a PSEO program that allows students to obtain college credit for free while still in high school.
As our program evolves, we partner with community members to meet the changing needs of our students.
The mission of TORCH is to improve the graduation and post-secondary participation rates of Northfield’s students of color, low-income students, and youth who would be first-generation college attendees.
IDA (Individual Development Account)
Through our youth IDA program, students can earn extra money for college. The State of Minnesota will match money saved towards college at a 3:1 rate. Over the course of two years, students can save up to $960, and the government will match it with $2,880. Altogether, students can save up to $3,840 for college over two years. Learn more and apply!
PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Opportunities)
Through our PSEO program, students can take free classes for college credit while still in high school. TORCH partners with Riverland Community College and Carleton College to make PSEO opportunities available to TORCH juniors and seniors. Students meet once a week with a Carleton student who serves as a resource and mentor. By studying with the PSEO team, students are exposed to college-level coursework while earning college credit, all at no charge to the students or the parents. Last year, TORCH PSEO students earned more than 325 college credits! Learn more and apply!
Financial Aid Support
TORCH provides FAFSA and MN State Financial Aid support and workshops to seniors and graduates each year. Each year TORCH helps over 100 students and families apply for financial aid. Additionally, each spring TORCH helps seniors find and apply for local, state and national scholarships.
TORCH provides comprehensive, free preparation programming for students who plan to take the ACT, Accuplacer or ASVAB tests. The ACT an admissions test used at most 4-year colleges, the Accuplacer is a placement test used at most 2-year colleges, and the ASVAB is a comprehensive skill assessment used for all 5 branches of the military.
- Sign up for the ACT
- To sign up for the Accuplacer or Asvab, please contact the Torch coordinators.
Each year, TORCH serves over 100 recent graduates. For students currently enrolled in a post-secondary program, TORCH meets with students and families to complete financial aid applications, enroll in courses, and ensure that students do not drop out. For students not currently enrolled in a post-secondary program, TORCH supports students to obtain livable-wage employment, or to return to school.
Associates Degree from Riverland Community College
In collaboration with Riverland Community College, TORCH launched a satellite community college campus in Northfield. TORCH has also created a pathway by which college students can earn their 2-year degree from Riverland without leaving Northfield.
TORCH is funded entirely by partner contributions, grants and donations. TORCH is extremely grateful for all its financial supporters:
- State of Minnesota through an Educational Partnerships Coalition award to Northfield Promise
- Minnesota Office of Higher Education – Intervention for College Attendance Program
- Youth Intervention Program through Minnesota Office of Justice Programs (YIP)
- Northfield Area United Way
- Women In Northfield Giving Support (WINGS)
- Northfield Public Schools
- Northfield Shares
- Northfield Healthy Community Initiative
- Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED Pathways to Prosperity Program)
- St. John’s Lutheran Church of Northfield
- Minnesota Alliance with Youth – AmeriCorps Promise Fellows Program
TORCH is a collaborative initiative that relies on extensive in-kind support from its partners:
- Northfield Public Schools are great partners in the TORCH initiative. District teachers serve as resources to TORCH staff and participate in the TORCH planning and evaluation processes. The school district also provides TORCH office space in both the middle and high schools, as well as assist with technology and professional development support. The Northfield Public Schools also fund one of the TORCH Coordinator positions.
- The Northfield Healthy Community Initiative assists with the TORCH evaluation, data tracking, and grant reporting efforts. HCI also aids TORCH with its career exploration and college readiness programming.
- Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges continue to provide more than 50 college students to tutor and mentor TORCH participants during study halls, EL classes, and after school. These students also assist with ACT preparation for high school students.
- The Northfield Middle School Youth Center continues to provide an after school tutoring location for TORCH participants where students can receive homework help or other academic assistance from volunteer tutors and school staff.
Northfield has a graduation rate of more than 91%, with over 85% of high school graduates enrolling in post-secondary institutions. Unfortunately, in the past, Northfield’s Latino children have not experienced this same success. From 2001-2004, only 15 Latino students graduated from Northfield Public Schools, while 27 dropped out – a graduation rate of 36%. During that time, fewer than five of the Latino graduates pursued post-secondary options after high school graduation.
TORCH began as a collaborative initiative to address this gap — and the results have been incredible. After a successful first two years, TORCH expanded to also serve Northfield’s growing low-income population and students who would be first-generation college students; partners recognized that these young people could benefit from the additional academic and post-secondary support and noted that the number of local children on free- and reduced-price school lunches has grown by nearly 70% in the past five years. Moreover, nearly twice as many Northfield low-income students test below grade level on standardized tests as their more affluent classmates.
The biggest “problem” for the TORCH program has been the increased demand for the TORCH services by eligible youth. This is a direct result of the program’s success in helping students graduate from high school and progress to college. Although TORCH only expected to serve about 100 youth at the time when it first started, the program now serves over 450 current students and 100 alumni! As a result of the commendable work of the TORCH staff and partners, these additional youth have been able to receive services from the program.