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 400 current students and 70 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.