The Northfield High School TORCH program is a collaboration among members of the school district, and community members, to address the issues of the achievement gap between Latino students and white students in the Northfield School District. Because of our success, our programs are now available to all traditionally under-served students. We offer tutoring and mentoring programs, as well as ACT preparation. We also facilitate college visits and experience. Among our many programs, we offer a PSEO program that allows students to obtain college credit for free. 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 minority students, low-income students, and youth who would be first-generation college attendees.
- Since TORCH’s inception, the graduation rate for Latino students in Northfield has increased to nearly 90%
- Because of TORCH’s success, the program has grown from 17 students in 2005 to over 300 students in grades 6-12 in the 2013-2014 school year.
- Half of TORCH alumni are currently enrolled in college. In addition, recent graduates are involved in the International Rotary Exchange Program and AmeriCorps.
- In year-end evaluations completed in May 2014:
- 94.9% of TORCH students reported that being in the program helped them do better in school.
- 99.3% of TORCH students reported that they have a good chance of graduating.
- 96.4% of TORCH students reported that they will go to college.
Since TORCH began in 2005, the graduation rate for Northfield’s Latino students has climbed from 36% to over 90%. This is a staggering transformation that has resulted from incredible collaboration by the TORCH partners and staff. TORCH has grown to include a much greater variety of students including students from all backgrounds, low-income students, and any potential first generation college student. One Northfield Public Schools administrator recently called TORCH the “single most effective intervention I have seen in my 20-plus years of education.”
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.