Tackling Obstacles Raising College Hopes (TORCH) has two directors supported by a small staff, including AmeriCorps Promise Fellows at Northfield Middle School and Northfield High School. TORCH staff works closely with Healthy Community Initiative and Northfield Public Schools administrative team members.
TORCH Director, Northfield High School
Tessa grew up in Owatonna and attended Hamline University, where she graduated with a B.A. in Spanish and Social Justice. Tessa moved to New Orleans after college and worked with adults learning English as a Second Language. As a first-generation college student from a low-income family, she was excited to join the TORCH team in 2017 when she moved back to Minnesota.
Tessa loves working at the intersection of education and nonprofits, and the laser focus that TORCH maintains on working collaboratively with youth and families to create positive change in Rice County.
TORCH Director, Northfield Middle School
Coral (she/her) was born and raised in Dana Point, California, and moved to Northfield in 2016 to continue her education at St. Olaf College. She graduated in 2020 with a B.A. in Social Work and Race and Ethnic Studies. Coral decided to stay in Northfield to support the TORCH program as an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow. At the end of her service year, the director position opened up, and she was excited to have the opportunity to continue serving students in a different role.
TORCH’s mission is deeply personal to Coral because she comes from a background that’s similar to the students. She feels a strong camaraderie with every student who walks through the classroom doors. This partnership with the youth gives her work meaning and purpose. She is excited to continue developing strong relationships with students and to include them in decisions that improve their program experience.
Carolyn Ward (she/her/hers) grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and moved to Northfield in 2015 for college. She graduated from Carleton College in June 2019 with a B.A. in Religion. The spring of her senior year, Carolyn’s friend Alana introduced her to the Promise Fellow role at Northfield Middle School in the TORCH program. Carolyn served as a TORCH Promise Fellow at NMS from 2019-2021 and transitioned into HCI’s Project Manager role in March 2022.
As HCI’s Project Manager, Carolyn supports high school students in the TORCH program who are taking PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Option) classes through Riverland Community College. She enjoys conversing and exploring ideas with students and is thrilled that many people she knew as middle schoolers are now high schoolers. Carolyn is excited to continue getting to know our students and supporting them in successes, setbacks, and the everyday in-between.
Karissa Caddy (she/her) grew up in Faribault and didn’t go too far to attend St. Olaf College. She graduated in May 2020 with a B.A. in Psychology. After Karissa took a few classes in the education department, a professor recommended the AmeriCorps Promise Fellow role at Northfield High School. Knowing she wanted to work with students, Karissa joined the TORCH team as a Promise Fellow for two years (2020-2022) where she supported students in various ways. After loving this role, she stepped into a new role as the TORCH Program Coordinator.
Karissa values her connections with every student in the TORCH program. She believes that every student who walks in should feel supported and heard. She enjoys chatting with students, whether it’s to help them with homework, figure out a scholarship, or discuss current events. She is thrilled to continue working with the students and the TORCH program.