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Torch Scholars reflect on life-changing experiences

Roberto Delvalle compared his experience in Northeastern’s Torch Scholars Program to winning the lottery on Thursday afternoon at a luncheon for the third graduating class of young creators, researchers, and globetrotters.

The 7-​​year-​​old ini­tia­tive sup­ports first-​​generation, low-​​income stu­dents who exhibit poten­tial in non­tra­di­tional ways. Based on data from the first two grad­u­ating classes, 100 per­cent of scholars are either in graduate school or employed in their fields.

“This program has changed our lives,” Delvalle told approximately 50 members of the Northeastern community who filled the Raytheon Amphitheater. “It has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The venue was festooned with large photos of the scholars and banners inscribed with inspirational messages: empower, discover, explore.

In his remarks, North­eastern Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun com­mended the Torch Scholars for their out­standing achieve­ment both on campus and abroad.

President Aoun speaking at a luncheon for third graduating class of Torch Scholars.

President Aoun speaking at a luncheon for third graduating class of Torch Scholars.

Delvalle, for example, a communication studies major from Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood, completed a co-op as a data analyst for Safety Insurance; designed an anti-bullying curriculum for teens at the Martin Luther King Jr. School in Cambridge, Mass., and has lined up a full-time job as an allocation analyst for TJX Companies. Unice Karmue, a biology major from Liberia, completed a co-op with the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in South Africa; constructed schools in the Dominican Republic through DRYVE, a student-run organization that aims to improve the lives of underprivileged youth worldwide; and plans to work for Tiyatien Health Inc., a social justice organization in his home country.

“You make us understand the power of education,” Aoun told the scholars, to whom he referred as “ambassadors.” “You are our future,” he added. “We are in your hands.”

Torch Scholar Sara Harris echoed Aoun’s sentiments, challenging her fellow graduates to reach their full potential—a potential that Northeastern administrators noticed the moment they set foot on campus some five years ago.

“We all faced difficult challenges and obstacles before we arrived at Northeastern,” said Harris, a political science major from Morristown, N.J., whom Delvalle playfully characterized as “the future president of the United States.” “Now look at us,” she said. “We’re graduating. We’ve made it.”

Michael Dow graduated from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business in 1991 and began mentoring Torch Scholars some four years ago. He offered the scholars a piece of life advice. “Take the opportunity to do something that challenges you and might be a little scary,” Dow told them, noting his public speaking anxiety. “Where would you be today if you didn’t raise your hand five years ago and ask for this opportunity?”

Nadia and Joe Bordieri can attest to the power of the program, from which they graduated last year. They met at Northeastern, married, and then enrolled in the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work.

“Your identity as a Torch Scholar will always be part of who you are,” Nadia said. “It’s a culture, an attitude, and an outlook on life.” Joe finished her thought. “Don’t lose sight of your goals and aspirations,” he said. “Follow your heart and don’t let fear stop you from your pursuit of happiness.”