When he reflects on his personal and professional growth in Northeastern University’s Torch Scholar Program, two words always come to Shaun Hamilton’s mind: opportunity and transformation.
Hamilton, DMSB’14, shared his story with his friends, family, and peers at a luncheon in the Raytheon Amphitheater on Thursday afternoon—a day before Northeastern’s 112th commencement exercises. The festive event was held in celebration of the fourth graduating class of the program, which supports first-generation, low-income students from diverse backgrounds who exhibit potential in nontraditional ways. This year’s class of 11 boasts a 100 percent graduation rate.
“Over the past five years, my peers and I have become so much more than students of this institution,” Hamilton said. “That’s what is so remarkable about Northeastern and Torch. Our students have become so involved, and so engaged, and so empowered that it transcends a traditional college education.”
Launched eight years ago, the Torch Scholars Program supports individuals who have overcome exceptional odds and who demonstrate the potential to excel academically. The program is dedicated to closing the achievement gap for first-generation students.
Three students in this year’s graduating class—Hamilton, Tyrene Soler, DMSB’14, and Yvette Almonte, SSH’14—were part of this year’s Huntington 100, which honors extraordinary seniors and underclassmen who excel in various areas across the university.
“The Torch sponsors look at this program as an investment, and they impacted you without knowing you,” Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun said in his remarks. “Now go and impact the rest of the world.”
Almonte expressed her gratitude for the opportunity Northeastern gave the Torch Scholars to “kick down walls.
“My race, social-economic status, and immigrant family are all alleged reasons why I should not be standing here today,” Almonte told the audience. “Yet five years ago, Northeastern took a chance on an aspiring young Latina professional from Washington Heights, New York.”
As an international affairs major, Almonte worked and studied in Armenia, Kenya, South Africa, and the Dominican Republic. While in Armenia, she developed a humanitarian calling and integrated herself into her transnational community. Later, she applied her newfound skills and mindset to her first co-op with a micro-financing institution in the Dominican Republic.
“I plan on always being involved with the program to help future torchies break down walls and achieve great heights,” said Almonte, who will begin her professional career as a risk management analyst for Willis, a global insurance brokerage company. “Torch will always be my family.”
The luncheon’s guest speaker, John Carlos, won a bronze medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Summer Olympics. During the medal ceremony, he and gold medalist Tommie Smith each raised black-gloved fists in salute of human rights.
In his remarks, Carlos encouraged the scholars to become leaders and never let anyone get in the way of their goals.
“All these young individuals that are graduating, they are seeds that will develop all over the world and eventually there will be a forest of them,” he said. “And when you reflect back to this day and the work that you have done, you will have nothing but pride.”