Torch Scholars take flight

Northeastern University honored the fifth graduating class of Torch Scholars on Thursday afternoon at the Raytheon Amphitheater, celebrating the countless achievements of this inspiring group of young creators, researchers, and globetrotters.

The program, which began nine years ago, supports talented, first-generation college students who exhibit potential in nontraditional ways.

“Northeastern took a chance on all of us and we will be forever grateful,” said Torch Scholar and Master of Ceremonies Abdul Hafiz, SSH’15. “The university provided us a solid foundation that has allowed us to build a solid future.”

Speaking before an audience of students, faculty, and staff, as well as program donors and alumni, he added, “We are here because of the time, resources, and support you’ve provided us over the years.”

Setti Warren—the mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, and the son of the late Joseph Warren, the founder of Northeastern’s Youth Devel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive Project—delivered the keynote address. He issued a three-pronged charge to the soon-to-be graduates, urging them to volunteer, run for public office, and work to make the world a better place.

“Have a voice in the issues of our time, those that will not only determine your future but the future of generations that come after you,” he told the scholars. “We see now more than ever the power of a single person or a collection of people to affect large-scale change.”

Warren added: “You’ve gone through so much to get to this moment, and I have confidence that you will carry with you the great promise of making the world around you better.”

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

Hafiz, for example, a political science and international affairs combined major from Staten Island, New York, served as the under­grad­uate director for the Kappa Alpha Psi fra­ter­nity; completed Dialogue of Civilizations programs in Belo Hor­i­zonte, Brazil, and Geneva, Switzer­land; and plans to study corporate law at one of the nation’s top law schools. Nohemi Moctezuma, a political science and international affairs combined major from Santa Ana, California, volunteered at Boston’s Boys and Girls Club; studied abroad in Cuba, Japan, and the Dominican Republic; and has lined up a full-time job as a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton.

“You’ve surprised us on a daily basis in ways we don’t even realize,” Aoun told the scholars. “I want you to continue to impact this university, be present, and give back,” he added. “Because of you, this university will continue to thrive. Take ownership. We are in your hands.”

Moctezuma, for her part, recalled her first plane ride, a cross-country trip from Los Angeles to Boston to interview for the Torch Scholars Program. She was frightened, she said, afraid that college might not be in her future, terrified that she lacked the courage to succeed in an unfamiliar environment. But her fears proved unfounded.

“That first flight to interview for the Torch program changed my life and redefined my meaning of bravery,” Moctezuma explained. “Five years and countless flights later, I stand before you as a college graduate.”

She added: “Torch gave me the opportunity to go places I never dreamed of going. Now, it has prepared me for my greatest takeoff of all, one with a diploma in my hand.”