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Empowered by Torch program, student wants to inspire others as teacher

When Greykia Harris is asked to discuss the impact the Torch Scholars Program has had on her life and her Northeastern experience, she pauses for a few seconds. But her joy and passion are unmistakable in the words that follow.

“When I talk about Torch, I get emotional,” says Harris, SSH’17. “I feel like it’s really changed my life. I don’t think I could’ve ever come this far in my life without it.”

Northeastern’s Torch Scholars Program supports first-generation college students who exhibit potential in nontraditional ways, offering them full scholarships and a comprehensive array of resources to help them succeed. The resources range from mentoring and academic advising to a summer immersion program and social events aimed at fostering community and identity.

When I talk about Torch, I get emotional. I feel like it’s really changed my life. I don’t think I could’ve ever come this far in my life without it.
— Greykia Harris, SSH’17, Torch Scholar

Harris is an English major and a rising senior who is currently working on co-op in the University Registrar’s office. She grew up in Boston with her mother and four siblings, and her middle school and high school years were sometimes challenging. Financial troubles left her family homeless for a brief time. She attended three schools in her first two years of high school—including one in Rhode Island when her family relocated there, and where she recalls being bullied and feeling lonely. When her family returned to Boston when she was in 10th grade, she attended and later graduated from Dorchester Academy.

Northeastern, Harris says, has afforded her the opportunity to explore her passions and seize opportunities she never thought possible. Harris has studied abroad twice on Dialogue of Civilizations programs—one in Grenada, the other in Ireland—experiences that she says allowed her to immerse herself in new cultures and academic pursuits. She recalls being riveted as a freshman watching the NU Kinematix dance team in action, mustering up the courage to try out in her third year, and then making the team despite not having much dancing experience. She is also vice president and treasurer of Stepping on Another Level, a performing arts step team.

Torch Scholar Greykia Harris, SSH'17, is a member of the NU Kinematix dance team and is vice president and treasurer of Stepping on Another Level, a performing arts step team. Photo by Casey Bayer/Northeastern University

Torch Scholar Greykia Harris, SSH’17, is a member of the NU Kinematix dance team and is vice president and treasurer of Stepping on Another Level, a performing arts step team. Photo by Casey Bayer/Northeastern University

Her volunteering experiences span near and far, taking her from Boston, where she volunteered for the Boys and Girls Club at the Yawkey Club of Roxbury tutoring youth and keeping them engaged in activities, to New Orleans, where she helped restore homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

“I’ve grown so much and become more mature,” she says. “I can think on my own. I can work and network on my own. I can work do a lot more work independently than I could before. Even though I thought was independent before, I was a child. And now, Torch has allowed me to grow up.”

Harris aspires to be a teacher in the Boston Public Schools system or in another urban setting and eventually climb the ladder into administration. “I want to be the superintendent,” she says. During her own high school experience, she recalls watching as some of her friends gave up on themselves or put themselves in bad situations. Yet she strived to rise up from this at times difficult environment and succeed, inspired by the support of family members who lifted her spirits and reminded her of her talent and potential.

Torch has put me in a position where after college, I can handle whatever is coming to me on my own
— Greykia Harris, SSH’17, Torch Scholar

Harris says she wants to empower students in her own classroom one day, and she credits Torch for helping put that goal within reach. “Torch has put me in a position where after college, I can handle whatever is coming to me on my own,” she says.

The Torch program will celebrate its 10-year anniversary with a ceremony on Thursday night in East Village. The program has supported nearly 100 students over the past decade, and 12 more students will enter the program this fall as the Torch 11 class.

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