TORCH awarded College Ready Grant from Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation

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The start of the new school year brought news of an exciting wave of additional resources for Northfield students.  The Tackling Obstacles and Raising College Hopes (TORCH) initiative was among the 10 recipients of the $1.3 million in College Ready grants awarded by Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation. A $55,660 grant will fund rigorous extracurricular instruction in math and English to help 56 Northfield high school juniors and seniors ultimately pass college-level courses.  The 56 students will be members of the TORCH cohort, which serves youth who are low-income, students of color, and/or potential first-generation college attendees.

There is an undeniable link between academic preparation and college completion. When students are underprepared for the rigors of college education, they need remedial courses to help bridge the gap. But these are essentially high school-level classes at college prices, and too many students become discouraged and leave college without graduating. In fact, of the 60 percent of community college students nationwide who are required take remedial classes, only one in four ever completes their degree or certificate.

To change that, TORCH’s College Ready Initiative will provide individual academic mentoring, individual tutoring, ACT preparation, college credit-earning opportunities, a structured college readiness center, and summer academic opportunities to 56 youth in the TORCH cohort who are on the cusp of college preparedness.  The project will help improve academic performance by tracking – and increasing – grade point averages (GPAs), ACT scores, and college enrollment rates among the student cohort.

“With the College Ready grant, TORCH can not only support our students in graduating from high school but also position them for continued success beyond high school by providing the supports and resources that our TORCH students need to take the next steps toward the completion of a postsecondary program.  We want to sincerely thank the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation for their commitment to Northfield’s youth,” said Chris Richardson, superintendent of Northfield Public Schools.

“Moving students toward greater opportunity in life benefits us all,” said Richard D. George, Great Lakes’ president and chief executive officer. “We fund programs that understand the root cause of what holds students back, and take bold steps to overcome these obstacles. We look forward to seeing the impact TORCH can have on helping more students graduate and achieve their full potential.”

TORCH was established in 2005.  By providing individualized services to youth and fostering connections between the public schools, local colleges, nonprofit organizations, and other community partners, TORCH has been credited with helping to dramatically improve the graduation rate for Latino students in Northfield.  At the time of TORCH’s inception, the graduation rate for Latino youth in Northfield hovered at approximately 36%, a rate that has climbed to 90% today.  In the process, TORCH has been heralded as a state and national model.

With support from Great Lakes, TORCH will provide targeted, intensive services to help ensure that juniors and seniors in the cohort who are interested in postsecondary attendance are in the best position to be successful once enrolled.  The Community Action Center of Northfield is serving as the fiscal agent for the TORCH College Ready Initiative.

Great Lakes College Ready grants, totaling $1.3 million, were awarded to colleges and community-based organizations across Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. More than 985 students from low-income households, students of color, and students who are first in their families to attend college will get extra academic support during the 2014-2015 academic year. This grant is just one way Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates works to achieve its goal of helping more students benefit from their investment in higher education, and graduate ready to reach their full potential.