Torch Scholars share transformative journeys

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.

Published

By: Joe O'Connell

May 2, 2014

Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun joins the 2014 Torch Scholar Program graduates on stage at Thursday's luncheon celebration. Photo by Brooks Canaday

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.”