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PHOTOS: Sen. Franken Learns About the Fuel That Propels TORCH

The first-term United States senator visited Northfield High School, SPUR and Carleton College on Thursday afternoon.

Sen. Al Franken learned what fuels Northfield's TORCH program on Thursday.

In separate meetings with program administrators and students at Northfield High School, Franken was told the efforts of many are behind TORCH’s success story.

TORCH, or Tackling Obstacles and Raising Colleges Hopes, works to improve graduation rates and post-secondary participation of Northfield’s minority and low-income students and those who would be first-generation college attendees.

In recent years, TORCH has aided Northfield High School in raising its graduation rate for Latino students, which stood from 36 percent between 2001-2004, according to the TORCH website.

Nearly all of TORCH’s participants now graduate, school officials told Franken.

The first-term DFL senator asked how those results were achieved.

“One kid at a time,” was the response.

Students used phrases like “support group” and “second family” when describing the TORCH program to Franken. A number of them said they might have failed their courses or have dropped out of school if it weren’t for the program.

One student cried when talking about her experiences with TORCH. She said her grade point average dropped to 1.6 before entering TORCH. Now, her GPA has jumped to 3.0 and she is tutoring younger students in the courses she once found difficult.

“TORCH really gives you options to succeed,” the student said. “I would have failed without it.”

Franken spent Thursday afternoon and part of the evening in Northfield. In addition to his meetings at Northfield High, Franken visited a reception at the SPUR coworking site in downtown and was scheduled to attend a campaign rally at Carleton College.

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