Roberto Del­valle com­pared his expe­ri­ence in Northeastern’s Torch Scholars Pro­gram to win­ning the lot­tery on Thursday after­noon at a lun­cheon for the third grad­u­ating class of young cre­ators, researchers, and globetrotters.

The 7-​​​​year-​​​​old ini­tia­tive sup­ports first-​​​​generation, low-​​​​income stu­dents who exhibit poten­tial in non­tra­di­tional ways. Based on data from the first two grad­u­ating classes, 100 per­cent of scholars are either in grad­uate school or employed in their fields.

This pro­gram has changed our lives,” Del­valle told approx­i­mately 50 mem­bers of the North­eastern com­mu­nity who filled the Raytheon Amphithe­ater. “It has been a once-​​in-​​a-​​lifetime opportunity.”

The venue was fes­tooned with large photos of the scholars and ban­ners inscribed with inspi­ra­tional mes­sages: empower, dis­cover, explore.

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

President Aoun speaking at a luncheon for third graduating class of Torch Scholars.

Pres­i­dent Aoun speaking at a lun­cheon for third grad­u­ating class of Torch Scholars.

Del­valle, for example, a com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies major from Boston’s Hyde Park neigh­bor­hood, com­pleted a co-​​op as a data ana­lyst for Safety Insur­ance; designed an anti-​​bullying cur­riculum for teens at the Martin Luther King Jr. School in Cam­bridge, Mass., and has lined up a full-​​time job as an allo­ca­tion ana­lyst for TJX Com­pa­nies. Unice Karmue, a biology major from Liberia, com­pleted a co-​​op with the Desmond Tutu HIV Foun­da­tion in South Africa; con­structed schools in the Dominican Republic through DRYVE, a student-​​run orga­ni­za­tion that aims to improve the lives of under­priv­i­leged youth world­wide; and plans to work for Tiy­a­tien Health Inc., a social jus­tice orga­ni­za­tion in his home country.

You make us under­stand the power of edu­ca­tion,” Aoun told the scholars, to whom he referred as “ambas­sadors.” “You are our future,” he added. “We are in your hands.”

Torch Scholar Sara Harris echoed Aoun’s sen­ti­ments, chal­lenging her fellow grad­u­ates to reach their full potential—a poten­tial that North­eastern admin­is­tra­tors noticed the moment they set foot on campus some five years ago.

We all faced dif­fi­cult chal­lenges and obsta­cles before we arrived at North­eastern,” said Harris, a polit­ical sci­ence major from Mor­ris­town, N.J., whom Del­valle play­fully char­ac­ter­ized as “the future pres­i­dent of the United States.” “Now look at us,” she said. “We’re grad­u­ating. We’ve made it.”

Michael Dow grad­u­ated from the D’Amore-McKim School of Busi­ness in 1991 and began men­toring Torch Scholars some four years ago. He offered the scholars a piece of life advice. “Take the oppor­tu­nity to do some­thing that chal­lenges you and might be a little scary,” Dow told them, noting his public speaking anx­iety. “Where would you be today if you didn’t raise your hand five years ago and ask for this opportunity?”

Nadia and Joe Bor­dieri can attest to the power of the pro­gram, from which they grad­u­ated last year. They met at North­eastern, mar­ried, and then enrolled in the Boston Col­lege Grad­uate School of Social Work.

Your iden­tity as a Torch Scholar will always be part of who you are,” Nadia said. “It’s a cul­ture, an atti­tude, and an out­look on life.” Joe fin­ished her thought. “Don’t lose sight of your goals and aspi­ra­tions,” he said. “Follow your heart and don’t let fear stop you from your pur­suit of happiness.”