Class of 2011

The Torch Scholars Inaugural Class

Nadia Alvarez


Nadia grew up in San Diego, California where she attended Cathedral Catholic high school. Nadia not only found her voice and home-away-from-home in Torch and Northeastern, but she found her calling in social work. Inspired by her Service-Learning Course at NU first as a student then as a teaching assistant, where she worked at the Yawkey Boys and Girls Club as a volunteer and later as a co-op, Nadia has come full circle connecting her major with her passion for social service. As a guidance counselor assistant and a part-time co-op at University Health and Counseling, Nadia gained valuable research opportunities as an undergraduate student. Over the last five years, Nadia has built strong relationships with individuals across NU’s campus, which has helped her grow personally and professionally. Through NU’s Dialogues of Civilizations, she studied Social Conflict in Israel and Northern Ireland and completed an internship in Northern Ireland working with an Integrated School to inspire peace in younger generations. Nadia plans to study social work on a macro level, influencing change within organizations and in the community. Nadia was named one of the top 100 most influential seniors at Northeastern in 2011. She has been accepted to the Boston College School of Social Work Program where she would be pursuing a master’s degree. Following graduation, Nadia married her best friend and fellow Torch Scholar, Joseph Bordieri. Nadia currently attends Boston College, where she is pursuing a Master’s degree in social work.



Growing up in Somerville, MA, Melanie graduated from North Cambridge Catholic High School. Her parents, who are from the Cape Verde Islands, worked several jobs to provide her with a Catholic education and instilled in her the value of education from a very young age. Melanie’s personal drive fueled her academic pursuit at a high level throughout high school and college.  As her high school’s Valedictorian, she took her incredible work ethic, drive, and ambition with her to Torch and NU. She is the Torch Scholars Program's first graduate, earning her degree in Behavioral Neuroscience in three and a half years and graduating in January 2010. During her senior year, she conducted an independent research study at Children’s Hospital Boston, studying the effect of stress in child brain development. Currently living in San Francisco, CA, Melanie is employed as a Neurophysiologist for a leading neuron-marketing company in Berkeley, CA, where she has organized and led small teams of neurophysiologists on international remote studies in Asia, Europe, and Africa. Melanie is currently in the process of planning for graduate school, and she hopes to purse a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology in the future.

Bessa Beja


Besa moved to the United States from Albania in middle school to seek better opportunities in the United States after political conflicts in her home country. Growing up in a tough Boston neighborhood, Besa attended the John D. O’Bryant School and found an outlet through Summer Search, a national program that takes inner city, low-income youth out of their comfort zones to encourage personal growth. As a Summer Search student, Besa participated in Outward Bound’s environmental and wilderness learning experiences in Maine and North Carolina. Like many Torch scholars, Besa attributes her work ethic and resiliency to consistent involvement in clubs and after-school jobs during high school. She went from speaking little English eleven years ago to earning Dean's List Honors at NU in a rigorous and nationally-ranked Business program. Besa has taken advantage of extensive travel opportunities to Tokyo, Japan and Rome, Italy, where she studied political science and international business. Besa was honored for her academic achievement by the Marketing Department, a member of the Student Conduct Board for two years, and a Social change through peace games tutor. She earns a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. Besa will be the first to say how Torch has changed her life and the life of her family. Without Torch, she would not have had opportunity, and that she says, is a gift she can never pay back. Besa is currently employed at LifeScan, a Johnson and Johnson company located in Milpitas, California. According to Besa, “I did not fully understand all the skills and experiences I had gained through Torch until I started working for LifeScan. For me, Torch provided opportunities to develop the fundamental skills needed to be confident as we aspire to hold leadership positions in companies or our communities. Specifically being part of the process of enhancing the program; speaking and networking with donors; being encouraged to hold leadership position on campus while giving back to the community, provided learning and takeaways that go beyond a classroom.”  

Joseph Bordieri


Joe grew up Foxborough, MA where he graduated from Foxborough High School and learned from a young age to find leadership in sports. As a student athlete wrestler and football player, Joe discovered he had deep-rooted core values in service and empathy for others. Similar to other Torch scholars, Joe is committed to giving back all he can as a student and young adult through service and engagement. Despite struggles, Joe embodies persistence and firmly believes in the power of mentorship for life change. As a Torch Scholar at NU, Joe was recognized as a Student Leader by AmeriCorps for earning 900 hours of service in just one year in 2009. He was a wrestling coach in Boston public schools and as a mentor in Big Brother, he inspires youth to dream as big as he has done. He has earned a 4.0 in his Human Services major at NU and completed a special concentration in Youth Advocacy. Joe traveled to Israel and Northern Ireland to study social conflict and resolution, a skill that he hopes to use in his social work in the community. Among his three co-ops, Joe is most influenced by his work as Direct Care Counselor at The Home for Little Wanderers; in this role, he learned to use his skills to help foster social-emotional development in at-risk youth. With a BS in Human Services from NU, Joe was recently accepted to Boston College and plans to use his masters in social work to influence the lives of young children within the education system. Following graduation, Joe married his best friend and fellow Torch Scholar, Nadia Alvarez. Joe is currently pursuing a Masters degree in social work from Boston College.

Ana Hidalgo


Originally from New York City, Ana moved with her family to Lawrence, MA where she attended Central Catholic High School. She is unafraid to tell her story of struggle because she realizes that her story is a shared story of compassion and hope. Like the majority of Torch Scholars, Ana worked close to 35 hours a week in high school while balancing leadership roles in high school and at the Lawrence, MA Boys and Girls Club. When you meet Ana, you are touched by her vivacious spirit; her warmth; her smile. She thinks of others first and herself second or third. At NU she took a leadership role as the President of MAPS (Minority Association for Pre-Health Students) as well as Secretary of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. In the community, Ana served as a mentor to inner-city youth through Boston’s Hyde Square Task Force as well as a Youth Leader in her Mattapan church. As a psychology major, Ana worked in pre-elementary education during co-op at NU. Ana graduated college early in May 2010 with a BS in Psychology. One year after graduation, Ana is a new wife and mom practicing real estate; she plans to obtain a dual masters in Counseling Psychology and Pastoral Ministries from Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology prior to earning her Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy.



Ulysses is from both Barbados and Brooklyn, NY, traveling between two cultures throughout his childhood. Graduating from A. Philip Randolph Campus High School, a New York City Public High School, Ulysses learned the value of higher education at an early age. He credits Legal Outreach, a college prep program for inner-city youth with guiding him towards his future as a successful college student.  As a high school student, Ulysses traveled with Legal Outreach and accomplished legal teams to participate in constitutional debates. Through NU’s Dialogues of Civilization Program he studied Ghanaian culture in Ghana, which inspired him towards a career in international development and economic equality. As a Torch Scholar at NU, Ulysses had the opportunity to develop capacity building projects with NGO's, co-developing a women’s health initiative in a rural Indian village during a study abroad experience. A Political Science major with a concentration in International Comparative Politics, Ulysses graduated NU early in May 2010. After graduation, Ulysses returned to NU to complete a field study to the Dominican Republic and Belize, where he studied the social impact of microfinance. He credits this opportunity with preparing him to apply for an MBA. Like many Torch Scholars, he credits Torch as a life changing opportunity. He has seen more of the world and learned more of himself than he had expected. Torch allowed him to “pick up and go” and be a student of the world. Currently, Ulysses is an elementary school teacher with CityYear in New York City.



Jordan grew up in rural Lubec, Maine and attended a high school with a graduating senior class of ten. Refusing to be a product of educational deficit in his community, Jordan knew he had to get out of his environment to grow. He enrolled in Upward Bound through Bowdoin College to engage in educational opportunity and scholarship access in high school. Jordan was raised by his grandparents who encouraged him to dream bigger. With the help of his grandparents and mentors, Jordan discovered his talent and passion for the music industry. Northeastern and Torch shaped his talent, and today he is an employee of Our Stage, Inc. in Chelmsford, MA after working with the company throughout three co-ops and three years of part-time work during classes. Jordan is a prime example of a Torch success story in that he pushed himself to leave his comfort zone for new opportunity and persisted in college even when he struggled. Proud of his individuality, Jordan appreciates the cultural diversity of his peers in Torch, acknowledging that his own perspective grew tremendously after five years with his Torch family. As a music blogger, photographer, and music engineer, Jordan is a Renaissance man of many talents. Currently, Jordan is a music writer and producer for OurStage Music Productions in Chelsea, MA.

Qin Rui Pang

Qin Rui

QinRui emigrated from China in 2002. She attended Charlestown High School where she took a leadership role in JROTC while balancing an after-school job and helping her family with their restaurant. QinRui credits JROTC with giving her direction and discipline towards attending college and graduating from Boston Public Schools. Intent on being a Civil Engineer, QinRui exhibited work ethic at Camp, Dresser and McKee in Cambridge and Nitsch Engineering in Boston while on co-ops. She was also an ambassador and Honors Society Member with NU’s International Student and Scholar Institute as well as a tutor for incoming Torch scholars and mentor for freshmen Engineering students. She saved up money from her co-op jobs to return to China each year to see her family and to remember where she came from before her journey to America. She is currently employed as a civil engineer in the Engineering Department at the Town of Acton, MA. According to QinRui, “I am learning and adjusting to the ‘grownup’ life and loving it so far. Torch taught me about networking and how to be professional in the working environment. That has been especially important for me.”

Odalis Polanco


Originally from the Dominican Republic, Odalis immigrated to the United States in 2001. A graduate of English High School in the Boston Public School system, Odalis taught himself English in record time by staying after school, joining dozens of community programs, and finding peers who put school first. He admits that even though he struggled, he firmly believes in the American dream and that hard work is worthwhile. He is a well-known mentor with organizations Bottom Line and Hyde Square Task Force, promoting college readiness for inner-city youth. As a founder and Executive/Alumni Board member of QUEST Adventures, Odalis works tirelessly to fundraise and award grants to enable Boston Public teachers and students to travel abroad. His leadership experience with QUEST Adventures showed Odalis the power of service learning in young lives and inspired his action to create life-changing opportunities for youth. While at Northeastern, Odalis partnered with other Torch Scholars to create a soon-to-be nonprofit group called DRYVE (Distributing Resources through Youth Volunteer Efforts). As a natural leader, Odalis rose to the occasion when others told him it couldn't be done. He raised money and rebuilt schools in the Dominican Republic; he brought clothing and supplies to kids in need in villages long forgotten; he taught kids English and sent a message of hope. Odalis, like all Torch students, exemplifies the power of change. Odalis was one of the first Torch Scholars to study abroad, spending one year Puebla, Mexico between co-op and a semester at Udlap Universad. With a degree in International Business and a concentration in Accounting, Odalis plans to work in the finance field and continue expanding DRYVE. His ultimate goal is to translate his business skills into social entrepreneurship, creating sustainability in underdeveloped communities. Odalis was recognized by Northeastern as one of the University’s most 100 influential seniors in the graduating class of 2011. Currently, Odalis is employed at MathWorks in Natick, MA, and his long-term goal is to start a self-sustainable community in the Dominican Republic.



Growing up in the troubled neighborhood of Dorchester in Boston, Mike was touched by the negative aspects of his community at a young age. Mike attended METCO, a voluntary desegregation busing program, where he traveled over two hours to school in the suburbs each day to attend and graduate from a Melrose High School in Melrose, MA. Through the METCO program, Mike says he learned to accept difference and found some of his closest friends through a renewed sense of cultural awareness. As a college student in Torch at NU, Mike learned how to balance being a full-time college student, as well as surrogate parent, and run a start-up business. Mike's greatest achievement in college was founding his hip-hop clothing company, Annie Mulz, with his roommate out of his college dorm room. Since its founding three years ago, Annie Mulz has gained national exposure, and Mike has won a $10,000 grant through the IDEA Competition. Last year, Mike opened his first pop-up, brick and mortar store on Newbury Street in Boston. He also works for Society Clothing Company as a designer. With a BFA in Graphic Design, Mike is interested in the intersection of social messages through clothing. Mike graduated in January 2011 and will walk in May 2011. Currently, Mike is CEO and artist for his company, AnnieMulz, located in Boston, MA, (