Carleton maintains a mutually beneficial relationship with the larger Northfield community through service programs and academic civic engagement.
Every year, in celebration of National TRiO day, Carleton TRiO’s peer leaders organize a fundraiser for a program in Northfield that serves a community need, often one whose mission aligns with that of TRiO. In past years, the fundraiser has been for the Northfield Food Shelf or the Northfield Community Center.
TRiO at Carleton helps its low income, first generation college students, and disabled participants overcome challenges they may face on their way to graduation and professional success. The program also functions to increase awareness of socioeconomic issues and challenges at Carleton.
This year’s choice, Northfield TORCH (Tackling Obstacles and Raising College Hopes), has much the same mission. In collaboration with St. Olaf’s TRiO program, Carleton’s TRiO leaders organized a dodge ball fundraiser for Northfield TORCH.
TORCH works to increase graduation and post-secondary education participation among Northfield’s disadvantaged students. The money donated by the TRiO Dodgeball Fundraiser will go toward Northfield TORCH’s scholarship fund for all minorities, low-income, and first generation college bound students at Northfield High School. This past year, Northfield TORCH was able to grant eight scholarships of $1,000 each.
Separately from TRiO, Carleton’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement sends student tutors to help with TORCH afterschool programs.
Shaun Stewart ’15, a current TRiO peer leader, described the goals that TRiO and TORCH have in common.
“Both programs support students from disadvantaged backgrounds; they both try to ensure that these students get into college and make it through college, maybe even pursue further studies,” he said. “Money and upbringing are probably two of the main components that dictate the achievement gap.”
The directors of TRiO, Mitchell Madson and Alena Rivera, concur. They have observed that many disadvantaged students do not come in with the academic readiness for the rigor of Carleton academics, along with being under varying financial and personal challenges, even if they were star students across the board at their high schools.
Stewart describes the socioeconomic diversity at Carleton as “nonexistent”, and according to a 2008 Campus Climate Survey, over half of Carleton students estimate their yearly family income to be at least $100,000. In the 2011 Cooperative Institutional Research Program survey of first year students, about 45% of the survey participants reported having no concerns about paying for college.
Madson and Rivera work on community building for TRiO students, and both work as academic counselors and provide supplemental advising to TRiO participants. Some Carleton faculty and staff volunteer their time to help TRiO students.
“TRiO is like a family,” said Stewart. “It’s the support that we get from our advisors that makes the difference, in my opinion.”
An event sponsored every term by TRiO that is open to the entire campus is called Class Act, a discussion facilitated by TRiO peer leaders about socioeconomic issues and how they might impact TRiO-eligible students at Carleton. The next discussion, on how losing socioeconomic diversity will affect students and Carleton culture, titled “Class Act: Disappearing Middle Class?”, will be held on May 10th from 4:30-6:00pm in the Cassat Game Room.