TORCH: The Academy of Politics; Baton Rouge’s Bi-Partisan Candidate Accelerator

Sponsored by Baton Rouge Alliance for Students Action

The Baton Rouge Alliance for Students Action’s unique boot camp, TORCH, provides unparalleled training for aspiring candidates and campaign staff dedicated to fostering change in the community. The organization, whose work focuses on transforming education in our city, develops and trains civic leaders looking to take their leadership to the next level. Of the 35 graduates of the program, two Republicans and two Democrats have run for elected positions, and two of those are currently serving in public office. Applications are open now for the next cohort.

“Whether you aspire to run for local office, work on impactful campaigns or champion quality public policy, this program is your stepping stone,’” says Baton Rouge Alliance for Students Action’s CEO Adonica Pelichet Duggan. “In the most recent local election cycle, we supported candidates in winning a super-majority of seats on the East Baton Rouge School Board, replacing several long-entrenched incumbents. We continue to recognize the value of cultivating a strong set of student-centered, and highly motivated civic leaders.”

The Alliance was formed in 2021, with the vision of empowering families, elevating community voices, and engaging both current and future leaders. Duggan says the politics of education are challenging, but that a desire to do what’s best for children is a shared value across our community. “Our key theory of action is to develop and support a pipeline of strong leaders who understand what it means to be student-centered, who value parents’ choices in their children’s education, and who are courageous enough to take on the challenge of elected leadership.”

Although the organization is focused on transforming education in our city, it does not limit its development and training programs to those seeking education-related offices. Through TORCH and other programs, the Alliance home grows the capital region’s next set of elected leaders at all levels and types of government, from metro council and school board to state legislature and beyond.

“The program is free of cost and nonpartisan,” says Donnie Miller, the Alliance’s Chief Program Officer, “We need people from every corner of Baton Rouge working on behalf of the children – the future – of our city.” TORCH is just the start of the Alliance’s work, which includes not only leadership development, candidate training, and campaign support, but also board stewardship. “We don’t just give people the tools they need to get elected. We also give them the support they need to be effective at the business of governing,” Miller says.

Baton Rouge’s education system is set up for progress, and with the right leadership and policies that give every child access to a high-quality school that fits their needs, elected leaders can ensure a better economic future for Baton Rouge. The state is making great strides in issues like literacy and school finance transparency, and it’s critical that local leaders pick up the mantle to do their part. Applications for TORCH are due March 21, 2024 and can be found at the Alliance Action’s website.