“The word I’d use to describe Steppingstone is ‘commitment.’ They ask for commitment from families, and they give commitment right back,” says Steppingstone Alumna Emely Orellana.
Emely embodies that sense of commitment – both to Steppingstone and to the community from which she hails. Her academic and professional careers have taken her to Braintree, New York City, and even Spain; however, she’s found herself back in her native East Boston, where she’s determined to make a positive difference.
In addition to her full-time job as a health educator at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, Emely volunteers as a Steppingstone Outreach Assistant, a role which involves meeting with Spanish-speaking applicants to answer questions and help families understand how Steppingstone can unlock students’ potential. “Most kids from East Boston don’t go on to four-year colleges,” says Emely. “Steppingstone gives kids every option in the world. And seeing all the successful Alumni shows kids: ‘People who look like me, who are from the inner city, who aren’t stereotypical middle-class Americans, can be successful – and I can, too!’”
Emely herself is living proof for young Scholars that if they’re willing to work hard, Steppingstone will give them the resources and support they need to find success. As a young student, Emely completed 14 months of rigorous academic preparation with Steppingstone, before gaining admission to Thayer Academy and then Fordham University. She says Steppingstone was there every step of the way: “It’s not just those 14 months. Those months prepare you for the next academic level, but the part I liked best was how much support I got afterwards.”
“Without Steppingstone, I think my world would have been smaller.”
Emely relied on Steppingstone Advisors to help her navigate the tricky world of college applications and financial aid. “When I went to visit Fordham,” she remembers, “Steppingstone helped me set up the visit, buy the bus ticket, and get on the right bus. And that’s not necessarily something my high school college counselor would have done, because they assumed my family would be able to drive me and stay at a hotel nearby and go on the tour with me. Steppingstone knows that your parents might not know how to do that or even where to begin.” Because Emely’s Steppingstone Advisors knew her parents spoke limited English, they worked closely with the family to show them how they could help her fill out financial aid forms and select a college – services she emphasizes when explaining Steppingstone’s programs to Spanish-speaking families. Emely says, “At Steppingstone, they don’t just do things for you, they take the time to teach you,” and says that the lessons she learned will benefit her throughout her life:
“Steppingstone stays with you forever.”