It’s not every day that people have the chance to sit down with leaders of some of the most prestigious schools in the Boston area.
But that’s just what happened on October 6, when area school leaders gathered at the home of longtime Steppingstone supporters Isabelle and Ian Loring for Steppingstone’s first-ever “Leaders in Education Reception.”
Beyond being a lively, thoughtful dialogue, the event was a larger reflection of Steppingstone’s ongoing commitment to creating relationships within the greater Boston community. Since the start, partnerships have been essential to Steppingstone’s success, and we would not be able to serve 1,600 Scholars each year without the relationships we have with schools and community partners. The 11 students in the Steppingstone’s inaugural class attended five different independent schools in the Boston area. Now, 25 years later, we have expanded our network to include 45 partner institutions, and we look forward to creating many new partnerships in coming years.
Steppingstone is also proud to work with external organizations in order to provide as many youth as possible with opportunities that lead to college and life success. A few ways we’ve leveraged our partnerships for the benefit of Scholars:
- An 18-year-old Guatemalan Scholar who was raised by a single mother was applying to college, but his immigration status made him ineligible for federal aid and jeopardized his ability to live safely in this country. Attorneys from Ropes & Gray LLP helped him apply for and receive Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which gave him status as a lawful permanent resident and allowed him to obtain a green card. He now attends Lehigh University. This was made possible through Steppingstone’s partnership with the firm, which has been working with Scholars since 2011. Ropes & Gray provides pro bono legal services to college-bound Scholars whose immigration status may preclude them from receiving federal financial aid. Since the partnership began, attorneys have dedicated more than 3,600 hours to working with Scholars and their families.
- Scholars often cite paying for college as one of their primary concerns. Since 2013, Steppingstone has participated in the Urban Scholars Initiative at Lesley University. Lesley provides admitted Scholars with a four-year, 50% tuition scholarship and assists them in securing grants from other sources. In addition, the program provides each student with a mentor who helps them navigate the complexities of college and ensures that they receive academic and support services. Scholars who participate in the program also have the opportunity for meaningful internship experiences in their fields of interest, many of which lead to academic year and summer employment.
- Board member Tricia Claudy has been instrumental in Steppingstone’s adoption of the innovative Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) curriculum. Through VTS, Scholars strengthen vital critical thinking and observation skills by discussing works of art. This past fall, sixth-grade Scholars traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts, where they used the skills they acquired to analyze artwork from the museum’s collection.
- College Success Academy’s after-school program benefits greatly from the efforts of volunteer tutors, who assist Scholars with homework and ensure that they have a strong foundation in essential academic subjects. In order to strengthen our volunteer program, we’ve developed several close partnerships with colleges and high schools in the Boston area. Each year, approximately 20 tutors come to us through the Boston College Neighborhood Center and Boston College First Year Service Program. In addition, we receive tutors from the Brookline High School Program in Social Justice Leadership and the Boston University Community Service Center’s Afterschool Program.
This is just a sampling of the many community partners who are crucial to Steppingstone’s continued success.
As we pursue new partnerships and opportunities with other organizations, we also continue to develop the relationships we have with area schools. This academic year, we were excited to add two new schools to our list of partners:
- Steppingstone Academy Scholars are attending Nashoba Brooks School for the first time. Darline Desforge and Danyelle Veillard, both Class of 2015, are currently in the sixth grade at Nashoba.
- The College Success Academy admitted its first class of East Boston Scholars at the Donald McKay K-8 School, marking the beginning of CSA’s expansion outside of the Allston-Brighton area.
In addition to creating partnerships of our own, Steppingstone is committed to helping other nonprofits build relationships through our membership association, the National Partnership for Educational Access (NPEA). NPEA provides resources for nonprofits and institutions committed to improving opportunities for underserved students throughout the country. Founded in 2007, NPEA was born out of the idea that organizations like Steppingstone would better achieve their missions if they could network and share ideas with groups working to advance similar goals. Members are able to share best practices and data, participate in professional development opportunities, and attend NPEA’s national conference. Many cite networking and sharing best practices with peers as the primary reasons they join NPEA, which has more than 300 members in 34 states and a learning community of more than 1,200 education professionals.
Crucial to Steppingstone’s and NPEA’s mission is the understanding that collaborating with others allows both parties to be greater than they are on their own. We have been fortunate to have so many community partners committed to improving educational access for Boston’s youth, and as we prepare for the future, we look forward to strengthening our existing relationships and forging new ones.