Scholar Voices: Commencement 2016

Commencement is always an exciting day for Scholars, families, and staff as they celebrate Scholars’ hard work and achievements. At The Steppingstone Academy’s August 13 commencement ceremony, three commencing Scholars shared their thoughts on what Steppingstone has meant to them.

Rosaylin, Summer Two Scholar and rising seventh-grader at Boston Latin School

RosaylinWelcome, families and Scholars, to this year’s commencement ceremony!

Can you believe that approximately a year ago, we all sat here watching the former Summer Twos commence? To be completely honest, I personally don’t believe it. You guys have made it through this sometimes hectic journey, proving how worthy each and every one of you is of being called a Steppingstone Scholar, and a future college graduate. In fact, who knows? Perhaps some of us will be walking down these halls as MIT students!

Entering the room [at my first Steppingstone family meeting] was a completely mind boggling experience, for all of us began noticing that you could quickly find many people like yourself, whether it be by the color of your skin, country of origin, or the language spoken by your parents or guardians. Yet despite these obvious and immediate similarities, differences also stood out making it very clear that despite our common goal of coming together to reach college, we weren’t quite sure how we could all relate. Such obstacles didn’t come in the way, though. Soon, previous Steppingstone Alumni and families who had been through the same journey began describing how, like us, they were also challenged to form bonds with people similar and different from themselves. Despite these challenges, and many more, dedication and the ultimate goal of college brought them together.

In this moment, we in the audience felt a sort of union, which was all about us coming together to fight for the same goal: college.

Standing here today, Scholars, I realize how much we’ve progressed, but also how much we still have left to complete. I have realized that despite learning to embrace our uniqueness and coexist together, we can sometimes forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. But remember, Scholars, no matter what you do, who you become, or where you go, Steppingstone will always be there for you, even when it seems like no one else will.

I want to leave you all with a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. which reads, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

Because Scholars, you are the authors of your futures, and you decide which path you take, embracing all that was learned throughout these 14 months, to reach the goal of college and beyond.

Julien, Summer Two Scholar and rising sixth-grader at The Rivers School

Today, I am going to be addressing the Summer One Scholars who just completed their first summer at The Steppingstone Academy.

I want to begin by saying that my experience as a Steppingstone Scholar is the most important thing that has ever happened to me.

JulienWhen I was in 4th grade applying to Steppingstone, I expected Steppingstone to be simple, and not as hard as they said it would be. Everything changed that first week. We were already flying ahead of what I learned [in school] and the homework piled on tremendously.

Whenever I was struggling, I always went to my Advisor, Ms. Hawkins. She was always there to support me when I needed help. From planning my time to helping me write down all the homework, she was always helping. My Summer One classmates were also there to help. We supported each other by giving advice and of course, catching each other up with the homework.

As we ventured into the academic year, my classmates and I were completely unprepared for the new set of challenges ahead, like the ISEE and the applications for independent schools. All of us had school work and Steppingstone work to complete at the same time. I barely got my homework done on time, and I was struggling. Most of my friends had the same issue as well. The difference was, they spoke up when it started to happen. I was afraid to ask for help because it was the one thing that I never wanted to admit to anyone. It soon got so bad that I knew I had to speak up.

I went straight for the three people I trusted the most: my parents and Ms. Hawkins.

Ms. Hawkins was the person I went to for help managing my time and any other homework related problems. My mom, being the neat freak of the house, helped me organize my bag and my binder. My dad was always the one who gave me pep talks and boosted my overall confidence. These people were the reason I could succeed as a Summer Two, along with my peers who always cheered me on. Getting the support we needed was essential in our Steppingstone journey, and it most definitely will be for you, too, Summer Ones.

As we progressed this summer, many Summer Twos frequently asked the question, “Haven’t we achieved our goal? Why do we still have to do this?” I now have an answer to share. The ultimate goal is for all of us to go to college. I know that we will transition into middle and high school, but all of that is just baby steps in getting to college.

Steppingstone will help and support you your whole life.

From middle school and high school, through Support Services, college, and even your careers after that! Steppingstone teaches you important lessons such as time management, organization, perseverance and relying on others. Remember that as you move forward, and you will go to college!

Deena, Summer Two Scholar and rising seventh-grader at Boston Latin School

DeenaWow! We finally finished the summer. Who would have thought each and every one of us would be here in these seats at Commencement? I can imagine the thoughts and the feelings going through everyone’s mind at this time. I am truly honored to be giving this speech today.

Our journey began when it was our first summer at Steppingstone. My family was very supportive of me starting the program. My mom had experience with Steppingstone because my other siblings were Scholars too, so I knew it was a good program that would help me in the long run. I thought to myself, “If I do this program, it will be easier for me to get to college,” because I knew about all the help and support I would get, and I had seen my siblings go through it and achieve the same goal.

During that first week [of summer], the teachers would play games with us to help us get to know each other better. We would go around the circle and talk about things that we enjoyed doing. The teachers helped us get more comfortable with each other. As for the TAs, they were also Scholars, and it was really helpful because they gave us advice for what to do if were stressed.

Believe it or not, I like homework now because it keeps me busy. Being at Steppingstone and doing all this homework will help us when we go on to our new schools. My sister went to Boston Latin School and she often has 2-3 hours of homework a night. At Steppingstone, we were taught how to manage our time. We learned that if you don’t, you won’t be able to spend time with your family and your loved ones, because as you reach higher grades, you start to get harder and harder work. Even when I was tired, with her positive attitude, my mom pushed me and motivated me to do my work, as I know many family members in the audience have done for their Scholars. Her positive attitude made me want to succeed.

After getting through the academic year, it was finally time, and our second summer came around. Everyone was so glad to see each other and reunite. We didn’t only form bonds with other Scholars, though, but also with the adults in the Steppingstone community.

The TAs and interns now feel like brothers and sisters to us, and they have always been there to talk to and give us advice. They are all such a great inspiration, and I look up to them, as I hope all of you do too. We should also recognize our teachers’ hard work and dedication. Without them, we would not know the material we need to know as we head to more challenging schools. Finally, the Advisors work so hard to make sure we are succeeding in our classes. We feel like a family now, and that all of our hard work has paid off.

The journey here at Steppingstone has not yet ended. It has just begun on our path to success, and most of all, on our way to college!


Photos taken by Sebastian Gomez