Chapter 2: Why I’m running the Boston Marathon.

“So what are you running for again? What does Steppingstone do?”

In the past few weeks, I have really been put to the test, and it has not been for my running performance, but rather my elevator speech. I’ll confess, my wordiness has made it difficult to fit all of this in a one minute pitch:

  • my passion for the program,
  • the statistics of under-served children in Boston,
  • the impact of Steppingstone,
  • and specific examples of Scholars and Alumni.

It’s a lot. And it all sounds life changing in my head until it comes out in word vomit fashion. I get too excited.  

As I worked on my tactic, I realized that I’d forgotten the process I went through in 4th grade to become a Scholar.

I also lacked knowledge of the internal workings of Steppingstone. It really had never crossed my mind to think of how Steppingstone worked. All I knew is that it did.

So when I walked into the office during admission season a few weeks ago, I immediately saw what my pitch has been missing: a description of the commitment, time, effort, and talent of the staff. The whole picture. As with every system that’s successful, you often don’t get the chance to see the magic that happens behind the scenes.

I’ll be your eyes for this portion.

It’s winter in Boston. 15 degrees outside. Dark at 4pm. Gloomy. But when you walk off the elevator and into Steppingstone, Boston’s chill melts away and you’re surrounded by the bustling energy of a team on a mission. All around the office, staff members from every department work together on one of Steppingstone’s most important tasks: admitting the next class of Scholars. Regardless of job description or department, staff commit their time to reviewing hundreds of applications from potential Scholars. About 500 students from all throughout Boston applied to Steppingstone this year.

Staff pour over every detail and nuance in each application–the student’s essay, family questionnaire, grades, test scores, teacher recommendation, and need for a free program. And that’s all just in phase one of the process. Next, staff will spend spend weeks interviewing Scholars and families. And then entire days in admission committee, where they discuss every single finalist. 

As I talked to my best friend Megumi, who works at Steppingstone, she described how this is what she loves about her job. The ability to be part of these decisions and have a voice in providing a life-changing opportunity for a child and a family.

This is what Steppingstone is all about, becoming family with strangers who invest their time in you and are willing to advocate for your future even before they get to meet you.

As a Steppingstone Alumna herself, Megumi and I reminisced about what our applications must have looked liked. This was the very first time I had the chance to look back on what I’d written in 4th grade. As with all applications (and similar to a parent saving their child’s first art project), Steppingstone still had mine. And I wanted to share a few pages with you.



Evidently I was not a genius child, nor was this application a masterpiece. But it is a representation of hope. The hope that Scholars and families have, regardless of circumstance, and their determination to never give up, no matter how hard their current situation. And the hope that strangers had for me when they chose my application and advocated for my potential (regardless of my inability to rhyme!).

So why, you ask, am I running for Steppingstone?

I am running for the family of strangers who believed in me and continue to do so. I am running so that we can continue to widen our family and include the rest of the children in Boston who are currently in need of one.


Support Diana’s journey here and check back next week for Chapter 3 of her story to the 2018 Boston Marathon!

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