Leaving No Stone Unturned in Pursuit of a College Education

East Boston fifth grader Leandra Terrero with Mayor Thomas Menino and her fellow classmate Ludner Exantus of Roxbury at the launch for the College Success Academy.

Leandra Terrero, an East Boston fifth grader and student at the Edison School in Brighton, will most likely attend college thanks to a new program based in Boston Public Schools to increase the number of students earning college degrees.

This week, The Steppingstone Foundation launched the College Success Academy–a program that begins with a six-week summer session hosted by Suffolk University. The summer session, however, is just the start of a long-term commitment Steppingstone is making to Terrero and other young scholars to help them on the path to college success.

The pilot group consisting of Terrero and 49 other students comes from two Brighton K-8 public schools — the Jackson/Mann and the Edison.  The College Success Academy is modeled on the successful academic preparation and support services components of the Foundation’s 20-year-old program, The Steppingstone Academy.

The Steppingstone Academy is currently serving more than 1,000 Boston students in grades five through 12 but has to turn away hundreds of eager applicants each year due to program constraints.  The College Success Academy was created in response to this demand and offers middle-grade students the opportunity to prepare for college success through a rigorous after-school and summer academic program, which then supports them at their traditional district high schools and all the way through college graduation.

“We have always wanted to expand our reach to help more children get on the path to college success,” said Steppingstone Founder Michael Danziger. “With The Steppingstone Academy at full capacity, this innovative partnership opens the door to a much wider group of Boston students. We are thrilled to be joining forces with Superintendent Johnson and the Boston Public Schools.”

The College Success Academy admits hardworking fourth graders who attend partner Boston public K-8 schools. The first summer session at Suffolk University begins the summer before fifth grade, and the academic program continues after-school and during the summer until ninth grade. After-school classes during the academic year reinforce and build on the work students like Terrero do in the classroom.

This extended programming provides College Success Academy Scholars like Terrero with the skills they need to enter high school ready to participate in a college-preparatory curriculum. Additional academic programming will be offered during ninth grade to support students as they make the often-challenging transition to a traditional Boston public high school. Services in high school, including academic support and college guidance, ensure that scholars have the skills and support they need to successfully navigate the college process.  The entire program is tuition-free and the only cost for participating families is a nominal fee applied towards the costs of t-shirts and school bus transportation.

“The College Success Academy brings the high level of rigor and support that are Steppingstone hallmarks to families who want to take full advantage of the K-8 experience and be ready for success in a traditional Boston public high school and college,” said Terrero’s principal at the Edison School, Mary Driscoll.

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