Stepping Into Success

Inner-city students share a long-term commitment to attend college—and Main Line institutions are helping them to keep it.

This month, Some of Steppingstone's scholars.Steppingstone Scholars, Inc. had a truly triumphant moment when eight of its students graduated from college, making them the first class of scholars to complete the organization’s education cycle. You see, children enter its academic program in fourth grade, so the graduation was an endeavor many years in the making.

Steppingstone’s program has a rigorous, intense curriculum that requires focused, diligent students. Each year, counselors and principals at urban public schools nominate high-achieving, motivated students for the program. Thirty-six to 40 are chosen as Steppingstone Scholars and then attend an academic summer session for six weeks after completing fourth grade, learning study skills and participating in leadership training. Once in fifth grade, the scholars take classes on Saturdays. The 14-month program’s partners include Malvern Prep, Germantown Academy and Episcopal Academy. Through middle and high school, Steppingstone guides the students as they determine which colleges to attend.

“It’s a really simple formula for success: kids who are given a high expectation and who have someone in their lives supporting them and telling them they can do it go to college,” says president Nina Weisbord. “These kids work really hard and realize there’s a payoff.”

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And the numbers don’t lie. Last year, 100 percent of the program’s high school graduates went on to college, which blows the Philadelphia average of nearly 50 percent out of the water. Most of the scholars, many of whom are first-generation college students, come from underprivileged areas. So without Steppingstone, high levels of achievement would’ve been difficult.

The best part is that the students admitted into Steppingstone aren’t financially responsible for the program. Their tuition—and the nonprofit’s operating costs—are funded by private donors and the partner schools who are committed to seeing high-potential children succeed.

The organization’s biggest fundraising event of the year, the “Step Into Spring Gala,” was held April 30 at the Please Touch Museum, featuring a sit-down dinner, live and silent auctions, and music by one of Steppingstone’s bands. To view photos from the event, click here.

To learn more or make a donation, visit

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