My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for The Steppingstone Foundation, Boston, MA, USA
I have been lucky to be involved with The Steppingstone Foundation since its founding in 1990. Starting and running an organization was never something I ever considered. My only career goal was to be a schoolteacher, because my teachers, each in their own way, were the most important people in my childhood. Not only did they awaken an intellectual curiosity, but they created an environment that made me safe enough to take what seemed like huge risks for an adolescent. If I succeeded, they encouraged me to build on what I'd done (with their tireless help!). When I fell short, these noble men and women, mostly in their late twenties, but a few were in their middle years, bucked me up, found something good to encourage me about, and then challenged me to do better. I loved them all and revered the profession, I was acutely aware that because of the dozen years I spent with these wonderful teachers, literally anything was possible. Yale, Oxford, and Harvard were far less a reflection of my academic brilliance, rather they were opportunities that were a matter of course given the preparation and support I was so lucky to have.
Great independent and public exam schools (like Bronx Science in NYC, Boston Latin in Boston, or Lowell in San Francisco, were nearly impossible for underserved children to succeed at. The academic and social transition is proved to high a hurdle for even the most gifted students from more difficult circumstances.
I decided, after a few wonderful years of teaching, to create a caring, demanding, high content, summer and after school program that had as its sole mission to prepare schoolchildren, regardless of circumstance, to get into schools that lead to college; get into a four year college, and graduate. In the intervening quarter century, over 2,000 Steppingstone Scholars have completed the preparatory program. Nearly all have graduated from high school, gone on to four-year colleges, and 80% have graduated within six years, which is many multiples better than their counterparts who didn't avail themselves of The Steppingstone Foundation.
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
Though I founded the program, and breathed life into it, and for many years was the largest donor, I have come to realize that I am not the best person to lead a mature $5 million a year organization. I have had my share of challenges and am so grateful for my colleagues who have guided Steppingstone better than I even could. I had the good sense almost from the start to hire people who were far more talented than I, and i have made them feel like owners. So far so good!
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