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Steppingstone Academy helps prepare students for the real world

10/12/2011, 1:48 a.m.
Maxime Nguyen, a resident of Dorchester and a sophomore at...

Maxime Nguyen, a resident of Dorchester and a sophomore at Boston Latin Academy, is a solid student and active member of her high school community.  She is an athlete on the tennis team, a volunteer at the Vietnamese American Community of Massachusetts and she is thinking about getting a part-time job.  Maxime’s ability to participate in various activities while studying at a highly competitive high school stem from her rigorous academic preparation and strong study skills gained as a Scholar at The Steppingstone Academy.  Maxime’s interests include math and science, but she knows it is important to take all subjects seriously and to learn as much as possible.  

“I was prepared for the academic challenges at Boston Latin Academy because of my Steppingstone experience — it made the transition to high school much easier for me.  It taught me how to be organized, get my homework done and to be responsible with my time,” she said.

A seventh grade teacher at John W. McCormack School told her about The Steppingstone Academy, which is a free after school and summer program that prepares academically motivated students for success at Boston’s competitive independent and public exam schools, and eventually college. Getting into a top public exam school was a priority for Maxime. She began the academic component with six weeks of classes the summer before eighth grade, attended classes after school on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during the school year, followed by a second session before starting Boston Latin Academy in the ninth grade.

“I learned much more than just the academics — I know that asking for help is OK, and the faculty and staff are there to talk with you about problems and any concerns, too,” she said.   Her experience with the program also helped her develop confidence in her ability to work effectively with others.  “I used to be extremely shy, but Steppingstone helped bring me out of my shell.  I’m a much better communicator than I used to be,” she added.  Last year, Maxime volunteered to share her Steppingstone experience at a meeting for new Steppingstone families, where she practiced her public speaking skills.

Statistics support Steppingstone’s success.  Of the Scholars who complete the academic component, 99 percent graduate from high school, 91 percent enroll in a four-year college and more than 80 percent graduate from a four-year college within six years.  Maxine now has a support services advisor, who checks in periodically and offers continual support to prepare for college.  Almost every Saturday, Maxime participates in SMASH (Saturday Mentoring and Study Hall), where she goes for tutoring and homework time.  It also gives her the opportunity to see many friends from her Steppingstone Academy class. While Maxime isn’t sure yet what she will study in college, (maybe math or science), she knows Steppingstone will be there to help along the way.