Co-founders Michael P. Danziger and John Simon created The Steppingstone Foundation (now “Steppingstone”) to prepare students from historically marginalized communities to access, navigate, and graduate from college. Steppingstone began by launching The Scholars Program to recruit and prepare sixth-grade students with high potential but limited opportunities for admission to prestigious college-preparatory schools in the seventh grade. Steppingstone created The Magnet Program in 1997 to prepare students for admission into competitive public exam schools. In 1999, The Scholars Program in Philadelphia launched its inaugural class as a Steppingstone affiliate. Today, the organization operates independently.
The Scholars Program and The Magnet Program in Boston merged to form The Steppingstone Academy, which also expanded to serve fifth-graders seeking placement at independent schools in sixth grade. Excellent teachers, a challenging curriculum, and high standards are the signature features of Steppingstone’s work.
As part of a new strategic plan, Steppingstone sought to expand its impact beyond Boston. In 2006, Steppingstone convened a meeting of 25 programs to explore a partnership that would support college access and college readiness on a national scale. This conversation resulted in the creation of the National Partnership for Educational Access (NPEA) in 2007. NPEA is a membership organization that connects the people, practices, and innovations essential for eliminating barriers to educational access and college and career success for students from historically marginalized communities. Over the past 15+ years, NPEA has grown to serve more than 360 members in 37 states.
In 2007, Steppingstone formally partnered with a second affiliate called the Hartford Youth Scholars Foundation, and the first class of 31 Scholars began The Steppingstone Academy Hartford’s program of academic preparation the following summer. Today, Hartford Youth Scholars operates independently and prepares students for admission to independent day and boarding schools in ninth grade.
The need and opportunity to prepare more students in the Boston public schools for college enrollment and college graduation had become both apparent and pressing. Low college-admission and college-completion rates continued to disadvantage graduates of Boston public schools. In response, Steppingstone launched the College Success Academy in 2011 to help prepare middle-school students for college-preparatory work in high school, and college acceptance and completion afterward.
Beginning in 2017, Steppingstone formed a five-year partnership with Trinity Boston Connects' Organizational Equity Practice (OEP) with goals to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the organization. Resulting from this partnership, Steppingstone has implemented all-staff workshops, community building spaces, staff and board DEI committees, and more. The partnership remains foundational to our ongoing strategic planning around DEI today. Read more about our commitment to DEI.
Like so many organizations, Steppingstone pivoted to remote programming in the spring of 2020 in response to the pandemic. While much of our programming is back in person today, we continue to benefit from our team’s virtual innovations, which help us connect easily with Scholars at colleges across the country.While responding to the pandemic, Steppingstone also moved forward with implementing a new strategic plan designed to increase our impact in Boston and nationally, and to strengthen Scholar engagement across their 12+ year journey to a college degree. Steppingstone merged the strengths of its existing direct service programs into one unified model called the Steppingstone Scholars Program.
Steppingstone serves more than 1,400 Scholars, ranging from age 10 to 24. Scholars attend select independent and public schools in Boston, and study at colleges and universities across the United States.