Steppingstone scholars making an impact on students' lives

Duckrey Steppingstone STEAM coordinator Jhanae Mahoney, far left, Steppingstone STEAM coordinator of Morton McMichael School Robin Eli, and director of Middle Grade Academy of Steppingstone Scholars Hannah Clements talks in the library at the Duckrey school.PHOTO: ABDUL SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER.

Students in the Steppingstone Scholars program at the Tanner G. Duckrey School are not only receiving intense lessons in math, but they’re also developing their interests through a variety of clubs and preparing for the high school selection process.

The program also follows the progress of students from the early grades to college. Duckrey is one of several schools in the District with a partnership with Steppingstone Scholars.

“Steppingstone Scholars is an education nonprofit based here in Philadelphia,” said director of the Middle Grades Academy at Steppingstone Scholars Hannah Clements. “Our goal is to work with students over the long term. We work with with students starting in the fourth grade and support them all the way to post secondary, which is college or a career.

“What I hope that students get from this program, is not only do they feel like they have a better sense of who they are and what they’re interested in, but also of their potential here. I want them to know that they are hardworking, talented students who have a lot of options open to them as long as they know that they have to work hard for them.

“We’re definitely in the business of building up growth mindsets and making kids feel like your value,” she added. “We want to help them realize that their stories matter and that they have a lot of people them who want to help them be successful.”

Established in 1999, Steppingstone Scholars has been providing academic enrichment programs and supports to not only their scholars, but also the families of the scholars and the schools they attend. Steppingstone’s programs focus on serving students ages 10-24, in order to help them be successful in middle and high school, and now through college.

There are four pathways to the Steppingstone Scholars program. Those pathways include The Steppingstone Academy, Middle Grades Academy, Upward Bound, and Pipeline Services.

“In the Middle Grades Academy, we support students in three different ways,” Clements said. “Students are invited to participate in a daily after school program that has a variety of clubs that help them develop their interests. We have homework help as well as the social emotional piece where we have closing circle where students talk about whatever is on their mind every day.

“The second part of our work is that we do daytime math classes that help push students math skills,” she added. “We not only want them to feel confident in math, but also get the scores that they need to have their choice of high schools. The third piece is a high school selection where we mentor the students and work with families to help navigate that process.”

Entering her first school year as the Steppingstone STEAM coordinator at Duckrey, Jhanae Mahoney has kept a busy schedule since being at the school.

“I’m working with sixth and seventh grade,” Mahoney said. “We’re teaching them math that they might not get to at the end of the year right now. I see them twice a week for 45 minutes. Those same scholars are the ones that we have been working with since the fourth grade.

“We also have an after-school program where we offer a variety of different clubs at Duckrey. We have that five days a week. Some of the clubs we have at Duckrey include chess, robotics,dance, art, music, and choir. The scholars have to sign up for the clubs and they provide them with enrichment based around their own interests.

“I’m also about to finish high school tours with our eighth-graders,” she added. “ We take the kids on high school tours around Philadelphia. We take them to the high school fair. We help them write their essays. We encourage them to apply to special admit schools. A lot of our work with them is making sure they’re prepared to apply for high school.”

Mahoney said that through the program, she’s hoping Duckrey scholars will not only know what their interests are, but that they will also be prepared for high school and beyond.

“Being in middle school can be a crazy time for scholars,” Mahoney said. “Not only are they preparing for high school, but they’re also figuring themselves out as a person and it can be a rough adjustment for some students.

“Steppingstone Scholars does a really good job of helping kids figure all of that out because it’s not something that most students learn during the school day. We help them figure out what their passions are. We help them come up with a plan and get them ready for high school.

“We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make sure that they’re just not ready for high school, but their lives beyond high school,” she added. “That’s the beauty of this program. We’re not just preparing students academically, but also for life.”

chill@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5716

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