Steppingstone Foundation’s College Success Academy is an academic out of school time program for Boston Public School students grades 5, 6, and 7.

Key Takeaways

  • Classes are designed to teach students specific skills.

  • Hands-on classes are the most successful, especially those related to science.

  • Students have youth choice through their free period each week.

  • By incorporating various off-campus field trips and on-campus activities, the program remains engaging and challenging for students.

Q: How were activities structured at your site – was there an ongoing project all summer? Curricular units?


A: Our overall structure looks like a school day more or less. Students take math, English, and science classes. For each of those, they go through one or two units for that subject.


We did not have one big project that students were doing all summer long, but each of the courses has one or more projects that students do. Classes are all designed to teach certain skills, and these are skills that we want students to know by the end of the summer.

Q: Of the activities offered this past summer, which do you feel were most successful? Consider youth engagement, critical thinking, collaboration, etc.


A: The rising 5th graders are reading a book called “Tales from the Odyssey,” which is a child-version of The Odyssey. As part of that, they designed their own mythical creatures, which they loved a lot. The rising 7th grade teacher allows them to choose what they do with their final end of summer project, and they decided to adapt the book they read into a play and perform it. This is included writing the script, designing the set, etc, and performing it.


But, of our academic classes, our science classes tend to be the most engaging across the board. Often we hear kids say, “wow I never get to do stuff like this at school.” For them it’s something new and exciting and that promotes engagement because they want to get their hands dirty and explore more in science, which they don’t get to do every day in school.

Q: Did your site offer youth-choice for activities? If so, how was that facilitated?


A: One aspect of our English classes is that students spend time doing independent reading on most days. So we have a pretty big library that we have built, and students can choose the books that they want to read. We work with teachers to make sure they are oriented with the library and bring students there, and at least a few teachers who are knowledgeable about what books are popular with middle-schoolers can help them find books that they are going to enjoy.


The program is also divided into sections of 12-15 students. Each section gets a free period once a week during which, students can pick what they want to do and it can be very fun and engaging. They can play games, draw, read, or go outside. Amidst a very structured day, this offers choice for students.

Q: How did your site ensure that activities were challenging, and stimulated thinking for youth participants?


A: One of things we have been very purposeful about this year was our on-campus activities in combination with off-campus field trips. As kids progress through their time at TSF, they gain new experiences. Some of the on-campus activities have been afternoon music concerts from Berklee College of Music. We have had martial arts exhibitions where kids participate in the workshop. We’ve also had scientists from MIT demonstrate science experiments.


In terms of off-campus field trips, we have had students go to and spend a weekend at Thompson Island. At each grade level we try to add diversity to the types of field trips that they have. It is one of the key components to our summer program.


Steppingstone Foundation’s College Success Academy is an academic out of school time program for Boston Public School students in grades 5-8. The program recruits from the neighborhoods of Allston, Brighton, and East Boston. The program’s goal is to ensure that students are performing at or above grade level by the end of 8th grade. And as a part of our program design, after the academic preparation component is complete, students are then supported in high school and through college graduation by the programs college and support services team.