Steppingstone Foundation’s College for Success Academy is an academic out of school time program for Boston Public School students in grades 5-8.

Key Takeaways

  • Advisors work with specific students to keep them engaged and form personal relationships.

  • Students are engaged in the various elective options offered by the program.

  • The program offers assistance with high school admissions for 8th graders.

  • Classes are interactive and hands on.

  • Staff are trained in strategies to promote engagement prior to the start of the program.

Q: What are two or three best practices for staff members seeking to promote student engagement during the program day?


A: On a program level, our routine throughout the day helps promote engagement. We have community time in our homeroom in the morning where the whole community, or just the homeroom class, gets together to do different activities. In general, we want our classes to be really hands on. We also do field trips every week.


In addition, a huge part of the program is the culture that is created during the summer time. We set incredibly high expectations through our admissions process. In order to be selected, students have to demonstrate a desire to be here, and a willingness to do additional work on top of what they do at school. Making that expectation really clear and being able to communicate the benefits of it to students and their families has been key for us. Tied to that is this goal around building a college-going culture and getting our full time staff, or our seasonal faculty and interns, to all buy into that. We will do things such as have a “college t-shirt day” every week where staff will wear college t-shirts in an effort to promote going to college. Also, each week is themed around specific goals that students should be trying to achieve that week. These are goals that can be accomplishing in and out of the classroom.


On more of a personal level, we are very intentional about the program design elements; one of which is our advising model. Every student is assigned an advisor upon entering the program. That advisor works closely with that student and the family through direct one-on-one contact and support that guides their academic, as well as their social-emotional, growth. Those staff members know their assigned students very well and are often working closely with faculty talking about and helping to shape specific interventions that will help that student. Building those relationships is important from a staff perspective.

Q: Did your program conduct pre-summer trainings? If so, how was student engagement addressed?


A: Last summer we had a two-and-a-half day long faculty orientation. This is an orientation for all full-time staff, faculty members, college interns, and high school teaching assistants. During this training, we give information on every aspect of the program, including: safety, curriculum training, and how to deal with certain behavioral problems.


Our curriculum is designed to be engaging. When we go through the curriculum with the teachers, we will point out where the class could be more hands-on and engaging. Yes, what we are doing is academic, but it is also the summer, so we want to make sure that kids are having a good time. Our interns and college students have a lot of specific training because they are such an important part of the culture of the program. The interns will do things like put on skits during community time and other fun activities to help engage students in the overall culture of Steppingstone. Those skits and activities are meant to reinforce the expectations of Steppingstone in an engaging way.

Q: What program design measures allowed staff members to effectively promote student engagement?


A: One of the key pieces of choice within the program design right now is our electives program, which runs on Fridays. We have continued to strengthen the quality of the electives that we offer. For example, we just created a leadership council elective for older students in the program. One of the things that we are very intentional about is thinking about how we can help to promote those healthy forms of engagement. Sometimes that looks like giving teachers specific tools, or two or three goals for each student in class. This can sometimes takes the form of an academic or behavior contract, which ties into the overall engagement component.


In addition, the students in the program are getting closer and closer to high school admission. So, one of the key pieces that we have is a meeting in the summer time for our rising 8th graders and their families to learn about all of the options for high schools within Boston area. The opportunity to start talking and thinking about high school is an important aspect of the program.


Steppingstone Foundation’s College for 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 program’s college and support services team.