DSC04136copy copy

The College Success Initiative (CSI) was launched in 2009 as a response to the alarming national statistics about college success for low-income students. According to a 2008 report by the Pell Institute, low-income, first-generation college students are nearly four times more likely to leave college after their first year. Within six years of entering college, only 11% earned a degree compared with 55% of their more advantaged peers. CSI goes beyond the initial college admission process to ensure Steps to Success students receive the support they need to earn a degree and pursue successful careers.

Today, the CSI team works with 85 Steps to Success college students at institutions all across the country. In addition to career and life-skills programming, the program offers one-on-one personal, academic, and financial advising sessions for all of the students we serve.

Beginning in the fall semester, CSI advisors visit all CSI students within a 120-mile radius on campus at least 3 times per semester. Students outside the radius have Skype meetings with their advisor. Campus visits offer personal, academic, and financial aid support. Advisors build strong relationships with the students, becoming accessible mentors and resources for college success and completion.
CSI also works to build community among Steps to Success alumni with the recently piloted Campus Clubs program at UMass Dartmouth, UMass Boston, and Salem State University.

Further Reading

Who Gets to Graduate? (2014)

What it Means to be Your Family’s First College Student (2015)

Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students (2014)


CSI Team

Senior CSI Advisor











Tony Wells is the Senior Advisor of College Advising and Access. Tony earned his Bachelors of Science in Sociology and M.Ed. in Community Counseling from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. Most recently, Tony served as the Freshman Services and Academic Coach at Mount Ida College within The Learning Circle Program. Tony has worked with middle school through post-secondary students for more than 15 years. He has had extensive experience working with first generation and/or low-income students within the TRIO, Educational Talent Search and Upward Bound programs.


CSI Advisor











Emy Takinami is the College Success Initiative Advisor at Steps to Success.  She graduated from the University of Vermont with a dual degree in Psychology and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and is interested in the structural implications of income, race, and gender inequalities on individual lives.  She is a Brookline High School alumni, as well as a Steps to Success and CSI alumni, so she uniquely understands the challenges associated with getting into – and navigating – college.  She hopes to get the next generation of Brookline High School students from all backgrounds to understand and get excited about the college process.



2016-2017 Americorps Member











Dayana Donisca is an NDA AmeriCorps Service Member at Steps to Success. She is serving at the High School and CSI as an advisor and at the Lincoln Elementary/Middle School Teen Advantage Program as an assistant.

Dayana earned a Bachelor in Arts degree from Queens University of Charlotte in 2015. Dayana’s areas of study included Political Science, Sociology, as well as Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. Dayana was born and raised in the greater Boston area and is glad to return home after so long. This is Dayana’s second year in AmeriCorps, previously serving in Baltimore, MD, and after this year of service Dayana hopes to attend law school in the Boston region. Dayana aspires to become a well-renowned political figure and hopes to influence our nation’s education system.