STUDENT STORIES

Beginning in the 4th grade and continuing through college, Steps staff passionately advocate for and collaborate with our students to ensure that their educational journeys lead to success. We are so proud of our students and everything they have accomplished; it's a pleasure watching them learn, grow, and ultimately thrive. Keep reading below to meet some wonderful Brookline students!

 

Jeff Pierre

Jeff Pierre moved to Brookline in the 4th grade, and since then has been both a Steps student and a director of our after-school Teen Advantage program.

Jeff explains that Steps helped him find ways to pay for college and beyond, which is why he feels the need to regularly visit the program and show his appreciation. “It really is a family organization, where you can be gone for however long, but once you return, you’re invited back as family.”

A recent graduate of the Master of Social Work program at Simmons University, Jeff credits Steps with helping him through the application process. Describing himself as a very shy and timid kid, Jeff appreciates the aid and support that Steps provided on his educational and professional journey.

When asked about the impact that Steps to Success has had on him, Jeff instantly smiled. “I really appreciated Steps being the voice for me and advocating for me especially when I did not know how to do it on my own. I appreciate the Steps advisors coming into the classroom and being advocates for my education.”

When asked what advice he would give current and future Steps students, Jeff had plenty to offer. “Things are going to be challenging, that’s going to be expected, but you’ll have support there. You have your elementary, high school and college advisors to be there and to assist you and your family. You’re going to be supported.”

Jeff will be featured in our 2020 Annual Report, which will provide a more in-depth look at his uplifting Steps story!

Kerimal Suriel Guerrero

Kerimal Suriel Guerrero, a 2020 graduate of Howard University with a degree in Political Science, has been a Steps student since her family moved to Brookline when she was in the 5th grade.

When talking about her experience with Steps, Kerimal was pleased to offer some honest thoughts. "When you're younger and in the program, you take some of the opportunities for granted because you don't realize how everything is a building block to get you to where you’re supposed to go. Now I look back at it and realize everything was intentional and had a purpose, whether it was the camps or after-school programs. Steps is a give-and-take program; at a certain point if students are not being responsive to the assistance, then they may not get the same results that Steps always intends to deliver.”

Kerimal recognizes that being involved in Steps taught her to never judge a book by its cover and to help everyone out because you never really know what is going on in anyone’s life. She also stresses the importance of Steps’ mission, saying that “outsiders labeled the students in the Steps program as the poor kids or the kids that would always act out in class.” She goes on to explain the importance of acknowledging the struggles that many students of color face on a daily basis.

Taking her passion of wanting to become a judge further, Kerimal will be attending Suffolk Law School in the fall. Kerimal not only credits her sister, also a law school student, with helping her through the law school application process, but also acknowledges that the Steps advisors provided her sister with the tools to learn the process.

Kerimal’s advice for current and future Steps students exemplifies what we strive for when building relationships with all of our students. “Try to give as much as you are given. Complete the surveys and be as helpful to Steps as they are to you.”

Brittany Buckley Shelton

Brittany Buckley Shelton currently majors in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice at UMass Boston, with hopes to attend graduate school after she earns her undergraduate degree. She speaks highly of her internship experience with Project Endgames, which allowed her to research and learn more about how alcohol contributes to the high rate sexual assault at college parties.

An active Steps student since age 9, Brittany has participated in the many programs that the organization offers, such as After Hours University, Teen Advantage, INK, and FAFSA Nights. She also fondly remembers attending college visits, which gave her insight into the college experience.

She enjoys reading, jogging, and being in nature. Brittany mentions that reading books on minorities in the criminal justice system and the injustices they experience has led to her interest in becoming a forensic psychologist.

When asked about the impact Steps has had on her, Brittany’s answer spoke directly to her appreciation of Steps. “Steps staff are very approachable, they’re honest. If they do not know the answer, they will direct you to the resource. Steps has helped me with my resumé and cover letters; they have even written letters of recommendation for me.”

Brittany’s advice for current and future Steps students is spot-on. “Use your resources. Steps will help you find scholarships or if you’re in a financial crisis. Even if you do not think they can help you, go to them, because chances are they can actually help you.”

Brittany is an amazing person, and we feel very fortunate to have helped her along the way to achieving success and realizing her dreams.

Daniella Santiago

Daniella Santiago, a 2019 UMass Boston graduate with a degree in Criminal Justice, an unapologetic Capricorn, and an advocate for bringing awareness to violence and abuse aimed towards women, finds any way to channel her life experience to help other people. She hopes to become a victim advocate for a local district attorney.

Daniella has been involved with Steps to Success since the 6th grade and participated in programs such as the Minority Achievement Gap Conference, the College Success Initiative (CSI), and has spoken at various fundraising events.

She credits her high school advisor with helping her on her journey to a college degree. When asked about the impact that Steps has had on that journey, Daniella was very candid. “I was unhappy at the first school I enrolled in, but Tony helped me transfer to UMass Boston; he was my biggest cheerleader and always will be.”

As the head of security at a live music venue, Daniella enjoys attending concerts, spending time with her coworkers, and dabbling in make-up here and there.

When asked about her advice for current and future Steps students, Daniella offered some important insight. “Don’t be afraid to talk to your advisors and mentors. These advisors are there for you in all aspects of your life. [Executive Director Shoma Haque and CSI Program Director Tony Wells] have been there for me any time I’ve needed them. Changing schools was not that bad. Take that summer course, graduate early; if it takes you longer to graduate, cool. Don’t focus on what everyone else is doing. Focus on your own goals.”

We’re honored to call Daniella a friend, and are always pleased to share her story.

Shantalle Ruiz

Shantalle Ruiz entered the Steps to Success program in the 4th grade. She remembers taking advantage of every opportunity that Steps offered, such as After Hours University and the College Success Initiative. Returning as an alumna, Shantalle served as a study abroad panelist during the first annual CSI Day in January 2019.

An advocate for mental and spiritual wellness, Shantalle graduated from Bridgewater State University (BSU) in 2019 with a degree in social work. After applying for a week-long trip to Trinidad and Tobago through BSU’s Anthropology Department, Shantalle was afforded the opportunity to live in Washington, D.C. for a semester while she interned in her field. This experience led to several opportunities to travel the world. Shantalle studied abroad for a semester in Costa Rica, traveled to Nicaragua and Panama, studied contemporary art in Japan, and learned more about the field of social work at the University of Belize. Shantalle says these experiences allowed her to discover her love for traveling as a means to understand the world and different cultures, which in return has made her a better social worker.

When asked about Steps’ impact on her journey, Shantalle recounts the time where her soon-to-be Steps advisor came knocking on her door to tell her mom about the program. “The Steps to Success staff embodied the type of career that I wanted.” Shantalle acknowledges her experience as a low-income student growing up in a predominantly affluent neighborhood and the barriers that she overcame. “I wanted to be that voice for other young low-income people of color in these affluent neighborhoods.”

Shatalle had some valuable things to say when asked about her advice for current and future Steps students. “Definitely stay connected with the Steps staff, because you never know how they can connect you in the future. For current college students, Shantalle encourages them to “follow your heart, venture out and take advantage of all the opportunities that are offered to you. Never rule out any person or organization that is trying to help you.”

Upholding Steps’ mission, Shantalle currently works at the Boston Private Industry Council as a Career Specialist helping connect high school students with summer internship. We are so proud of everything she has accomplished, and are thrilled to see what lies ahead for this remarkable young woman.

Natalie Volcy

Natalie Volcy, a 2020 Brookline High School graduate, will pursue her passion and love for design as an Interior Design major at Wentworth Institute of Technology in the fall of 2020. Natalie takes advantage of every enrichment opportunity Steps to Success offers and credits the program with taking her on her first college tour and teaching her the importance of black-owned businesses in our Brookline community.

Citing her family as her biggest support system and thanking her sister for enrolling her unknowingly in the Steps program, Natalie has been one of the most actively engaged Steps students since the 7th grade. In addition to the many programs Steps offers, Natalie has participated in Boston College’s Smart Woman Securities and Brookline High School’s African American and Latino Scholars Program. Natalie speaks highly of her experience in Steps programs, including Summer Connections, Work Connections, LiveInspired, and the College Success Initiative Mentoring Program. “The Steps staff are very inviting. They will stand up for you if anything goes wrong.”

Natalie urges current and future Steps students to “take advantage of all the programs that Steps offers, whether it’s a college tour or a field trip set up by the advisor. Get to know your Steps advisor, because if you get to know them, they can help you a lot.”

Natalie consistently impresses us, and we’re pleased to spotlight a Steps student who has truly made the most of her Steps experience from the very beginning!