Philadelphia Eagles News

Steppingstone Scholars opens a path for underserved students

The Eagles continue to support nonprofits that work to reduce barriers to opportunity and end racism. In support of Black History Month, the Eagles are proud to recognize the work of one of these nonprofits each day.

Steppingstone Scholars President Sean Vereen recalls the moment vividly, one that crystallizes what the nonprofit seeks to achieve.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Steppingstone Scholars took Philadelphia middle-school and high-school students to Temple University. Just before the students were set to embark on a tour of the campus, one seventh-grader tugged at Vereen's sleeve to ask him a question.

"Mister, could I go to school here?" the student asked.

The student lived just a few blocks from the North Philadelphia campus, but for many in these underserved areas it might as well be on another planet. Steppingstone Scholars has combated systemic racial and socioeconomic inequality by creating access to educational and workforce opportunities for talented young students through three signature initiatives.

• Academy – Steppingstone Scholars' Academy program provides rigorous learning opportunities for high-achieving students facing significant socioeconomic challenges. With a focus on college placement and graduation, the Academy program begins a long-term relationship in fifth grade.

• Pathway – The historic and systemic racial and economic barriers that exist and the conditions these create – deep poverty, lack of health care, food insecurity, homelessness – are addressed head-on while also creating real pathways to college and the workforce that simply aren't available to thousands of students across the city.

• Ventures – From cutting-edge STEM enrichment to seminars on applying to college to university partnerships, Ventures prepares students for productive, fulfilling futures after high school while serving as an innovation hub for exciting, new, and better ways to support Philadelphia students who deserve access to the educational and social mobility engine.

"We think the game can be made a lot more fair," says Chris Avery, Steppingstone Scholars' vice president of programs. "It would take a lot of partnership work, a lot of collaboration, and a lot of intentionality."

Founded in 1999, Steppingstone Scholars serves 3,000 students each year with money from the Eagles Social Justice Fund helping expand its programs. Over the next decade, Steppingstone Scholars aims to increase the number of college graduates from the Philadelphia School District by 10 percent. It also has a blueprint to increase the number of internships by 1,000 in the next five years. Avery cites the familiar refrain that it will take a village, but the prospects are worth the investment.

"Kids are kids. Kids have a spark," he says. "They just need opportunity and access."

Learn more about Steppingstone Scholars:

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