Mariano Suriel Featured in Eye on Education Series

Written By: Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV News Co-Anchor

BOSTON – In today's job market, a college education has never been more important.

For some students, figuring out how to prepare for higher education is particularly challenging.

Steps to Success, a program at Brookline High School, is developing an amazing track record getting some unlikely kids through college.

Mariano Suriel came to the United States when he was in the fourth grade. He was unable to speak English.

Now, ten years later, he is majoring in biology at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and hopes to study medicine one day.

He credits Steps to Success for much of what he has been able to accomplish. The program latches onto students from public housing as early as the fourth grade. It doesn't let go until they're through with college.

"It changed my life, really," said Suriel. "They did indeed show me that there is a kid in you that can definitely dream, and try to do something bigger with your life."

Prior to Steps to Success, only about a third of students who lived in Brookline Public Housing went to college. That average has now jumped to over 90%, matching the rate for all Brookline High graduates.

"We owe every child that dream, that opportunity, that possibility," said Steps to Success Executive Director Nadia Chamblin-Foster.

That means students go through admissions boot camp, learning about everything from the application essay to financial aid.

Students get help on homework. They also get exposed to a world they might not otherwise see.

For example, 7th and 8th grade students make weekly trips to Boston College, to be mentored by graduate students. "That program is where students really make the connection about what it means to be a college student," explained Chamblin-Foster.

High School students like Athalia Lopez make the Steps to Success office a second home. They get mentored and monitored here as well, but its attention they appreciate as their dreams take flight. Lopez hopes to attend Boston College or Northeastern University to study nursing.

For these students, this program helps them expand their horizons, learning the only limits are the ones they put on themselves.

It's an experience Mariano will never forget, or take for granted. "I was happy that Steps gave me that light, that I could do it, that I could have the American Dream, and now I am pursuing it."

Steps to Success gets about a third of its funding from the Brookline Public Schools. The rest is from private donations and grants. Their annual fundraiser is scheduled for March 26th at Jerry Remy's Sports Bar and Grill. You can learn more about that, and all facets of the program 

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