Meet Our Achiever

“Step Up is a place that teaches us and helps us.”

Take it from 14-year-old Kaone. For a student who always sat quietly in the back of the classroom reluctant to even speak, participating in the Step Up program has brought a world of change in Kaone.

Describing himself as selfish before Step Up, Kaone says that Step Up has taught him how to respect and help others. Shortly after joining, he started participating and taking on leadership roles when he could. He has since become a trusted Achiever, with Step Up staff often giving him leadership assignments that require him to guide younger Achievers in program activities. Even his teachers at school now rely on him to take on more leadership roles in class.

As a result, Kaone has become a role model and is an active mentor for younger students as well as his peers. He says he never wants to leave Step Up because he wants to motivate younger kids to learn from him.

Being in Step Up has also helped Kaone develop the 4C’s of 21st Century Skills: communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. While Step Up staff was in a meeting, Kaone took it upon himself to lead a brainstorming session on mentoring topics with his peers.

When Kaone grows up, he knows he will take care of his family and friends thanks to what he has learned at Step Up. He is more positive than ever about his abilities and his future!

12-year-old Achiever Amantle has a lot of positive things to say about the Step Up program. She enjoys using the computers, reading, singing, dancing. The list could go on.

Step Up has helped Amantle both in school, in the community and at home. In particular, Amantle is thankful for the academic assistance she receives, especially since she remembers not doing well in school prior to Step Up. She especially struggled with poor grades in English

Thanks to Step Up, she was excited to share that she passed English this past year. “My mother was so proud of me!”

At home, there’s a lack of peace at times between family members, which used to cause mood swings in school and occasional fights with other kids. Through specific social-emotional learning activities and a curriculum about job interviewing at Step Up, she has since learned how to manage frustrations so that she can communicate better with her parents, friends and community members.

Amantle learned from the job interviewing experience that how you interact and respond to others can really impact the type of relationships you build. She knows having positive and healthy relationships with people will help her succeed as she gets older. Amantle is working to develop the characteristics and skills to get along with others and to avoid fights at home or in school.

Another part of Step Up that teaches Amantle responsibility and the importance of planning for her future is the financial literacy program, which educates Achievers about setting goals and the power of savings. By saving what little she can for her and her family, Amantle has learned with support from Step Up staff what it takes to set and achieve long-term goals. Amantle is now sharing her experience with other Achievers and educating them on the importance of working towards a goal.

With increased confidence in her abilities, Amantle now serves as a mentor at Step Up. She suggests books other Achievers may want to read and also enjoys helping them with homework assignments.

“Step Up really helps us for the future. I want to thank them!”

“Step Up helps me be responsible and confident!”

Lorraine was not doing well in school two years ago, but since joining Step Up she has put in more effort in all aspects of her education.

Self-motivated at Step Up even as a 7th grader, Lorraine often chooses to read a book or do her school assignments during playtime. She enjoys the diverse books in the Step Up library that she can borrow to read at home. She’s also appreciative of the Step Up team members who have helped with her reading since she’s been there.

Lorraine says learning how to use a computer is also one of her favorite activities at Step Up because she and her Achiever friends do not have access to computers at school. She encourages her peers to take advantage of the opportunity at Step Up to gain critical technology skills.

Even during school breaks, Lorraine is eager to continue learning. By attending Step Up’s ACCESS STEAM Camp, a project-based learning program that builds 21st Century Skills during school breaks, she builds upon the academic skills she works so hard on at Step Up and in school.

Lorraine has ambitions of becoming a doctor and eventually supporting her family that is now financially insecure. She has learned that girls and women can have amazing professional careers and is motivated everyday to put in the effort to secure a better future for herself and her family.

Like many others at Step Up, 12-year-old Gosego has changed greatly since joining the program. He wasn’t doing well in school before Step Up. Even as a 7th grader, it was nearly impossible to read his handwriting, and he was reluctant to participate in classroom discussions, afraid to say the wrong thing.

Step Up helped Gosego improve his confidence, grades, and his handwriting. He receives extra help working on his writing and reading skills and he is seeing his English, math and science grades beginning to improve. Gosego still has more work to do to show he can really thrive in school, but he knows Step Up will continue supporting him with his school work and his confidence.

One activity that has inspired Gosego to improve his focus in school is the pen pal program, where each Achiever develops a letter-writing relationship with friends in the United States. This has motivated him to improve his handwriting, English reading and writing skills. Gosego says his pen pal friend in the US is a “cool guy.”

Since joining Step Up, Gosego now enjoys expressing his own opinion. He is motivated to participate at Step Up and in school, whether or not he has the right answer. He feels his behavior has changed since joining the program and that he knows how to show respect for others.

Gosego reflects on what he thinks is driving changes in his school performance and personal development: “Step Up has very good people that help us and teach us positive behaviors.”

“I love Step Up so much!”

It might seem like a general statement, but for grade 6 Achiever Rose, it means everything. Prior to joining the program, Rose was shy in school, often being teased for being the shortest in her class. Her lack of confidence affected her participation and her grades.That all changed after joining Step Up.

Rose’s confidence has greatly improved thanks to her engagement in Step Up’s experiential learning programs during the past year. At age 11, she now voluntarily takes on leadership roles whenever she can and socializes with her peers on a regular basis. Not only has her confidence skyrocketed, but she is also doing much better in school.

Rose loves science and has ambitions to go into the medical field as an adult. “I want to be a doctor because I want to help those who are sick.”

Rose also excitedly shares her enjoyment of Step Up’s ACCESS STEAM Camp, which is a program during school breaks designed to teach students 21st Century Skills through project- based learning educational activities. Rose is also excited by the opportunity to gain technology skills since there are no computers or tablets at her school. Learning how to type and having access to a computer is an opportunity she would not have without Step Up.

Rose recognizes that she is starting to express herself with confidence and is determined to continue developing the skills she’ll carry with her into adulthood.

Just six months after joining the Step Up program, changes in Mpho’s attitude were evident. Coming from a large but low-income household of 13 people, Mpho’s family has had trouble affording food and clothes. His parents have tried to register Mpho and his siblings with local social workers so they can receive basic needs.

Kids in school know his family struggles and they often see him wearing the same clothes to school. Mpho was often mocked by his fellow classmates, naturally causing him to feel down and unsure about himself. But Step Up was an opportunity for him to overcome his doubts and to start thinking more positively about his future.

At Step Up, 11-year- old Mpho takes advantage of the academic support to improve his English skills and to challenge himself in math, his favorite subject in school. Rarely missing a day of the after-school program, Mpho enjoys not just the educational aspects Step Up offers, but also the time to play and interact with his peers.

Having dreams of becoming a pilot gives Mpho the drive to do well in the program and in school in order to become self-reliant. “I will be confident as an adult,” Mpho said when asked how Step Up will help him later in life.

He now takes initiative, striving to learn the life skills to help him succeed in life. Seeing Step Up as an opportunity for himself and his family, Mpho no longer feels down about his family’s financial status, but instead sees it as personal motivation to do well for their future. Mpho is on a smarter path for his own future as well with Step Up.

“I feel like a changed person!”

10-year-old Pearl has only been part of Step Up for three months, but already sees improvement in herself. Prior to joining the program, Pearl found herself in trouble at school and at home for her short temper. Her relationship with her parents became strained and she often lashed out at students during school.

However, soon after joining Step Up’s after-school enrichment program, Pearl’s teachers and parents began noticing a change in her behavior. Pearl was more patient with others and demonstrated more confidence controlling her outbursts.

Having more self-control and confidence is a result of the added responsibilities Pearl takes on at Step Up. For instance, Pearl recently volunteered to brief 20 other Achievers on her field trip to a bank as part of Step Up’s financial literacy program and encouraged them to particpate in a new savings activity. Even after only a few months into the program, Pearl has shown remarkable improvement in how she interacts with other students and is captivated by all that Step Up has to offer.

Gardening is her favorite activity to take part in at Step Up. In school, she enjoys English and is appreciative of Step Up for giving her another outlet to continue speaking and writing in English. She now reads in English at school and at home whenever she can.

If not part of the Step Up program, Pearl says she’d be at home playing by herself. Instead, she’s gained confidence in her social and interpersonal skills, becoming self-reliant and more certain in herself and her potential.

When asked what he enjoys most at Step Up, 5th grader Pako had a lot to say. He loves playing football, reading new books, and learning how to use the computer. He’s seen older Achievers benefit from researching and doing their homework on the computers and looks forward to also building his technology skills to support his learning.

He ultimately knows that by having access to technology, he’ll be able to better study and pass his tests at school. It’s a surprising answer for an 11-year- old, especially after hearing what Pako was like before.

Before starting at Step Up, Pako’s parents described him as the center of attention, never serious and always joking around. He wouldn’t complete his schoolwork and he certainly didn’t like to read.

Once Pako learned what was expected of him at Step Up, he delivered. He now completes all of his homework on time and is grateful for the help he receives so that he passes all of his subjects in school.

He finds enjoyment in playing football with others so that he can get exercise and be physically healthy. Pako also now enjoys reading thanks to the variety of books and magazines found in Step Up’s growing library. The program provides an outlet for Pako for both work and play, building life skills he can continue to use as he matures.

Being a part of Step Up has improved Pako’s confidence, respect for others and overall behavior. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, his excitement for the program was clear: “I want to be part of Step Up!”