Genesis Noelia De Santos Fragoso ’08

Confined By Expectations

The oldest of four children born to Dominican immigrant parents, Genesis De Los Santos never thought she would go to college. “When you’re a low-income student of color growing up in a low-income neighborhood,” she explained, “the message you receive from the people around you and society in general is that ‘you won’t amount to much.’”

In fact, she didn’t know what college was until her fourth grade math teacher, Ms. Mason, nominated her for Steppingstone.

Defining Her Own Expectations

Once accepted into Steppingstone, Genesis quickly made friends with her classmates and began to thrive academically in a way she hadn’t before. “My parents saw this as a way for me to gain knowledge and access to an education that I didn’t have,” she said. “I was one of 25 to 30 kids in class and there was very little individual attention, which made it hard for teachers to answer questions and for students to ask questions.”

She remembers her time in Steppingstone’s summer and after-school programs as challenging, but ultimately it prepared her for her future. “I learned how to love learning,” Genesis said. “Steppingstone cultivated in me a desire to learn and succeed at the highest level—and that’s what I enjoyed most. That accessibility I had to my Steppingstone teachers and advisors, and the idea that I was able to learn simply because that’s what I wanted to do.”

Raising the Bar

Genesis’s time with Steppingstone didn’t end after she completed the initial summer and after-school components. “Because of Steppingstone’s Support services during my high school experience at Noble & Greenough,” she recalls, “I established a strong support system that I widened and leverage during my college experience.”

Then, in 2015, Genesis became the first member of her family to go to college when she earned acceptance to Harvard University.

Razing the Bar

“Something I really want to emphasize is how important Steppingstone was in creating a path for me to get to Harvard and for me to get to where I am today,” Genesis says now that she’s a college graduate. She was also selected as a commencement speaker at Harvard’s 2019 graduation ceremony.

“I was able to tell my story, my family’s story, and the story of children from similar backgrounds who are told they will not succeed. Yet, here we are in these places of power doing more than just succeeding—we’re leaving behind legacies.”

Genesis now hopes to bring her legacy back to Steppingstone. “I want to provide mentorship to other students like myself. I’m so thankful that I’m part of the Steppingstone family.”