Meet Scholar Alondra Padilla

Making Every Opportunity Count

Alondra Padilla

Steppingstone 2016 / Senior, Margarita Muñiz Academy, Jamaica Plain

Alondra with her beloved late grandmother

“The sky’s the limit.” That’s one piece of advice that Alondra Padilla would love to share with younger Scholars. If things get tough, “keep going,” she adds. “Take advantage of everything Steppingstone offers. Make every opportunity count.”

At her Steppingstone interview in 4th grade, “that’s when it all started,” she says. Now a senior at the Margarita Muñiz Academy in Jamaica Plain, she’s poised to become the very first in her family to go to college.

Along the way, she’s continually drawn inspiration from her family, especially her mom and her late grandmother. “They are the two strongest people I’ve ever known,” Alondra reflects. “Everything I do is to make them proud.”

In April of this year, she lost her cherished grandmother to cancer. “I still hear her voice in my head, telling me never give up,” she says, the emotion welling in her own voice. “If I start something, I finish it,” she says. “I don’t go half way.”

A vision of the future always guides Alondra. She started contemplating her list of potential colleges as a high school freshman. She’s passionate about academics. As she explains her thinking, she asks aloud, “Do you want to do the minimum, or do you want to learn more?” Her answer is clear: “I’m one of those students who gives her all.”

In looking ahead to what she’ll study, she recounts a lifelong fascination with animals and marine life. She remembers going swimming during summer visits to her family’s native Puerto Rico. When she opened her eyes in the crystal clear water, the beauty of the fish captivated her. While her future’s open, she can imagine herself someday as a marine biologist or a veterinarian.

In life, “things won’t be handed to you,” she knows. You have to work to accomplish your dreams. “I feel everyone around me sees how hard I work, and that motivates people.”

When her fourth-grade teacher introduced her to the idea of Steppingstone, Alondra worried she wouldn’t get in. Her mom knew she was nervous, but encouraged her to take the initiative. As hard as the work was at first, she sees its early lessons now as “the base of my future.”

What’s her favorite memory? The very first bus ride to the Steppingstone summer program at Milton Academy. As shy as she was, the minute she got off the school bus, she walked up to a group of three girls and asked if they were nervous, too. The four of them became inseparable.

In the years since, “Steppingstone has helped me outgrow my shyness,” adds Alondra. “It taught me not to be afraid.” As she tries to find the words for what the experience has meant to her, she says simply, “Steppingstone has my heart.”