Bergeline Hilaire

Bridging the Gap

When Bergeline Hilaire moved from Florida to Boston in the fifth grade, she and her family initially bounced from shelter to shelter. By the time they finally found a permanent home, Bergeline had missed two months of school and wasn’t expected to pass the fifth grade at Gardner Pilot Academy. Then, recognizing Bergeline’s potential, her teacher nominated her for Steppingstone.

Wanting to move up to sixth grade and eventually go to college, Bergeline applied and got in to Steppingstone’s College Success Academy. She reflects, “My education was crippled by missing school. Steppingstone helped me to bridge that opportunity gap.”

Unwavering Support

After completing the academic preparation component of Steppingstone, Bergeline started at Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA). Her Steppingstone Advisor stayed right beside her through high school, cheering her on. “My Advisor supported me since day one. When I was at my lowest, she always helped me stay on track.”

Bergeline knows that Steppingstone’s support doesn’t end with her high school graduation. “Steppingstone is an ally. There’s always someone I can talk to to get help,” she explains. “Steppingstone has always been there and is a program I can always fall back on.”

Achieving Her Dreams

In high school, Steppingstone continued to support Bergeline’s goal of being the first in her family to attend college. Her Advisor wrote recommendations for her, helped her apply for scholarships, and worked with her on her college essays. “I went on college tours to Trinity, Boston College, and various historically black colleges and universities,” Bergeline recalls of the tours organized and led by Steppingstone.

“My friends and I were always the underdogs who people said were never going to make it,” Bergeline says. But with hard work and Steppingstone’s unwavering support, she graduated from BCLA as an honor roll student and had her talent recognized outside of school when she served on the Mayor’s Youth Council, Boston Cares Youth Advisory, and the Governing Board of BCLA.

Looking To the Future

Now Bergeline is a first-year at Wesleyan University—and Steppingstone is still there for her. “When I got the tuition bills, I didn’t know what to do next. But I knew I could call my Advisor at Steppingstone, who would help me find the right financial aid package for my family.”

Bergeline is excited to study Political Science and African Studies at Wesleyan. And after that? “I want to look at my different career options,” she muses. “I want to talk to people, so maybe I’ll become like Trevor Noah on The Daily Show. Right now my life is just starting.”