Digital Harbor High School, 2012
Stevenson University, BA 2017
Shane serves as a tank platoon leader, ensuring that every member of the 16-person platoon who operates an M1A2 main battle tank is prepared to defend against threats commonly identified on the battlefield. Shane enjoys spending time with his significant other, Terry, and his Siberian husky named Sig Sig.
A first gen college students, Shane recalls that Building STEPS helped him from the very beginning. “I lacked guidance and felt unable to pursue anything further than a high school degree,” Shane says. “Building STEPS not only taught me that I was able to do anything that I could put my mind to, but they also provided me with educational lessons on several different career fields on top of college prep. Without the countless resume-building hours and SAT prep, I could have been overlooked by many collegiate institutions.”
Patterson High School, 2011
Goucher College, BS 2015, MS 2019
Tihitina is a management and program analyst at the Department of Health in D.C. She spends her spare time with family and enjoys exercising and traveling.
Tihitina has partnered with Teach for All and is working on developing a program called Teach for Ethiopia. The goal of the program is to expand educational opportunity in Ethiopia by increasing access to and work surrounding education equity.
“I believe Building STEPS guided me through the college process,” Tihitina recalls. She was the first person in her family to attend college in the United States and admits she had no idea how the college application and financial aid system worked. “My first year as a Building STEPS student I didn’t have a Social Security number because my residency case was pending,” she says. “However, Building STEPS helped me and answered any questions I had.”
Woodlawn High School, 2010
Ithaca College, BS 2014, MS 2016, DPT 2016
Christina is a physical therapist and she and her husband recently celebrated their one-year anniversary. Both are involved with church activities, and enjoy spending time with family, visiting new places, and trying out new recipes.
Christina and her husband give back to their community by volunteering at a senior center facility, for people who are in hospice care. She plays the djembe, and he plays the guitar and ukulele—and both love to sing. Through their music, they hope to support those who may be feeling lonely and isolated.
“Building STEPS helped me see outside of the four walls of high school and set me up with tools for college,” she says. “After graduating from high school, Building STEPS continued to provide resources. Through social gatherings we catch up with people in the program as well as our sponsors. Building STEPS is not a program just in high school—it follows us through our life journey.”
Dunbar High School, 2002
Johns Hopkins University, BS 2006, MHS 2007
University of Rochester, MD 2012
Theophilus completed his residency at Florida Atlantic University and is an attending physician with Banner Medical Group.
Theophilus and his wife, a family medicine resident, spend much of their free time visiting exhibits in the area with their 3-year old son. They also travel back to Maryland to visit family. On their next trip, they hope to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History among other sites in Baltimore and D.C.
“Building STEPS was an eye-opening experience for me, and it came at the perfect time when I began thinking of what I wanted to do with my life,” Theophilus, a first generation college student recalls. “The program was critical in helping shape my future and provided me with the roadmap and resources to get there. Having exposure to different professions was helpful in solidifying my interest in medicine. Building STEPS was very critical to my success today. I’m forever grateful to Building STEPS and I hope to help further the growth of other students within the program.”
Digital Harbor High School, 2013
Morgan State University, BA 2017
Kimani works for Sony Pictures Entertainment as an assistant on an upcoming Amazon-produced television series, as well as a feature film production based in Berlin, Germany.
When Kimani is not working, he spends time perfecting his craft as a writer and networking with peers in the entertainment industry. As a mentee of the Hillman Grad Network, an entertainment industry initiative for up-and-coming black creatives, Kimani volunteers for nonprofits and works closely with industry professionals. He has also created a writer’s group that serves as a supportive sanctuary for other promising writers of color.
“Building STEPS taught me how to take the reins of my career and mold it into what I needed to succeed,” Kimani says. “While there was no direct pipeline for entertainment in the curriculum, I did, however, observe and learn valuable career and life skills from the program and its affiliates, many of which I continually utilize in my daily life.”
Chesapeake High School, 2010
Stevenson University, BA 2014, MS 2017
Dominic is a third-year medical student and will be applying for anesthesia residencies next year, followed by a one-year fellowship in pediatric anesthesia.
Dominic is president of the Men’s Health Organization and works with a urologist to bring awareness to men’s health issues. He is vice president of Student National Medical Association, an organization that promotes the importance and retention of underrepresented minorities at his medical school. When Dominic has free time, he enjoys returning to Baltimore to spend time with his family.
Dominic, the first in his family to earn a college degree, credits Building STEPS for achieving his goal of getting accepted to Johns Hopkins University and going to medical school. He recalls, “I have always been horrible at keeping up with paperwork and deadlines, but Building STEPS sat down with me to write a beautifully worded personal statement and assure a prompt application submission. Not only was I accepted to one of the nation’s best colleges, I was accepted to the number one biomedical engineering program in the country from an early decision application.”
Patterson High School, 2012
McDaniel College, BS 2016
University of Cincinnati, Certificate in progress
Hawa was recently promoted to a clinical research professional for a public health program and works in the emergency room of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. She also conducts HIV and hepatitis C testing, providing linkages to care for the diseases. Hawa, the first in her family to earn a college degree, is completing a graduate certificate in clinical and translational research and plans to enter a master’s of public health program at the University of Cincinnati. She is married with one daughter, Fatima.
Hawa is passionate about advocating for justice for those back home in her country, Mauritius. She is organizing a gathering to mark the assassination of 25 black Mauritanians, and in celebration of the country’s Independence Day.
“Building STEPS has greatly influenced who I am as a person today and the career path that I have chosen,” says Hawa. “The program helped me with my college applications, financial aid, and even helped me receive the full ride to attend McDaniel College. Building STEPS is an amazing program that I hope will be implemented throughout the country. Every underrepresented student will benefit from it.”
Woodlawn High School, 2003
UMBC, BS 2007
Medical University of South Carolina, MDPhD 2013
Vondina is a science teacher at Palmetto Scholars Academy—rated the number two high school in the state—where she teaches a high-achieving group of students who earn college credits while still enrolled in high school.
Vondina married a fellow Woodlawn High School and they have three children who keep them very busy. The family spends as much time as possible outdoors, especially in their garden, enjoying their chickens and dogs. Vondina feels strongly that she must lead by example. She helped organize a toiletry drive for Lowcountry Orphan Relief with a strong emphasis on products that are not often donated, specifically hair care items for diverse hair types because up to 85% of the orders filled are for children of color.
“Building STEPS gave me a sense of belonging,” Vondina, the first generation college students says. “To this day, I am so grateful for the opportunities I was given because I don’t believe I would have pursued science without the support of Building STEPS, which provided a safe space for me to explore my interests and meet my goals.”
Dunbar High School, 2004
North Park University, BS 2008
Johns Hopkins University, MS 2019
Tierra works at the Johns Hopkins Health System in the supply chain department as an administrator coordinator. In January, she is moving to New Orleans to pursue her master’s in public health (maternal and child health) at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
Much of her spare time is spent completing her current thesis for a master’s of biomedical sciences. Tierra also enjoys spending time with family, traveling, and reading.
As a first generation college students, Tierra says, “Building STEPS was a great part of my high school years. I am glad for its help with SAT prep, college tours, and college applications. Having exposure to different aspects of the sciences was awesome and it made me want to do research. This program provided great support, love, and networking opportunities. I am really thankful to be part of Building STEPS.”
Dwight is a user support specialist providing technical support to attorneys and staff at the firm Robinson Bradshaw. He and his fiancé, Christopher, plan to wed in 2020. They have a 3-year-old lab/pit mix named Milo, and in their spare time, they enjoy traveling, cooking, and attending live music events.
Dwight volunteers for Time Out Youth, an organization dedicated to offering a safe space for youth, fully respecting the journey of the LGBTQ community—and anyone who wants to support a community of belonging.
“Building STEPS provided a great deal of exposure to college environments that helped me gain a perspective and understanding of how college would shape my future.” Dwight remembers Building STEPS as a time when he gained confidence in his academics and career choices. “It was also a time that allowed me to interact with like-minded individuals and receive so much inspiration and support to achieve anything I desired,” he says.
Debra, a Baltimore area native, launched Building STEPS in 1999 with the sole purpose of creating a college pathway for underrepresented students to become STEM professionals. Today, she develops and maintains corporate and institutional partners, works with the Board to create and implement growth strategies, and oversees all aspects of the organization. Prior to Building STEPS, she was the principal of The Morlan Group, LLC, providing redevelopment consulting services throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park. She is a 2012 graduate of the Greater Baltimore Committee’s The Leadership and in 2016, Debra was honored by the Baltimore Business Journal as Maryland’s Top 100 Women.
As Administrative Associate, Jennifer Descoteau is integral to all aspects of our organization. With a breath of experience, Jen is engaged in donor cultivation and Board development. Skilled in marketing, social media, and customer service, Jen brings a new level of expertise to Building STEPS. A graduate of Towson University, Jen spends her spare time with her husband and two teenage children.
Asia Cole is a Speech Pathology major studying at Towson University. As a Building STEPS high school student, she attended Digital Harbor High School and graduated in 2014. Her goal is to become a Speech Pathologist working with both the Deaf and hearing communities. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity and Gamma Sigma Sigma National Service Sorority where she exemplifies the values of service, unity, and integrity. On the weekends, she loves to watch and go see Broadway musicals when possible. She also enjoys reading and writing poetry, bowling, and kayaking when the weather is nice.
Sheyna Mikeal was born and raised in Baltimore City where she attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Sociology and a Masters in School Counseling, she went to New York and taught Algebra and Geometry. Returning to school, she earned a Master’s in Teacher of Students with Disabilities and continued her work in Detroit as a school counselor. Since college, Sheyna has always known that she wanted to work in education with a focus on college completion for underrepresented students.
Leah joined Building STEPS in 2009, responsible for program design and implementation. Today, she manages all aspects of programming, including developing curriculum. She is the lead on special projects, including the oversight of a designated college scholarship. Leah’s background as a Program Data Coordinator for Teach for America and an Academic Advisor for University of Maryland University College set in motion her expertise with college access and completion. She received a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies from James Madison University.
Focusing primarily on our high school students, Courtney plans, implements and oversees all aspects of the Junior Seminars, Internship Workshops and College Workshops. Joining Building STEPS in 2016, she is instrumental in ensuring that each high school senior prepares and completes their college and financial aid applications. As a former teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools and Team Leader for Youthworks, Courtney is uniquely qualified to create exposure and prepare our students for college success. She graduated from Loyola University Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts in Writing.