When Faheiim Cooper became a Steppingstone Scholar in the sixth grade, he wanted to follow in his sister’s footsteps — quite literally. Faheiim joined the program so that he could walk his sister home safely from school each day, but now, as he prepares to begin his next chapter, Faheiim realizes the continuing impact that being a Scholar has had on his life.
Faheiim’s Steppingstone journey started in middle school and continued through high school, an experience which helped him prepare for his ultimate goal: attending college.
“Steppingstone stayed on top of me and helped me make my schoolwork a priority,” he says.
“College was always the goal, but I didn’t have a great environment to focus and work at home. On top of that, I had the chance to network with kids from different schools, which exposed me to new ideas and broadened my perspective.”
As a Scholar, Faheiim had the opportunity to participate in college visits, exploring prospective schools where he might one day continue his academic journey. But despite his own personal goals, Faheiim recognized that wasn’t the case for all of his classmates and appreciated how the program considered a wide range of paths for all students.
“Steppingstone made it a point to show us that college wasn’t the only option,” he says. “They showed us there were many doors to go through if you didn’t go the traditional college route. They always gave us options, bringing in guest speakers to talk about business skills and workforce opportunities — they instilled in us that it was always our decision.”
But when Faheiim visited Arcadia University as part of a Steppingstone Scholars tour, the trip did more than reinforce what he wanted to do, it confirmed where he wanted to be.
“The environment at Arcadia was amazing, and from the moment I stepped on campus, I could really see myself being there,” he says.
With support from his high school counselor, and Steppingstone staff and mentors, Faheiim applied to Arcadia and was accepted as a member of the Class of 2026. Looking back on his time as a Scholar, Faheiim credits the program for laying a strong foundation, one that enabled him to realize his dream of attending college thanks to the invaluable support and guidance he received along the way.
“The biggest takeaway I have from Steppingstone is that it’s a family vibe. Every time I was in a different part of the program, or I would meet someone new — they were there for me,” Faheiim says. “It’s a real sense of community, everyone is in it together and wants to see you succeed, like one big family.”
Now, as Faheiim prepares for life as a college student, he continues to grow and build on the confidence and voice he developed as a Steppingstone Scholar. At Arcadia — where Faheiim hopes to pursue his passion for creative arts and writing, authoring best-selling books with characters that people can relate to—he will have even greater access to support and guidance under Steppingstone’s newly-announced merger with Philadelphia Futures.
“I joined Steppingstone to be with my sister, but in the end, it made it possible for me to experience things I never thought I could be a part of,” he says. “Steppingstone Scholars, it allowed me to do so many great things, and as they continue to evolve and serve more students, I’m excited that this will open up a world of possibilities for other kids — just like me.”