Vonetta Smith
2005 Ripple Effect Awardee

Step Forward/Step Ahead

Vonetta Smith  

Vonetta Smith always knew she would go to college—“My parents wouldn't permit it any other way,” she says—but she got the tools to succeed there through the Step Forward/Step Ahead program run by Elms College in Chicopee, MA. In ninth grade, Vonetta joined the program's two-week summer academic and cultural enrichment program. Although it was her first time ever away from home in an unfamiliar place for so long, Vonetta became so immersed that she barely had time to give her mother the promised “I'm okay” phone calls. “I got to know great people and by the end, I didn't want to leave,” she recalls.

And Vonetta hasn't left for long since. She continued in the program through her senior year, graduating from high school with fifteen college credits. That made her truly “a step ahead” of the other freshman students when she enrolled at Virginia's Hampton University. She majored in mass media/print journalism while spending summers at the Step Forward/Step Ahead program as a resident aide.