Story #21

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Stephanie M. – From Attitude to Aptitude

BronxWorks EXCEL Program

Stephanie freely admits it: she had an attitude problem. But it took her years to realize. She confesses to being “very argumentative” and would always question the rules. “Honestly, I wanted to do what I wanted to do,” Stephanie says.

She left high school at the age of 16 after conflicts with school staff. Stephanie was an A student so she was confident she could get her GED immediately. Her sister was in the BronxWorks EXCEL program and encouraged her to join the daily classes that would help her study for the GED.

At first, Stephanie declined because she figured she could pass the test right away, but her scores proved her overconfidence. When she didn't pass on her first and second tries, Stephanie started attending EXCEL classes. She struggled with the math and science sections so EXCEL staff encouraged her to take the time and put in the effort to prepare before taking the test again.

She says that “after the third time, I started to really listen to what they were saying.” Stephanie agreed to participate in math tutoring, stayed late for extra help, and took out GED prep books from the public library.

“The program changed my life so much because they gave me a chance. They gave me an opportunity and believed in me,” Stephanie says. After proving her determination and responsibility to the EXCEL staff, they offered her an internship opportunity to work with them. The staff really “guided me in the right way,” Stephanie notes. “Once I started, I lost my attitude.”

Working in a professional office environment taught Stephanie a lot about responsibility, as she realized that others depended on her and she “was there for a purpose.” Putting in time and hard work, Stephanie successfully earned her GED diploma in 2010. She thought college was financially out of the question, but Shalima McCants, EXCEL Program Director, told her about financial aid options and convinced Stephanie to further her education.

Unexpectedly pregnant during her first semester at Hostos Community College, Stephanie thought about quitting school, but decided that she just couldn’t. “I’m determined,” Stephanie declares. “That’s one thing about me.” She knew education would improve her son’s and her own future, and she has figured out how to successfully balance parenting, school, and her part-time job as a counselor at a BronxWorks afterschool program. EXCEL made it possible for Stephanie to secure that job, as the EXCEL team provided her with extensive support with resumes, cover letters, and the job search in general. Stephanie’s supervisor notes that he is “very pleased with her work.”

Stephanie has finally learned to “prove myself with pen and paper, not with my mouth” – good advice from her father. At the EXCEL staff’s request, she comes back periodically as a speaker, sharing her own experience to encourage and motivate current participants. It’s only thanks to great friends, supporters, and partners like you that BronxWorks can continue to provide opportunities for smart, determined individuals like Stephanie to prove themselves and succeed!

EXCEL offers career training that exposes youth to a variety of employment options so that they can choose the area that most interests them. EXCEL prepares young adults for the world of work, helping them to create resumes, prepare for interviews, gain computer skills, and learn how to manage money. EXCEL has daily GED classes that combine group and individual instruction to prepare participants to obtain their high school equivalency diploma. Questions or comments? Send them to

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