Juan Saenz

“STEP is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”
— STEP Alum, Colgate University

From the moment Juan first learned about Colgate University, he was sure he wanted to go there. He knew it would require hard work and good grades to get in, but beyond that, he knew little about the college application process. It was only after attending a STEP outreach presentation that Juan realized there was a program with “the rigor and information to get me into my dream school… It was the whole nine yards for how to get into college.”

“STEP made the college application process so much less intimidating, especially by introducing us to college admissions officers. Before STEP, I thought admissions officers were really scary. But once STEP got me face-to-face with them, I realized they were just people. And that made it so much less intimidating.”

Juan is now thriving in his freshman year at Colgate.  He laughs before he starts to list the many groups he’s involved with: chorus, theater, improv, and “that’s just the tip of the iceberg.” He also works in admissions as a greeter for visiting prospective students, and even hosts students for overnight stays. Juan has become the “human face” of admissions at a school that STEP made accessible to him back in high school.

“For me, the biggest blessing at Colgate has been participating in the OUS program, which literally does so much for students coming from difficult backgrounds.” From “providing books to giving students a place to hang out,” OUS’s support has jumpstarted Juan’s college success.

But it hasn’t all been easy. As part of OUS, students start school two months early to get ahead on graduation requirements. These are accelerated courses: two semester-long classes condensed into five weeks! “During the third week, I felt like I was losing my mind with stress. And that’s when I got an email from Tracy. She was checking in to see how we were doing, and it kept me going. I have this support still. I can do this.”

Even though he’s only a freshman, Juan has big plans to double major in Computer Science and Music, and possibly minor in Writing. And as he dreams of animating for Pixar, Juan remains strongly connected to STEP. “I look forward to talking with incoming STEP students about how much it means to me and how essential it is to be in STEP. I am completely willing because STEP means so much to me and it is a part of me. I have not graduated from STEP, I have been promoted to someone who wants to advocate for it.”