Program Spotlight: Baruch College STEP Academy


The STEP Academy at Baruch College is a high-quality program for Hispanic, Latino/x, and other underserved middle and high school students in New York City who are interested in the sciences. Baruch STEP Academy combines engaging classroom lessons with fun workshops and experiences designed to help teens with high school, college, and, ultimately, their careers. And the best part? It’s FREE!

By Fátima Méndez

The Baruch College STEP Academy Experience

On a typical Saturday, Israel Morales, a New York City 10th grader, travels to the campus of Baruch College. That’s because he’s taking classes in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), getting ready for college, and learning about career opportunities – all as part of the Baruch College STEP Academy. “My favorite class is Chemistry Review,” says Morales. “I feel like I have a much better understanding of the periodic table now, which has helped me in my chemistry class in high school.”

At the Baruch STEP Academy, learning doesn’t end in the classroom, so Israel and the other teens in the program also get to be a part of interesting workshops on college access, career readiness, and skill building. These workshops bring in experts from Baruch College and around the city to help the students navigate the demands of being a teenager in today’s world. Israel’s favorite workshop this fall has been Career Assessment. After taking a quiz about his interests, he was able to identify his “career personality type” and match it with the different kinds of STEM fields that he might want to pursue in college and beyond. It’s this type of attention to the needs of the whole student that makes the STEP Academy a special experience.

Who Is Eligible to Attend the Baruch STEP Academy?

Baruch STEP Academy is an academic-year and summer science program that helps middle and high school students in New York City (grades 7 -12) prepare for academic success in high school, college, and beyond. STEP (which stands for Science and Technology Entry Program) is designed specifically for teens with a strong interest in STEM who self-identify as Hispanic/Latino/x, Black/African American, Alaskan Native or American Indian, or who are economically disadvantaged based on family income guidelines. The program accepts students from public, private, charter, and parochial schools. Funding is provided by the New York State Education Department/Office of K-16 Initiatives and Access Programs, so students attend for free. The STEP Academy also provides students with the required materials needed to participate for the duration of the program.

Christopher Gonzales López, Catalyna Contreras, and Leila Mejia attend the Baruch College STEP Academy.

Fall, Spring, and Summer Semesters

Baruch STEP Academy takes place on Saturdays during the academic year and is divided into two semesters: Fall and Spring. Courses vary each semester, but high school students generally attend a wide range of enrichment courses in traditional STEM subjects (such as math, biology, and chemistry). They also receive training in scientific research, essay writing, financial literacy (how to handle money wisely), and test prep for the SATs and the New York State Regents Exams.

Middle school students take advanced level courses to help prepare them for high school math and science. They are also introduced to engineering concepts and computer coding.

Workshops cover interesting topics related to student life (mental health, preparing for high school, the college admissions process, internship readiness, the college experience, career exploration), social issues (such as climate change, the distribution of financial grants) and practical, STEM-related tools and techniques (such as personality dynamics and biostatistics).

STEP Academy also offers a summer semester that meets Monday through Thursday for four weeks in July. Each student in the summer program takes only one course, which allows them to dig deep into a particular subject. At the end of the summer program, each student presents what they have learned in a summer showcase for members of the Baruch faculty, family, and friends.

Student Voices

Here’s what some of the students in Baruch STEP Academy say they have appreciated the most about the program.

Christopher Gonzalez López, a 9th grader, enjoyed the Participatory Budgeting Process workshop offered by the Baruch Honors Program. (Participatory budgeting is a process where members of a community – like a city or a school system – come together to decide how to spend their annual budget, rather than having a few leaders make the decision for them.) Christopher says that he enjoyed working with his classmates as they simulated the process of deciding how to spend project funding grants. He reports that the workshop has given him some ideas about what he may want to study in college and which colleges might be a good fit for him.

Catalyna Contreras, an 11th grader, says that the College Admissions Panel exposed her to colleges that she hadn’t previously considered as an option. Catalyna also notes that her math course, Algebra 2, has strengthened her performance in high school.

Robert López, a 10th grader, learned how to formulate his own research question as part of Research Seminar: Does listening to music affect your academic performance in school? Robert also reports that learning about college requirements and financial support has helped him plan for his education after high school.

Leila Mejia, an 11th grader, says that her favorite workshop was Career Services, where she learned how to create and format a resume. She feels that Baruch STEP Academy has prepared her for college and is excited to start applying next year.

Israel Morales reports that his favorite class at the STEP Academy is Chemistry Review!

STEP is for Parents, Too!

Baruch STEP Academy knows that parents play an important role in the success of their students. That’s why the program also hosts workshops that teach parents how to help with the college admissions process, compare college support options, and understand financial award packages. These workshops give parents the knowledge and skills to advocate for their college-bound teenagers.

How to Apply

Baruch STEP Academy is currently recruiting students for the Spring 2023 Semester, and the priority deadline is January 1st, 2023, then enrollment until all seats are filled. If you are interested in applying this spring or in the future, be sure to check out the Baruch College STEP Academy website. You can also join the listserv to be notified about the summer semester.

Fátima Méndez is a Program Assistant at the Baruch College STEP Academy.  

Want to See More? Don’t stop here! To find more of the best academic-year and summer science programs for high school students, as well as internships for high school students, competitions, and scholarships, check out our Teen Resources section.