About Us

Step Forward Academy is
a 501c3 Nonprofit

We provide mentorship and coaching at no cost* to help people accomplish career goals.
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Vision

Transforming communities through connection, mentorship, and service.

Mission

Providing mentorship and coaching to help people accomplish career goals.

Purpose

Career development through mentorship and coaching.

Our Story

Step Forward Academy was started by Ryan Wong and Sophia Alexander in 2020. Growing up in Orange County, Ryan was blessed to have a strong family support system that helped prepare him for a successful career. After graduating from college and working in tech for several years in the Bay area, Ryan began volunteering as a mentor for young people. Through that experience he discovered a passion for service that began to reshape his plans for the future.

Eventually, Ryan and his family moved back to the Orange County area and both began working in local nonprofits. Through his work serving those in addiction recovery, Ryan was introduced to Sophia Alexander, a retired professional with a passion for philanthropy. Soon after, they began to envision a program that could help adults with low wages break the cycle of poverty and create financial sustainability.

Over the past two years, a small team of people have banded together to create a program that is transforming lives one mentorship at a time! Read our FAQ to learn more about our career development program.

Meet Our Staff

Ryan Wong

Founder/Director

Sophia Alexander

Co-Founder/Program Director

Keith Robinson

Communications and Operations Director

Shannan Williams

Program Manager

Fernando Arroyo

Veterans Outreach Director

FAQ

Learn more about Step Forward Academy's career development program

Who is Step Forward Academy's primary client?

We call our primary clients “Mentees.” Our Mentees are adults 18+ that are interested in developing a career path to meet a living wage in Orange County. Right now, we are focusing on Orange County but soon will expand to LA and San Diego Counties.

How does Step Forward Academy enroll Mentees?

Most of our Mentees are referred to us through our Community Partners, local churches, and word of mouth from personal referrals. If interested, they register on our website and then schedule a call with our Program Manager to start the intake process.

What is Step Forward Academy's biggest demographic?

Since the beginning, single mothers make up the majority of our Mentees. We recently expanded to serve veterans and young adults who are entering the workforce for the first time.

How does Step Forward Academy recruit Mentors?

Step Forward Academy relies mostly on Community Partners and word-of-mouth referrals from people in the community who make a living wage and want to give back.

How do you pair Mentees with Mentors?

Our Program Manager conducts an intake call with each potential Mentee and Mentor after they register online. The goal is to ensure the program is a good fit for them and they are ready for time commitments required to complete the 10-week program of virtual workshops led by speakers that are experts in their field. We hold 3 cohorts a year: Winter (February), Spring (April) and Fall (September). Each Mentee is matched with a Mentor in week 5 who starts meeting with them 30-minutes each week to help them as they create a career path.

What does the time commitment look like for a Mentee?

Mentees attend weekly workshops that last 90 minutes. Workshops include résumé building, LinkedIn profile set up, budgeting, time-management, and more. Mentees also meet weekly (usually via Zoom) for 30-minutes with their Mentor.

What will a Mentee learn during the course of the program?

Over the course of a 10-week virtual program, Mentees will attend live weekly workshops, take career and personality assessments, and learn how to:

  • Understand their strengths
  • Manage their time wisely
  • Create a budget and live within their means
  • Set financial goals and exceed them
  • Build new and desirable skills in today’s workforce
  • Get interviews and start a career
What does the time commitment look like for a Mentor?

Mentors meet with their Mentee once per week for 30-minutes. We also invite Mentors to set aside time to attend the Mentee graduation at the end of the 3-month Career Development program. Our graduations are typically held on Saturdays.

What resources or tools do you provide for Mentors?

Each Mentor receives one-on-one support through our Program Manager and Mentor training. We also provide digital copies of the Mentee Playbook to guide them through the Mentee’s journey.

What is a living wage?

A living wage is defined as the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs. See the MIT Living Wage Calculator HERE

 

What have the results been so far from those who have graduated the program?

On average, our Mentees that stay connected to Step Forward Academy are earning between 20-30% more than when they started the program.

What happens after a Mentee graduates the program?

After a Mentee completes the 3-month career development program, they are invited to continue their journey in our Step Up program for one year. During Step Up, our graduates continue to have regular check-ins with their Mentors, as well as invitations to special events, trainings, and volunteer opportunities.

How long is the program?

Step Forward Academy’s Career Development Program is 10 weeks. Our Step Up Program is available for as long as the Mentee needs support to earn a living wage.

Is the program really free?*

YES! We are able to offer free tuition to our Mentees because of the generosity of our donors. Visit our donation page to find out more about how you can support Mentees on their journey toward earning a living wage.

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