NOVA Alexandria

Mentor of the Month: Ali El-Araby

Meet Ali El-Araby, our College Steps May/June Mentor of the Month.  Originally from Buffalo, New York, Ali recently graduated from Northern Virginia Community College and will continue his education at the University of Virginia this fall where he will study kinesiology.

College Steps Program Coordinator, Taylor Bryant, was eager to nominate Ali for this recognition, noting his professionalism. “Ali always pays great attention to detail. All of his mentor journals are turned in on time and are very well written, and he is one of the first mentors to step up if I need help covering a shift,” says Taylor.

She also noted Ali put in extra time at the end of the semester with a mentee who needed support preparing her psychology paper and studying for her final.

When asked what he most enjoyed about being a mentor, Ali says it was seeing his fellow students grow and develop both socially and academically.

"What stood out to me working with the students is the amazing transformation in character and performance that they showed as the year progressed,” he explained. “Some students were extremely shy, reserved, and seemingly overwhelmed at the start of the academic year. Others had it in them to perform well academically, but they never had the right tools to achieve that. It was heartwarming to see them get the results they put the effort for, and it's a real pleasure that they are now our friends for life. Being part of College Steps was an experience unparalleled by any other."

Thank you, Ali for going above and beyond to help your fellow students and mentors. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.


College Steps Expands to Three New Campuses

It’s been a busy April at College Steps H.Q. with the addition of three new college partnerships beginning Fall 2018. Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Alexandria in Virginia, Connecticut College and County College of Morris in New Jersey have all signed-on to partner with College Steps in providing individualized, peer-mentor based transition programming and support for students living with social or learning challenges.

“We are very excited to be working with these institutions and the surrounding high schools,” said College Steps’ Co-Founder, Lauren Merritt. “Our efforts complement the existing work of these institutions and attract additional talented students interested in our model of support. We look forward to meeting new families, high schools, and community partners to collaboratively build sustainable and long-term options for transition-aged youth living with disabilities.”

With the addition of these three schools, College Steps expands its services and operations to a dozen institutions stretching across the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic.

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College leaders from each institution expressed approval and excitement in joining forces. Dr. Bette Simmons, Vice President of Student Development & Enrollment Management at County College of Morris stated that “partnering with College Steps allows us to ensure that our students with disabilities have access to strong comprehensive support systems that will allow them to increase their chances of success as well as encourage their participation and overall involvement in the entire academic experience.”

College Steps will be hosting a series of public Information Sessions over the coming weeks to provide prospective students, parents, guardians, school district personnel, and advocates with information about services offered, including the individualized support model, admissions process and associated costs. Information Sessions for NOVA Alexandria are free, but please RSVP via Eventbrite as soon as possible:

NOVA Alexandria

The priority application deadline for Fall 2018 enrollment is May. Additional information and applications are available at