Forty-five and glowing certainly describes the atmosphere at the Scarsdale Student Transfer Education Program (STEP) anniversary celebration held on Saturday November 5th at the Scarsdale Women’s Club. Over two hundred people came out to honor this transformative Scarsdale program and its founder, Village Historian and beloved Scarsdale history teacher Eric Rothschild.
An assortment of community members, former students, and STEP family representatives came to the podium to laud the accomplishments of STEP’s founder, its graduates and its goals. Over the past 45 years, STEP has hosted 27 women and 22 men who have been given the opportunity to attend Scarsdale High School and live for two years with a local family. After graduating, they have gone on to a wide selection of college and universities, pursued a variety of careers and many have maintained their ties to Scarsdale.
The SHS a cappella group “For Good Measure” opened the evening’s formal program and was followed by a short video produced by SHS students, highlighting the STEP experience of David Bougard (SHS 2010) and the Hunersen family. New York State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin proclaimed Nov 5th as Eric Rothschild Day and remarked “STEP exemplifies public education at its best.”
First among the speakers was Jerylle Kemp, former STEP student (SHS 1968) who shared her experience of coming to Scarsdale from Atlanta to live with the Frye family. Kemp, who graduated from Yale and has a Wharton MBA and a law degree from Harvard said she came “looking for an academic challenge and sense of community.” She spoke of lifelong friendships as well as establishing a strong foundation for future endeavors. Kemp was so positive about her STEP experience that she encouraged her sister who also participated in the program.
The evening proceeded with SHS alum Steven Schnur kicking off tributes from what was titled Eric Rothchild’s Fan Club. Although Schnur spoke regrettably of never having experienced Rothschild in the classroom, they have since forged a relationship at their favorite haunt, The Scarsdale Library. Schnur praised Rothschild for “nurturing what is best within us.” Former student Tom Vogel spoke of Rothschild, “not as a caretaker; he’s a creator.” He urged students to “do your own research, put yourself in others’ shoes and go out of your comfort zone.” Another former student Lyndon Tretter described Rothschild like “Tom Sawyer getting kids to paint the fence; he made them believe it could be cool to study hard.”
Kimberly Harris (SHS 1988) spoke about the wonderful experience of being a STEP sister and Kelley Hamm, SHS acting co-principal said, “Eric nurtured STEP at its creation and has worked for many years sustaining it and maintaining contact with STEP alum. He has such pride and love of what they have accomplished. “
On behalf of the STEP Board and all its constituencies, STEP Senior Chair Liz Gruber made a presentation of a commemorative pen saying, “we are honored to be working with you to continue the mission of this exceptional organization that you are so passionate about. Following a standing ovation, Rothschild lauded the entire community saying, “We could have sat on our laurels and built a moat, but we didn’t. Instead we decided to share our educational and community resources by becoming one of the 30 communities with STEP-like programs in the U.S. Today Scarsdale has the only remaining program.” He wished STEP a happy birthday and said, “May you have many more.”
In addition to current STEP students Keith Martinez and Lisa Studway, the anniversary celebration welcomed Angela Kanish (SHS 85) and Darrian Mumphrey (SHS ’08). Kanish graduated from Ithaca College and has an MBA in Arts Administration from Binghamton University. She currently works for the San Diego Opera as Associate Director of Education. Mumphrey attends CUNY in the Bronx and is majoring in art education.
The STEP Benefit was chaired by Beth Ehrich Berkeley and Nina Ross. The Good Life Gourmet caterers worked generously with the organization providing food and staff to enhance this community event.
Article by Valerie Abrahams and Anna Decker. Photos by Gail Weisenfeld
(Pictured on top: STEP Chair Liz Gruber with Honoree Eric Rothschild)