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Asha and Ayanna’s Story

Asha and Ayanna are twin sisters who are now college graduates! AFC selected Asha and Ayanna to receive the Education Champion Award at our 2015 Spring Benefit in recognition of all of their hard work and perseverance to receive an appropriate education.
asha and ayanna with parents
Asha and Ayanna with their parents, Chowhean Johnson and Bweela Steptoe, at AFC’s 2015 Spring Benefit.

The sisters began receiving special education services in second grade when their mother, Bweela Steptoe, became concerned about their academic progress. At first, Ms. Steptoe was told that her daughters would “grow out of it.” However, by fifth grade, they had fallen so far behind that their promotion was in doubt. Knowing she could no longer “wait and see,” Ms. Steptoe contacted AFC, and together we worked quickly to find the girls sixth grade placements at The Sterling School, where their unique learning needs would be met. AFC then filed for and won an impartial hearing requiring the Department of Education (DOE) to pay their tuition. Once at Sterling, for the first time in years, Asha and Ayanna made academic gains and wanted to attend school. When they needed a new program for seventh grade, AFC won tuition for Bay Ridge Prep’s Bridge program. For each of the next six years, AFC, with the help of pro bono attorneys Elizabeth Callahan and Meridith Krell of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, represented the family and went to hearing on one or both of the cases to make certain the girls received the curriculum and support they needed to be successful in school.

While at Bay Ridge Prep, the sisters grew academically and socially, developing their talents as visual artists and joining after-school clubs. They even created an Anime Club! And that hard work paid off. Asha and Ayanna both passed all five of the State’s required Regents exams and graduated in June 2015 with Regents diplomas and bright futures ahead of them. Asha attended the culinary program at Johnson and Wales University, while Ayanna, a manga artist, pursued her love of anime at Savannah College of Art and Design. We are proud to report that both sisters graduated from college in 2019!