next STEP

The cover graphics for next STEP are very Seventies, but the magazine is a creation of niche marketing. Specifically, the target demo is kids 18+. Now, that world is huge, number-wise. But the catch here -- and it's evident from the git-go -- is the class. And I don't mean class as in room. The goal -- guiding others in the pursuit of successful lives after high school -- is admirable.

When I was a twiglet, we didn't have such magazines. Then again, we didn't have, as far as my alma mater went, high ambitions, either -- unless you count my quest to win a Pulitzer and kill a Nazi. If we won the local football championship, my high school, which religiously cancelled late Friday afternoon classes for the requisite pep rally, called it a day. Of course, we didn't know from class distinctions. next STEP does -- and it's all in the advertising.

So before we get to the meat, let's get to the marrow. Since the edit offices are in upstate New York, there are several ads for SUNY (State University of New York) schools, like Fredonia and Oneonta. In addition, there is a slew for colleges under religious auspices: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John's, Nazareth. Others I've never heard of: Daemen College and Hibbert. All, I'm sure, turn out good students, but you see where I'm going.

This eight-times-a-year mag, whatever its merits -- and there are many -- wasn't on George and Laura's coffee table when the twins were considering their next address, before future court appointments or getting booted out of Argentina. next STEP is for children of what was once dubbed "The Silent Majority." These kids need sound advice about financial aid and career options, which run the gamut here from day-care worker and chef, both realized with a two-year associate's degree, to engineer. Another choice: sign up with Uncle Sam.

So it's no surprise to see ads for the Army, the Navy and especially the Marines. In a war-free climate, entering the U.S. Armed Forces is a way to obtain a college degree, serve your country, and, as my mother always says, get a pension after 20 years. You could argue with job security? Enlist after high school, and embark on a second career at 38. But in wartime, the decision to join is even more dramatic.

According to, the Marines are the "world's fiercest warriors," which may explain the ad copy on page 9. The third reason to join the few and the proud: "You will become the piercing tip of America's sword." Hoo-boy. I can't offer any specific combat skills, aside from verbal, but if they need caustic wit, I'm down. Just remember: I'm not a morning person.

But I'm guessing many next STEPers are. The magazine is resolutely forward-thinking, and the key word here is practical. "Slacker" rates a yearbook jibe; it's not a handy resume description. Those shots of Daytona water beds and the busboy posted on MySpace will only take you so far. Ergo, the job push, which can prove useful once the rent comes due. Say what you will about young and carefree, but paying $150 to turn the electricity back on can sober up the party hearty.

And here's where next STEP scores. It covers college, career options and money management. The stories are helpful and focused, be it the value of a gap year -- the time between high school and college -- to the importance of summer school. To reach its audience, the pub is distributed in nearly 22,000 high schools and read, according to its Web site, by over 900,000 students in 50 states. I wish Jane Austen were this popular. If you need tips on dating, mating and navigating treacherous societal waters, she's the master. Just check out "Pride and Prejudice." Austen strives, as Ali G would say, to "keep it real."

And it doesn't get any realer than the Super Teens section. These kids entered the magazine's annual contest and wowed it with their accomplishments. It's not just being class prez, yearbook editor, overcoming physical challenges and raising dogs for the blind. That's for openers. One kid has been researching ways to create ethanol as an alternative fuel source at the University of Rochester since he was 10. Even the non-supers had positive, upbeat plans for the future. For its readers, to paraphrase the ancient Chinese saying, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single next STEP.


8 times a year
Published by:
Next Step Publishing, Inc.
Web site

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