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Providing stepping stones to create success through education for children and families who have limited opportunities.

One Poignant Stepping Stone Part II

When our mom began our LEAF (Literacy Elevates Arizona Families) program this fall with her preschool child, we soon found out the she had been diagnosed with cancer.  She was taking chemotherapy treatments and the situation was and remains quite serious.  A few short weeks ago, the mom approached one of our staff and asked if they would take her baby with Down’s Syndrome and raise her if she passed away.


This situation was overwhelming to everyone touched by it.


Working with many organizational friends, the name of a local lawyer was given to us and the mom now has an appointment for a free consult regarding her immigration status and a quick review to see if she can be helped both with child custody issues surrounding her many children, and her own health issues.


We share this story because, although extreme, it is not particularly unusual among the families we serve.  A Stepping Stone not only provides a literacy intervention for families caught in inter-generational poverty, but  provides a stable environment that grows “social capital”.  Our program helps families make important connections in their neighborhoods. These connections include other families, health care, social services, access to continuing education and job training and in some cases like the mom in this story, legal assistance.

One Poignant Stepping Stone Story-PART I

Imagine being pregnant with your sixth child and learning that your husband has a very serious illness.  He is admitted to the hospital.  What will you do if he passes away? He is the sole bread-earner for the family and you do not have proper documentation to stay in the country, even though all your children do and you’ve lived here for more than two decades.


Then he passes away.


This is exactly what happened to one of the mothers enrolled in our program last year. Her husband passed away after being admitted to a local hospital.  The other families in our program and our staff surrounded her with love and care as she gave birth to her sixth child, who was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome.


Watch for the what happens next in tomorrow’s blog.



All of our Stepping Stone moms have begun online classes and work at their own pace.  Each Friday, they meet together in the adult education room just one building away from where their children attend Stepping Stone’s LEAF preschool.  Currently, Neida, one of the Stepping Stone office interns meets with them there to help them with any technical issues and provide content support as they work through their assignments.


We originally had four mothers participate, but one has moved to Mexico. Sadly, it was the one whose story I shared in my blog post. Interestingly she is a US citizen, but her husband is not, so she has rejoined him in the Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) area. The remaining moms’ ages range from 24-48.


Up Close and Personal

The mom who is 48 said all her older children are enrolled in college, but she had never finished her own education.  All her extended family that live here (all her children, her husband and brothers and sisters) have their permanent residence status or are US Citizens, but she has not. Her children used to ask her when she was going back to get her GED–one step in applying for permanent residency.  Now that she’s doing it, they are so proud of her!


This fall, A Stepping Stone Foundation had a bit of a hiccup for three mothers whose families had enrolled in our LEAF (Literacy Elevates Arizona Families) program located at the Bret Tarver Isaac Preschool teaching site in Phoenix.  This program, as many readers will remember, is a five-point family literacy program which consists of preschool, adult literacy, parenting classes, inter-generational learning activities and home visiting.  The hiccup occurred for these three mothers when the school district couldn’t find HSE (High School Equivalency) preparation classes for them.


Typically, the school district provides the courses onsite, but when all district avenues had been exhausted and we were informed they could not do so, two long-time Stepping Stone donors stepped in to pay the costs of GED online learning through Rio Salado Community College.  The following report is the first of many about which I intend to blog.


I spent three mornings helping the moms enroll online. They obtained a Maricopa Community Colleges ID and password and I will accompanied them so they ccould present their picture ID’s in person at Rio Salado College in Tempe and then enrolled in the 14 online week class.  Each mom must spend at least 4 hours on Friday mornings working on this coursework and have the option to work at home as well.


There was a bit a of a challenge getting connectivity (access to the internet). While all moms have at least a cell phone and/or an I-pad or similar, getting a reliable internet connection was challenging.  In the end, we prevailed and they began classes on Monday, October 16th.


Up Close and Personal:

One mother in particular shared her story about how it is she came to have four children at a young age. She was raped as a sophomore in high school and then dropped out from the stigma.  Today, the father of her children is a Mexican citizen and lives on the other side of the border and she sees him only rarely.


Her career goal is to become a doctor because she loves all things connected to the brain and brain development.  She knows this will take many years, but remembers being very good in school and believes she can do it.  The first step is to get her GED. She shared how passionate she was about learning everything she can. I shared with her that the road to be a physician can begin with a medical certificate in in something like hematology or becoming an registered nurse first.





August Update

A Stepping Stone Foundation Aug 17 Update

2017 Parent Celebration


Enjoy these pictures of our preschoolers, parents and teachers. As they celebrated their outstanding accomplishments for this school year !! Included in the pictures are Ms. Jenny’s and Ms. Janet’s classrooms.







They Talk About It: We DO it!

Is preschool really important? Read this article from Rasmussen University: Is Preschool Important?


Stepping Stone child building

A Stepping Stone four-year-old left to his own devices.

Billie Gannaway Scholars

We would like to congratulate all 39 scholars for their Billie Gannaway Award. Also, a special thank you to the 16 students that were able to attend the award ceremony that took place Tuesday, April 25th. It really means so much for Stepping Stone because it gives us the ability to see students grow.

They Talk About It: We DO it!!

Check out this story about the importance of early childhood education written by Claudio Sanchez and posted on NPR :

Pictured here is one of our many parents working with their child in A Stepping Stone Foundation LEAF program on literacy activities–in an age-appropriate way! A Stepping Stone Foundation has been providing the kind of programs described in the NPR article for the past 27 years.


Our 10th Annual Cena & Serenata


Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King, Jr


One of the most rewarding experiences as a member of society is the opportunity to make a positive impact on those within our community. Seeing the fruit of how one’s time and donations play an instrumental role in the success of our children as they join our educational system is priceless. Furthermore, A Stepping Stone Foundation takes it a step further than all other organizations within our community. In conjunction with the kids going through the program, the parents are supported and provided with the awareness of how they too have to lead by example and achieve their GED. Nelson Mandela states how “Education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world” and our teachers, children, parents and board members advocate this consistently proving this model to be extremely successful since 1989.


In 2016, I was honored to attend and volunteer for the 9th Annual Cena & Serenata Event that was held on April 2nd at the Heard Museum. The board members and the planning committee organized this annual gala with the sole purpose of raising awareness around A Stepping Stone’s mission and values. There was a wide range of Sponsors, Donors, and Volunteers at the event celebrating culture, family and unity. In addition to having Dr. David Garcia as our MC, the evening was filled with performances from Al Jauregui Mariachi, Glendale Ballet Fóklorico, Str8up Band, and Gustavo Angeles. There was also a great Silent Auction and Wine Pull from donors to help raise further funds for our Children and Families. The Annual Event helped raise $45,000 of funding for our Children’s Programs!


How impactful are these donations for our students and parents? See below:


  • $8 equals one hour of quality preschool or Adult/Parenting Education per Individual
  • $30 provides a typical day for one of our families (4 hours)
  • $100 provides a whole week of preschool education to a child in need.
  • $250 provides a whole family with preschool for their child, younger sibling childcare & Adult Parenting Education for two weeks!


Through the event Cena & Serenata, A Stepping Stone foundation has been able to unify a community of advocates for high quality education, equality for all, and giving back to those who are in need. We invite you to either donate or attend the event by purchasing a ticket for our 10th annual event being held on March 25th! As part of our dream, we aspire to all be a community of one – Join us in our efforts today!


Board Member,

Jessica M. Sanchez