Our Story

In 1995, van drivers picking up children for a church vacation bible school observed younger siblings being left at home in questionable or poorly supervised situations.

One of the van drivers was a college student who responded by designing a program to meet the needs of the children she had seen. Her work led to the founding of Small Steps Nurturing Center in 1995 and the construction of a school in Houston’s First Ward in 1999.

The success of the program has led to a demand for services that has consistently outpaced Small Steps’ capacity. In 2006, Small Steps opened a second campus in Houston’s Fifth Ward, enabling us to serve 118 students. In 2012, we expanded our Fifth Ward campus to add four new classrooms, as well as observation and training capabilities that allow collaborative partners and education students to observe and learn from our program. Small Steps currently operates two campuses, having opened our Gulfton/Sharpstown campus in January 2021.

Our Mission

To provide an exemplary early childhood program to instill and foster the social, emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual growth of economically at-risk children and their families.

Our Values

  • Christian Faith
  • Relationship-Driven Program
  • Focus on the Whole Person
  • High Expectations
  • Teamwork

Our Goals

  • Students will experience an intellectually stimulating environment, which allows each child to reach his or her academic potential and be prepared for elementary school.
  • Students will experience a safe, nurturing, healthy atmosphere.
  • Students will express needs and engage in positive interactions with peers and adults.
  • Students will feel loved and know that God created something special about each person.
  • Families will be nurtured and engaged as the primary teachers of their children.

Who We Serve


The estimated average annual family income for last year’s newly enrolled Small Steps families.

To Qualify

For a child to qualify for Small Steps’ program, the family must meet the federal guidelines for the free meals portion of the National School Lunch Program (below 130 percent of the national poverty level) at the time of application, and parents must complete a minimum of 10 tuition hours (15 if more than one student) each school year. Families must also live in the surrounding zip codes at the time of application.

Cost of Attendance

There is no financial cost to families. Instead, parents commit to complete a minimum of 10 tuition hours (15 if more than one student) each school year. Parents can fulfill this requirement by attending parent education events, assisting on field trips or in the classroom, and participating in parent-child activities.

Demographic Served

Small Steps currently serves approximately 180 students and their 140 families. This school year, 52 percent of the children attending Small Steps identify as Hispanic/Latino, 26 percent identify as African American/Black, 16 percent identify as Caucasian/White, 1 percent identify as American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 5 percent identify as multiracial/other. The majority of children and families we serve live within the following zip codes: 77009, 77019, 77020, and 77026. Most of our students live in the Fifth Ward and surrounding areas of inner-city Houston.


Small Steps Nurturing Center has both empirical and anecdotal confirmation that our program is making a profound difference in the lives of the children and families we serve.


Small Steps is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Collaborative Partnerships

Small Steps has numerous ongoing collaborative partnerships with other nonprofits to accomplish our shared goals.

Baylor University
The Center for Hearing and Speech
Christ the King Presbyterian Church
Community Health Choice
Hope Stone, Inc.
Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
Houston Food Bank
Impact Houston Church of Christ
M.D. Anderson Family YMCA
Prevent Blindness Texas
Rice University Kinder Institute
St. Luke’s United Methodist Church
University of St. Thomas

Board of Directors

Executive Officers

  • Michael Fertitta - President

    JDH Capital

  • Emily Sheeren - Vice President


  • Brooks Despot - Secretary

    EnCap Investments L.P.

  • James Gilligan - Treasurer

    Retired Investment Professional

Board Members

  • Tom Bastian

    Retired Investment Professional

  • Chris Bradshaw

    Bristow Group

  • Jane Cabes

    Community Volunteer

  • Karen David-Green

    Marketing & Communications Executive

  • Greg Davis

    EIV Capital LLC

  • Ryan Devlin

    EnCap Investments L.P.

  • Greg Highberger

    Lime Rock Partners

  • Susan Light

    Community Volunteer

  • Jon Marinelli

    BMO Capital Markets

  • Laura Mullervy


  • Annette Mullins

    Community Volunteer

  • W. David de Roode

    Lockton Global Energy & Marine

  • R. Linda Alonzo Saenz

    Early Childhood Educator

  • Tim Samson

    Holland & Knight LLP

  • Stephanie Sauer

    Greenwood King Properties

  • Bobby Stillwell, Jr.

    Cadre Energy

  • Carolyn Tanner

    Community Volunteer

Advisory Board

  • Thurmon Andress

    Andress Oil & Gas

  • Fred Brazelton

    Platform Partners, LLC

  • Evan Harrel


  • Charlie Middlebrook

    Retired Minister

  • Marty Phillips

    EnCap Investments, L.P.

  • John Rathmell, Jr.

    Lockton Marine & Energy

  • Wynne Snoots

    EnCap Investments, L.P.



Advancement and Finance

Program Leadership

Social and Emotional Program


Kitchen / Facilities Staff

  • Ivette Rincon

    Kitchen Supervisor

  • Raquel Canizalez

    Kitchen Staff

  • Erika Martinez

    Kitchen Staff

  • Christina Rodrrigues

    Kitchen Staff

Teaching Staff - Jensen

  • Tomy Lira

    2 & 3 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Masami Mizukami

    2 & 3 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Begoña Poliakoff

    2 & 3 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Olga Barrera

    2 & 3 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Leticia Flowers

    2 & 3 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Gloria Marron

    2 & 3 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Maria Peña

    2 & 3 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Amy Flores

    2 & 3 Year Old Flex Teacher

  • Sindi Torres

    2 & 3 Year Old Flex Teacher

  • Ebony Kimble

    Pre-K Lead Teacher

  • Abigail Perez

    Pre-K Lead Teacher

  • Anna Castillo

    Pre-K Assistant Teacher

  • Valerie Sanchez

    Pre-K Assistant Teacher

  • Michelle Marquart

    Pre-K Flex Teacher

  • Nadia Ellis

    Kindergarten Lead Teacher

  • Daniela Gonzalez Perez

    Kindergarten Lead Teacher

  • Julieta Espinoza

    Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

  • Patricia Vasquez

    Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

  • Mary Ellen Ellis

    Intructional Specialist

  • Rocio Hernandez

    Student Support Specialist

  • Frank Vasquez

    Student Support Specialist

  • Kaylee Martinez

    Chapel & Flexible Teacher, All Ages

  • Justin Cook

    Fine Arts & Flexible Teacher, All Ages

Teaching Staff - Gulfton

  • Christina Dashiell

    2 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Elisabeth Suazo

    2 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • DaiMonique Williams

    2 & 3 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Yulissa Luna

    2 & 3 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Alexis Vaughn

    3 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Fatima Saleck

    3 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Marylen Child

    Pre-K Lead Teacher

  • Jasmin Palacios

    Pre-K Assistant Teacher

  • Melissa Ortega

    Flexible Teacher, All Ages

  • Joy Posoli

    Student Support Specialist

  • Kaylee Martinez

    Chapel & Flexible Teacher, All Ages