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. This year, Small Steps is serving approximately 180 children in a 10-month program at two campuses.

Small Steps has graduated 415 children to kindergarten or first grade and has formed partnerships with area magnet programs, elementary schools, and private schools to continue to encourage and challenge our students.

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 median household income for 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 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 ten tuition hours 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. Seventy percent of the children attending Small Steps are Hispanic, 26 percent are African American, and 4 percent are multiethnic. The majority of children and families we serve live within the following zip codes: 77003, 77007, 77008, 77009, 77019, 77020, and 77026. Most of our students live in the First, Second, and Fifth Wards 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 that has been awarded Charity Navigator’s four-star (highest) rating for 13 years in a row, earning their “exceptional” designation. Based upon Charity Navigator ratings, Small Steps was also number four on the Houston Chronicle’s list of Houston’s healthiest and most efficient charities, published on March 29, 2015.

Collaborative Partnerships

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

A.D. Players
Baylor University
Be A Champion, Inc.
The Center for Hearing and Speech
Christ the King Presbyterian Church
ESCAPE Family Resource Center
Hope Stone, Inc.
Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
Houston Food Bank
Impact Houston Church of Christ
M.D. Anderson Family YMCA
Partners in Educational Advocacy
Prevent Blindness Texas
Rice University Kinder Institute
Texas A&M Agrilife Extension
University of Houston
University of St. Thomas

Board of Directors

Executive Officers

  • Chris Transier - President

    Fortis Minerals

  • Jessica Brazelton - Vice President

    Community Volunteer

  • James Gilligan - Secretary

    Investment Professional, Retired

  • Ed Bialas - Treasurer

    First Reserve Corporation

Board Members

  • Robert O. Bond

    Oil and Gas Executive, Retired

  • Julie Boone, M.Ed.

    Early Childhood Educator/Administrator

  • Chris Bradshaw

    Era Group Inc.

  • Mark Burroughs

    EnCap Investments, L.P.

  • Jane Cabes

    Community Volunteer

  • Ryan Devlin

    EnCap Investments, L.P.

  • Ron Dierker

    J.P. Morgan

  • Michael Fertitta

    Hilcorp Energy Company

  • Jennifer Hazelton

    Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

  • Greg Highberger

    Lime Rock Partners

  • Dash Lane

    KKR & Co. L.P.

  • Susan Light

    Community Volunteer

  • Jon Marinelli

    BMO Capital Markets

  • David McCarver

    Texas Capital Bank

  • W. David de Roode

    Lockton Global Energy & Marine

  • Tim Samson

    Thompson & Knight LLP

  • Bobby Stillwell

    Memorial Production Partners LP

  • Carolyn Tanner

    Community Volunteer

  • Leticia Trauber

    Community Volunteer

Advisory Board

  • Thurmon Andress

    BreitBurn Energy Company

  • 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.




Volunteer Services

Social and Emotional Program

  • Dalila Aldrich, MA, LPC-I

    Social and Emotional Program Specialist—DePelchin Campus

  • Lauren Friede, M.Ed, LPC

    Social and Emotional Program Specialist—Jensen Campus

  • Lauren Repa, MA, LCSW

    Social and Emotional Program Specialist—Jensen Campus


Teaching Staff—DePelchin

  • Ja'Mese Coty

    2 & 3 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Masami Mizukami

    2 & 3 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Anna Castillo

    2 & 3 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Maria Peña

    2 & 3 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Nadia Ellis

    Pre-K / Kindergarten Lead Teacher

  • Ebony Kimble

    Pre-K / Kindergarten Lead Teacher

  • Sandra Batla

    Pre-K / Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

  • Teresa Torres

    Pre-K / Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

  • Gloria Marron

    Flexible Teacher, All Ages

  • Frank Vasquez

    Flexible Teacher, All Ages

  • Justin Cook

    Drama/Music Teacher, All Ages

Teaching Staff—Jensen

  • Mary Hannah Donaldson

    2 & 3 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Jenny Landry

    2 & 3 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Thomasita Lira

    2 & 3 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Michelle Marquart

    2 & 3 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Olga Barrera

    2 & 3 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Leticia Flowers

    2 & 3 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Rebecca Romero

    2 & 3 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Irazema Villarreal

    2 & 3 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Marylen Child

    Pre-K / 4 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Michael Thomas

    Pre-K / 4 Year Old Lead Teacher

  • Angel Hernandez

    Pre-K / 4 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Daisy Ramirez

    Pre-K / 4 Year Old Assistant Teacher

  • Leah Dile

    Kindergarten Lead Teacher

  • Mary Ellen Ellis

    Kindergarten Lead Teacher

  • Daniela Gonzalez

    Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

  • Valerie Sanchez

    Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

  • Avery Bennenfeld

    Flexible Teacher, All Ages

  • Julieta Espinoza

    Flexible Teacher, All Ages

  • Patricia Vasquez

    Flexible Teacher, All Ages

  • Donitta Williams

    Flexible Teacher, All Ages

  • Justin Cook

    Drama/Music Teacher, All Ages

Kitchen / Site Maintenance Staff

  • Ivette Rincon

    Kitchen Supervisor

  • Raquel Aguirre

    Kitchen Assistant

  • Angele Callahan

    Kitchen Assistant

  • Christina Castro

    Kitchen Assistant

  • Maria Martinez

    Kitchen Assistant

  • Erika Martinez

    Kitchen Assistant

  • Paul Saldana


  • Miguel Barrera

    Van / Maintenance