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Other frequently asked questions

What qualifies a family to participate in this program?

Because this is a literacy-based program, parents must be in need of a high school diploma and/or help with English. They must agree to be actively involved at all levels of their child’s education and their own. The teachers interview families to determine those with the most potential for growth.

What is A Stepping Stone Foundation and when did it start?

A handful of people with large hearts and small purses began a journey to create preschool experiences for every child in Arizona. Believing that early education is crucial for all children, and seeing the woeful number of children not being served, this group decided to make a difference. In 1989 A Stepping Stone Foundation was incorporated. Its mission is to provide high quality, comprehensive early childhood programs for as many children and their families in need of literacy services as possible.

Who benefits and how? How many have been influenced by the program? Is it free to the parents?

Currently 40 families are served each year. Over 1800 families have been through our program. Our families live in Phoenix’s Isaac or Alhambra School Districts. While the children attend a high quality preschool program, their parents must attend GED or English classes, as well as parenting workshops. They also are required to work in the preschool room with the children under the supervision of teaching staff. All families attend free of tuition charge. All payment is made in “sweat equity”.

So, who pays?

Currently all funds for A Stepping Stone Foundation are raised over the course of the year through grant proposal writing, fundraising events and charitable donations from the public and corporations. Corporations, small businesses, other foundations, individuals, the school districts and Board-sponsored fundraising events raise the necessary money. As of January 1st 2021, A Stepping Stone Foundation receives no government funds.

How much money is needed?

This economical program costs about $7,000 per family each school year. The current total Foundation budget is just under $400,000, with the organization’s costs kept to a bare minimum. Last year, only 18% of this budget figure went for overhead to maintain the foundation, which includes one full-time Director and two part-time Administrators (Interns who are former preschoolers in our program).  Additional staffing such as our Program Consultant, Web Maintenance Officer and office space and some printing needs are donated. Volunteers provide the “people power” of the Board and office back up.

What happens if families do not fulfill their commitment?

On rare occasions, a family has been dropped because of its inability to fulfill the requirements. Although this is a difficult decision, it honors the families who are busy fulfilling their commitment. There is a six-week protocol after attendance drops below the minimum to remove all barriers, but after that time, if no progress is made, the family is asked to leave.  The dropped family is free to have their child enroll in other programs such as HeadStart. A new family is recruited and integrated.

Can’t these children go to Head Start or other similar programs?

Although an excellent program, Head Start is income-based and does not require the same level of parent involvement. Our program thus meets a different need. The Stepping Stone-partnered school districts report each year that for all preschool programs they have hundreds of children and their families that could be served if more classrooms were available.

What do school districts provide?

They provide the classrooms, janitorial services, basic classroom equipment such as tables and chairs, expendable supplies such as paper, paint and glue, breakfast and lunch for the preschoolers, and daily supervision.

What does A Stepping Stone Foundation provide?

We provide money for the teachers’ salaries, technical assistance (teacher training, and student and parent assessment management), classroom learning equipment, books, and child care for younger siblings while the parents are in their classes and workshops. We also fund professional development and field trips.  Our teachers have petty cash for special purchases such as food for classroom pets or ingredients for cooking.

What else does A Stepping Stone Foundation provide?

Because of its wide support base, the foundation is able to provide a Holiday Angel Program where all children 12 and under in each family receive new or gently used clothing, a toy and books just before winter break. When a family disaster such as fire or death occurs, money and gifts can be quickly gathered. Parties and celebrations are jointly planned and enjoyed by families and the Board at the end of school year.

What cultural communities are served?

All ethnic and racial groups are welcome. Because of the communities within our partnered school districts, most of our parents are Spanish-speakers from a variety of backgrounds. Others are of Asian, African-American, Middle-Eastern and Caucasian backgrounds.

What happens in preschool?

During the school year our children are in class Monday through Thursday. On Friday teachers make home visits. They visit each home a minimum of once a month with child development information, learning games, and advice for parents. On a daily basis, our children have breakfast as they arrive at 8:00 and lunch just before they go home at 12:30. During the morning the teachers provide art, science, music, stories, outdoor play, learning centers, and individual and group games–all mixed with individual attention to each child’s needs. Two teachers along with community and parent volunteers create for the children magical days in well-equipped, bright, happy classrooms.

Teachers are certified and teaching assistants are highly qualified.  Our staff use DAP practices and follow the Arizona State Learning Standards as well as Teaching Strategies Gold for assessment.

What difference does this program make in the lives of children and families?

Children receive the basics for school success in A Stepping Stone Foundation rooms. Many of them have few books and toys at home and need help communicating, problem solving and following directions. Their parents work hard during the year to acquire skills important for economic and educational success. Everyone grows in confidence and self-esteem and families become their school’s most valuable volunteers and advocates–today and in the future.

How do parents feel about this program?

Dads are some of our biggest success stories. Dads who discover that they have an important role to play in their child’s life are clear about how they grew from the program. Moms who get GED’s or learn to speak English feel stronger and more in charge of their lives. They are not getting a handout–they are participating in their child’s education. They are empowered to be in charge of their lives. A number have felt strong enough to go out and get a job. Such positive changes affect the children, the entire family and the community.

What do educators and experts say about the power of such experiences for children?

Socialization for a preschooler is crucial. A Stepping Stone Foundation children learn to work together, appreciate differences, follow directions, and communicate their feelings and needs. They learn basic school skills in settings full of fun and play. Through curiosity and hands-on activities they explore their world and learn how to be a successful contributors to society.

What do the teachers say about the Stepping Stone approach?

Kindergarten teachers are pleased to have incoming children who begin the year ready to learn. One Stepping Stone teacher reports, “Our classrooms are special places for these children. They come to us filled with wonder and awe and we keep that spirit and enthusiasm alive. Learning the names of colors, shapes and counting is an adventure for these bundles of energy. But here they learn more than basic skills. They learn how to learn and they grasp a lifetime love of learning. But they receive even more. They learn about others and how they relate, not only to their families, but to others in the classroom. As our children succeed, they learn more about themselves and what special people they are.”

Have there been any studies done to support the rationale?

In collaboration with an ASU West graduate student, A Stepping Stone Foundation conducted a follow-up study in 2000 within elementary schools who had children who had previously attended our LEAF program.  Elementary teachers rated their students as compared classroom peers on across 5 educational descriptors.  The Stepping Stone children were above their peers in all categories.

A Stepping Stone has also been working with local districts to follow-up on standardized testing in subsequent elementary years to see how our children compare to site and district peers.  The early results have shown that Stepping Stone graduates score above their peers in reading and math.

Because our children begin as the most at risk, achieving at or above grade level is considered quite an accomplishment. Parents who’ve moved on (graduated) report that they believe that the Stepping Stone experience was an important factor in their children’s ongoing school success. Parents often drop by their former preschooler’s classroom, catching the teachers up-to-date on the latest family news.

Has this program been publicly acknowledged?

Yes. They’ve won the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Education (twice!), the J. C. Penney Golden Rule Award, the Award of Excellence from the Arizona School Public Relations Association and Westmark’s Best of the West Award in Community Partnerships.

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We provide a tuition free, high quality, developmentally appropriate preschool program.