WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO
After becoming a registered nurse and volunteering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, I decided to dedicate myself to the idea that every child, given the right tools, can and will succeed. Having strong adult leadership is crucial to healthy youth development and future success. At Stepping Stones we provide youth with positive adult role models, empowering experiences, and the skills they need to thrive. Founding Stepping Stones is the culmination of my commitment to empower youth as they become happy, healthy, self-sufficient adults.
- FOUNDER KRISTIN NELSON
Stepping Stones provides essential services and support to underserved youth who would not have access otherwise. Every youth is entitled to services and programming that enable them to thrive socially and emotionally. Stepping Stones is committed to providing free services to youth, young adults, and their families in order to meet the needs of the community and each individual we serve.
STRONG ADULT LEADERSHIP
Strong relationships with positive adult role models is crucial to the future success of the youth we serve. Our mentorship program is based on a continuity of love and care with a focus on meeting the individual needs of the mind, body, and spirit of each individual.
Stepping Stones instills in youth a love of learning and an appreciation for individual pursuits throughout life. We are dedicated to teaching the skills youth will need to become self-sufficient, happy, and healthy.
COMMITMENT TO RACIAL JUSTICE
Youth have always initiated conversations about race and justice at Stepping Stones, since we are a multicultural setting where diversity, honesty, and vulnerability are valued. These talks have increased in frequency and urgency as recent deaths and protests have demanded our engagement and action. While our staff has always worked to empower youth to thoughtfully explore and bridge the divides between us, we recognize that this is not enough.
We grieve and stand with the Black community against acts of police brutality, racism, and policies and systems that perpetuate inequity. Our commitment to mentoring young people and supporting their families requires us to demand justice. We acknowledge that there are dynamics of deeply ingrained racism, oppression toward BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), white privilege, and complacency within our community both near and far. We cannot achieve our mission to empower young people to reach self-sufficiency in a world that structurally oppresses 77% of our participants. Stepping Stones is committed to working against unjust policies for the benefit of our youth, their families, and our community.
Recognizing the sharp racial divides that exist within our own community, Stepping Stones is committed to amplifying voices of BIPOC, implementing antiracist practices within our programming, and increasing the diversity of our Board of Directors. We are also committed on a participant, staff, and board level to the active work of listening, speaking truth, building equitable systems, and dismantling oppressive systems. We stand with you, together, for justice, compassion and change.
Compromiso de Stepping Stones con la justicia racial:
Los jóvenes siempre han iniciado conversaciones sobre raza y justicia en Stepping Stones, ya que somos una comunidad multicultural donde se valora la diversidad, la honestidad y la vulnerabilidad. Estas conversaciones han aumentado en frecuencia y urgencia a medida que las recientes muertes y protestas han exigido nuestro compromiso y acción. Si bien nuestro personal siempre ha trabajado para capacitar a los jóvenes para que exploren cuidadosamente y superen las divisiones entre nosotros, reconocemos que esto no es suficiente.
Nos afligimos y apoyamos a la comunidad morena (negra? Black?) contra actos de brutalidad policial, racismo y políticas y sistemas que perpetúan la inequidad. Nuestro compromiso de guiar a los jóvenes y apoyar a sus familias nos exige exigir justicia. Reconocemos que existe una dinámica de racismo profundamente arraigado, opresión hacia BIPOC (Black, indígenas y personas de color), privilegio blanco y complacencia dentro de nuestra comunidad, tanto cerca como lejos. No podemos lograr nuestra misión de empoderar a los jóvenes para alcanzar la autosuficiencia en un mundo que oprime estructuralmente al 77% de nuestros participantes. Stepping Stones se compromete a trabajar contra políticas injustas en beneficio de nuestros jóvenes, sus familias y nuestra comunidad.
Al reconocer las divisiones raciales agudas que existen dentro de nuestra propia comunidad, Stepping Stones se compromete a amplificar las voces de BIPOC, implementar prácticas antirracistas dentro de nuestra programa y aumentar la diversidad de nuestra Junta Directiva. También estamos comprometidos a nivel de participante, personal y junta con el trabajo activo de escuchar, decir la verdad, construir sistemas equitativos y desmantelar sistemas opresivos. Estamos con ustedes, juntos, por la justicia, la compasión y el cambio radical.
STEPPING STONES STAFF
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR | KYLE CRAWLEY
Kyle has aligned the stars for himself and life is good. With a degree in sociology in hand and a longtime desire to help others, he entered the workforce in 2006. Kyle has experience in higher education, social work, and non-profit management. After a decade of employment with various social service and non-profit organizations in Arizona and Colorado, Kyle subsequently confronted the damaging symptoms of bureaucratic burn-out. It was then that he and his wife retreated to the mountains. Just at the right time, Kyle serendipitously landed in Carbondale where he found personal and professional healing at Stepping Stones.
Kyle was hired as Executive Director in January 2016 and, in short order, found his rhythm. His professional skills, objectives and goals meshed well with the mission of Stepping Stones. Kyle has been successful in blending the many aspects of his professional philosophy and goals: mentoring and empowering young people, identifying the needs of the community, and shedding the rigidity and bureaucracy of his past experiences. Kyle has enjoyed the freedom to create a home-like environment that serves the individual needs of area youth. Kyle works daily to create a culture at Stepping Stones that focuses on, interpersonal relationships, building community, and supporting families with a continuity of care that was lacking in his previous professional endeavors.
Under Kyle’s leadership, Stepping Stones’ programs prove that serving the needs of area youth also attends to the needs of the community. Though every day represents new challenges, every day also brings new rewards. It is what makes Kyle tick. But Kyle is not one-dimensional. When he needs to recharge, he gears up for mountain bike ride, engages in a woodworking project, or takes a weekend adventure with his young family.
YOUTH PROGRAM COORDINATOR | MARIANA CHISSUM
Mariana was born and raised in Lima, Peru and moved to Basalt when she was fourteen years old. Her bilateral and bicultural background has played an essential role to find her passion; impact and improve children’s lives mentally and physically.
After acquiring her bachelors degree in Neuroscience at Colorado State University, Mariana plans to focus her knowledge in enhancing mental health awareness and promoting individual empowerment in the young population of the Roaring Fork Valley. Mariana plans to attend medical school to become a pediatric surgeon. She will continue focusing on expanding her knowledge on mind-body connection between mental and physical health.
OPERATIONS MANAGER | MOLLY DILLON
Molly is a Colorado native, growing up in Boulder, CO. She moved to Carbondale with her husband in 2017 to chase the mountain life they both desired. Molly joined the Stepping Stones team in February 2019 as their Operations Manager, focusing on the financial and logistics of the nonprofit. She has previously managed a handful of companies including a dentist office, birthing center and a Denver based construction company. She feels so fortunate to work with Stepping Stones knowing that it is impacting the life of young adults in the Roaring Fork Valley. Being part of an influential nonprofit has always been a dream for Molly!
In her free time she loves exploring the Colorado outdoors including hiking, biking and skiing! Molly also loves spending time with her daughter, son, husband, family and friends. She is thrilled to be a part of this amazing program and community.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR | JONATHAN GREENER
Jonathan Greener is the Assistant Director at Stepping Stones. He spent 15 years studying and working in Chicago, his home town, where he earned a degree in sociology and gained extensive experience mentoring high-risk youth and young adults enmeshed in the criminal justice system. Joining the Stepping Stones team in May of 2017, he was initially hired to plan and implement Stepping Stones’ program for middle school students, ages 10 – 14 years old.
He appreciates the dynamics and open communication of the team that makes life happen at Stepping Stones as they create a model environment for mentoring youth. He is extensively trained and practiced in the areas of restorative justice, mediation, program building and implementation, policy reform and nonprofit analytics. Jonathan is bilingual and has lived and worked in diverse communities his entire life. He loves spending time with his brilliant wife, Emily and their three incredible children.
YOUTH ADVOCATE | FABIANA MARTINEZ HERNANDEZ
Fabiana joins the Stepping Stones team after doing volunteer work with All Peoples Christian Center, where she was loved by everyone and excelled. She was born in Los Angeles California and as a young teen she moved to Carbondale Colorado. Fabiana graduated from Yampah Mountain High School and is working toward her Bachelors degree in social work at Colorado Mountain College. She is passionate about advancing educational equity for all students and strongly believes that everyone should have access to all the same resources regardless of their race, ethnicity and background.
Fabiana loves living in Colorado and fell in love with the beautiful sights and hikes. She can often be found swimming at the Hot Springs in Glenwood and loves spending time with her daughter, Aryal, and husband, Henry. She also loves traveling and hopes to take her young family on many adventures.
YOUTH PROGRAM COORDINATOR | FABIAN LUJAN
Fabian was born and raised in the Roaring Fork Valley. After completing a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice, he has focused on working with at-risk kids and teens. His work at YouthZone and the Youth Recovery Center at Valley View Hospital has lead him to Stepping Stones. He has developed a passion for mentoring youth, and so, he believes this is where he is meant to be.
Fabian is the middle child of three boys. As a positive and an outgoing person, there are many things he seeks to learn and experience. In the summer he spends most of his free time floating down the Roaring Fork River. In the dark, he is looking up at the night sky through his telescope and asking himself, "What If?". In the winter, he'll pick up a sled and spend time in the snow with his nephews. When in doors, Fabian enjoys sketching and doodling all while watching "Who's Line Is It Anyway?" Fabi always tries to keep an open mind and a has an infectious curiosity that continues to grow.
YOUNG ADULT PROGRAM COORDINATOR | STEVEN MORENO
Steven has been living in the Roaring Fork Valley for over a decade. He graduated from Glenwood Springs High School in 2015 and went on to acquire a bachelor's in Communication Studies at Colorado State University, Fort Collins. Throughout his academic career, Steven has developed a deep passion for connecting with others and giving back to his community.
He is currently pursuing a master's in Social Work from the University of Denver through their Wester Colorado Program. Steven hopes to use his education to help empower the youth he works with. In his spare time, he enjoys listening to music, going on hikes, and watching reality tv, his guilty pleasure.
YOUNG ADULT ADVOCATE | IONA TENORIO
Iona recently moved to the Roaring Fork Valley from Grand Junction. Iona has always wanted to work with at risk youth due to growing up in the foster care system. She is coming to Stepping Stones from Karis; where she worked with homeless youth for the last 4 years. She has always loved helping others and is excited to give back to young people in a new community. Iona knows that she can not change the world, but she believes she “can change someone’s” world by continuing in the field.
Iona is the oldest of six children all of whom have been adopted. In her free time, she loves to fish, do puzzles, play video games, play board games, hike, and travel.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
STEPPING STONES FOUNDER | KRISTIN NELSON
Kristin is a very modest person. Rather than boasting about all the children’s lives she has improved, Kristin spends her energy thinking of how many more young people she can reach and help. While growing up in California, she witnessed the suffering and lifelong damage caused by maltreatment of children. Determined to combat it, her focus, beginning in her teen years, became child abuse prevention. That goal is what led her to earn a degree in nursing and apply her skills, her heightened compassion, and her unwavering determination in making a difference in young lives by leveling the playing field no matter their economic or social background.
For many years Kristin was involved in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and worked to educate parents, teachers and students about the prevention of juvenile abuse. In search of a safe, small mountain community to raise her family, Kristin moved to Aspen in 2003 with her four children. A few years later, having added twins to her own family, she voluntarily provided respite care and other support services for young girls from Ranch Good Days of the Roaring Fork Valley. This experience further reinforced Kristin’s vision to establish a home-like environment where children are given the tools to succeed in life, no matter the circumstances of their individual home life.
Kristin quickly understood the needs of the local communities and established Stepping Stones of the Roaring Fork Valley teen drop-in center in October of 2014. She did her research and garnered support for her dream. She found the people who believed in her goals and who bolstered her dedication. It was a long and arduous road to travel. Many times Kristin felt discouraged and overwhelmed but she never gave up. The Roaring Fork Valley community is grateful she persevered. But Kristin credits the stellar staff at Stepping Stones for turning her vision into a model drop-in center that offers all the mentoring services, learning skills and activities to middle and high school students that put them on that level playing field, empowering them to become happy, healthy and successful individuals.
Those who know Kristin will tell you she is an amazing woman who will do whatever is in her power and in the scope of her resources to make life not only better for young people but will change the course of their lives with opportunities they would not otherwise experience. As for Kristin, her story is far from over. She is not resting on any laurels. Her expanded vision is to establish several Stepping Stones centers in the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond.