Schools, sponsors express why they are thankful for Steps for Students

December 12, 2017

The annual Steps for Students, set for Feb. 17, 2018, is attended by thousands of Catholic school students, families and supporters each year, with proceeds benefiting Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese. File photo by James Ramos/Texas Catholic Herald. 

HOUSTON — Thanksgiving heralds a time to be thankful for God’s abundant gifts. As the season of giving reigns supreme, schools begin to shift gears to focus on the biggest giving effort in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston: Steps for Students.

This annual event, which is on Feb. 17, 2018, brings Catholic schools and sponsors together to benefit and raise awareness for Catholic education.

Mambo Seafood has been a Steps for Students sponsor for the last five years and have already committed to be a Gold Sponsor for the 2018 event. Ana Tinajero, marketing manager for Mambo Seafood Restaurants, said they sponsor Steps because their company firmly believes in supporting education.

“Steps for Students is an event we look forward to every year because supporting education is the number one priority to our company,” she said. “Being a sponsor is an honor! Across our company, there are several team members that have had and currently have kids enrolled in Catholic schools.”

Event sponsorship of Steps for Students raises funds for the Archdiocesan Tuition Assistance Program. This program provides need-based tuition assistance so that a Catholic education is made affordable and accessible for all families.
Like Thanksgiving brings families together through food, Steps brings families together through shared experience and working toward a common goal.

Tinajero said the annual fundraiser is a great way to bring awareness to the great job Catholic Schools are doing to educate the youth.

“Bringing families together through meals and family events is important because our youth learn from schools, their families and their environment,” she said. “We do also look forward to the great photos we see from all the participants. They are so much fun!”

Suzanne Barto, principal at St. Laurence Catholic School, has led the charge in her school already having more than 570 registered participants for Steps for Students.

“We have encouraged this as an event since the entire family can enjoy it and participate in it together,” Barto said. “The race is about having fun, staying healthy and joining in community with others. It promotes pride and spirit in Catholic schools by seeing so many people committed to Catholic education.”

Barto said that she has found that getting as many people registered as possible is the first big hurdle. They try to encourage registration at their fall conference day when all families are at school and they promote fitness after the holidays in January. They also offer student and classroom incentives for participation and fundraising. Barto is especially grateful for the behind the scenes influence and work of the Archdiocesan Development Department.

“A lot of the work is done for you through the Archdiocese, such as registration reports and advertising, as well as the race day packets,” Barto said. “That makes it much easier than a large auction or gala event. We appreciate that our school and other schools benefit from an event that promotes the right message. We used to sell candles, wrapping paper, etc., and I think the parents appreciate not having to ‘buy’ anything with this fundraiser. It fosters pride in Catholic education and is fun for all ages.”

The enthusiasm of participating in an event as large as Steps for Students is apparent with Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School. Their famed presence in the Catholic Village, the area where school teams gather together to celebrate on race day, precedes itself as they know how to keep the celebration going well after the race with pancakes for everyone.

“We have our ‘Pancake Tailgate Tent,’” said Irazema Ortiz, principal of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “All our families help decorate our tent each year based on our theme. This year’s theme is ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe School is Out of this World’ (space theme). We invite everyone in the village to stop by for some fresh pancakes and participants are welcome to stop by for food and drinks at no charge. It’s a great time to see old friends and family and meet new friends.”
Ortiz said their Pancake Tailgate Tent allows everyone to “hang out” after the race.

“Our tent is a lot of fun,” Ortiz said. “It all started with one of our school families, the Vasquez family, and has become an Our Lady of Guadalupe School tradition that our families look forward to each year. We are known for the pancakes we serve. Our pancakes are gone by the end of the day.”

Through Steps for Students, Ortiz said the funds raised allow the school to purchase books, improve technology and provide the necessary resources for students and teachers to be successful in the classroom.

“Our school is blessed and grateful for this event because it is at a much bigger scale than what we could ever accomplish,” Ortiz said. “We are thankful for our Students for Students Committee that has helped promote Steps for Students and parent involvement is a huge piece of why our school has had success. There is much more awareness of Catholic schools, especially Inner City Catholic Schools. This not only helps us financially, but it helps us to promote our school.”

There is a lot to be thankful for during this season of giving and waiting in joyful hope. Steps for Students is at the top of the list for being a large-scale event organized by the Archdiocese that celebrates Catholic education. Visit to register.