Steps for Students 5K marks 15 years running

September 24, 2019

The next Steps for Students 5K Run/Walk is set for Feb. 15, 2020. Held annually, the event raises funds for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese, regularly gaining more than 12,000 participants. Runners take to the streets of downtown Houston, starting by the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON — Steps for Students 5K Run/Walk fundraiser for Catholic school education is celebrating its quinceañera this coming year.

Growing the past 15 years from a small race to now with more than 12,000 runners in downtown Houston in the shadows of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Steps for Students is set for Feb. 15.

Marion Jones, athletic director at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School near the Texas Medical Center, has served most of those 15 years on the committee organizing the race. Jones, also a track and field coach attending numerous sporting events, uses that opportunity to point his phone camera on former Olympian runner Carl Lewis and other celebrities at the track so they can promote Steps for Students.

“The pageantry and camaraderie of how our community comes together is truly worth the work,” Jones said of the race, with registration for this year kicking off Sept. 24.

“I have a vision that this can become as big as the Houston Marathon,” he said of Steps, which is a USA Track and Field-certified and sanctioned event, chip-timed and features a single-loop.

Diane Wooten, principal of St. Francis de Sales Catholic School who also serves on the committee, said her students and their families look forward to the Steps for Students 5K and all the fun events leading up to it.

“We have a soft opening for Steps during fall 2019 to let the students know they can register. Then we ring in the New Year at the school in 2020 on Jan. 9 with a big balloon drop filled with candy and trinkets for all the students who have registered,” Wooten said.

Her school has benefited from funds raised in Steps for Students, including a new security system, new science books and multimedia equipment with microphones and mixer board.

“We also have some students who receive Steps scholarships,” Wooten said.

Superintendent of Catholic Schools Debra Haney, who will be the grand marshal, said, “The 15th annual Steps for Students event is going to be one for the books. We are so thrilled to once again celebrate the community, connectivity, collegiality, charity, and the little bit of healthy competition that this event brings for our schools.”

She added, “Our students, teachers, parents and principals are the real stars that we celebrate as we grow together in advancing the mission of our schools through this awesome community event. Many thanks to all of our volunteers, underwriters, sponsors and participants for making this anniversary year one to remember.”

One of those sponsors who has worked on the committee for these 15 years, Colin Hageney of Bullpen Marketing, said he remembered years ago when the Steps event had then-Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza kick off the race from the back of a pick-up truck.

Now there is a full stage, decorated starting line and buzzing video drones capturing all the action as Daniel Cardinal DiNardo blesses the runners.

“Our goal from the beginning was to grow Steps for Students into one of the largest races in Houston,” Hageney said. “Little did we know it would become one of the largest Catholic 5Ks in the country. It’s exciting to see what it has done for Catholic education in our community.”

For those interested in registering or sponsoring, the website will be updated Sept. 24 at †