Mission & Vision


Stepping Stones cultivates strong mentoring relationships and community spaces for youth ages 10-24 to foster personal growth, compassion, and responsibility.


We envision a valley where youth and families are empowered, connected, and thriving.



We cultivate a warm, family-like environment where all people are welcomed, valued, and celebrated.


Stepping Stones provides essential services and support to youth who would not otherwise have access. Every youth is entitled to services and programming that enables 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.


We meet young people where they are in their journey, and walk alongside them in mutuality and trust. We view our community partners, donors, staff, and youth as interconnected in meaningful ways, each a valuable part of our Stepping Stones community.


We relentlessly pursue equity both within our internal practices and through advocacy in our broader community. Our programs are designed to meet the unique needs of immigrants, low-income families, youth of color, and LGBTQ+ participants. In our valley, there is limited ability for Spanish-speaking individuals to access counseling, academic support, and equitable community spaces; our diverse, bilingual environment ensures that all youth are valued and supported.


Strong relationships with positive adults are critical to the success of the youth we serve. Our mentorship program is based on a continuity of love and care with a focus on meeting the needs of the mind, body, and spirit of each individual.


We center youth voices and empower them as leaders. Stepping Stones was founded in response to an expressed community need for safe spaces for youth; listening is in our organizational DNA.


Stepping Stones’ first Young Adult drop-in center opened in 2014 for ages 14-21, meeting the critical need in Carbondale for a safe space that offered nightly meals, showers, and laundry facilities. Some youth came to Stepping Stones in times of crisis; others came seeking prosocial interaction with peers. We opened our Youth Program in June 2017 to engage younger youth, ages 10-14, seeking to prevent the acute issues our young adults experience. In 2020, we expanded our partnership with our local school district, increased programming activities, and completed a full renovation and remodel of our facilities. Today, both programs continue to grow in scope and capacity.

“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.”

Kristin Nelson, Founder