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Doris Gademan Stephens Mariposa Scholarship Fund
By Jean Cohoon / April 20, 2015 /   Loading Disqus...
Paula Sager, co-founder of the Mariposa Center, recalls the first time the late Doris Gademan Stephens visited the early childhood facility in Providence. “Doris arrived as the children were helping prepare snack and then everyone – children and adults – sat down to eat together. The sense of community, fellowship, and a deep connection to the land where the food came from took Doris back to her childhood when she was raised on a farm. Before she left that day, Doris said, ‘I want to be part of this.’”

Mariposa, established in 2007 to provide early childhood education to some of Rhode Island’s most underserved children from challenged Providence neighborhoods, offers a program centered on play, social-emotional growth, and an appreciation for and access to nature.

From her first visit to Mariposa in 2008 to her death in 2014, Doris was an active member of the organization’s board of directors. “Doris loved sitting on the floor and talking with the kids,” recalls Mariposa Executive Director Zoe McGrath, with Paula adding, “And she was very supportive of the teachers.”

Following Doris’s death, her family, Mariposa, and her good friend Karolye Cunha all were looking for ways to honor her. Doris’ son, Erich, says, “We were talking about what we might do in her memory. When we went through her papers, we found a note on the back of an envelope.”

Doris’s note read, “Please start a scholarship fund. The support I received in my education was very important to me. I would not have been able to be a nurse if it wasn’t for the support I received.”

As the family pursued the idea of a scholarship fund and began talking with the Foundation, they learned of others’ efforts to honor Doris and soon joined forces. “Education was something that was important to her. It all fell together pretty well,” Erich says.

This scholarship fund honors an inspiring Mariposa board member and helps educate young, underprivileged children, while also forever fulfilling the “instructions” Doris wrote on the back of an envelope.
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