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Rivers Givers

June 7, 2023

Recently, Steppingstone was one of three Massachusetts nonprofits to be awarded a grant on behalf of Rivers Givers, a group of young philanthropists out of Rivers School in Weston, Massachusetts.

Rivers Givers students introduce the Rivers community to the 2023 grant awardees.

A Grant Researched and Raised By Students

The Rivers Givers program, composed of 20 juniors and seniors, teaches students the ins and outs of the nonprofit world and charitable giving. Rivers seniors apply and are selected by their peers to lead the next class of juniors through the program. These senior leaders are trained to teach the community engagement curriculum that aims to answer questions like: what is philanthropy; what supports are in place for those living on the margins; and what roles do government, nonprofits, and corporations play in philanthropy and addressing inequity.

Rivers Givers students engage in workshops, community service projects, and fundraising to support local nonprofit organizations across a variety of impact areas. In order to meet the real people behind and clients served by nonprofits, students attend site visits and conduct informational interviews, dedicated to understanding community needs and approaches to social change.

Throughout their year in the program, students are directly involved in fundraising for grant funds, soliciting grant proposals, evaluating them based on their expressed need and effectiveness, and ultimately awarding grant money to the organizations of their choosing. Students raise thousands through a variety of fundraisers including t-shirt and bake sales—funds that are ultimately matched by the Rivers Parents Association. Students carefully evaluate organizations’ budget proposals to understand the financial side of nonprofits. One student who was particularly interested in this work shared, “I’m a numbers gal—being able to dive into the budgets and connect the numbers to what organizations are doing in the community was fascinating. It is amazing what impact nonprofits are able to make even in times of financial constraints.”

Rivers Givers grants aim to increase the capacity and services of the nonprofits in Massachusetts. At the end of the school year, Rivers Givers students invite the awardees to an all-school assembly to introduce their missions to the Rivers community, and accept their awards. This year’s awardees in addition to Steppingstone were Boston Community Pediatrics and Hearth, Inc.

Why Steppingstone?

Over the years, many Steppingstone Scholars have attended the Rivers School. In fact, Rivers Givers came to learn of Steppingstone’s impact on education in Boston through the three Scholars who are currently in their final year at Rivers.

Dalina Ifill-Pressat (left) and Sofia Teixeira Mistretta (right)

These Scholars will soon join the company of other Steppingstone and Rivers Alumni who have gone on to make immeasurable impacts on their communities. Dalinda Ifill-Pressat ’99, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Children’s Services of Roxbury, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides affordable childcare, housing, and mental health services among other resources to Massachusetts’ most vulnerable families, is just one example. Another is Sofia Teixeira Mistretta ’94, who is now Senior Director of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity at Vertex Pharmaceuticals and was recently recognized on Savoy Magazine’s 2023 Most Influential Executives in Diversity & Inclusion list.

On Equity

The Rivers Givers program has developed a specific emphasis on equity in recent years. Kit Cunningham, longtime Director of Service Learning at Rivers, emphasizes the importance of students recognizing privilege in philanthropy and encourages students to examine the systems that perpetuate inequality.

Steppingstone Scholars participating in the Summer Academy of the Steppingstone Scholars Program where the Rivers Givers grant will be utilized.

The impact of this lesson was evident when students were called to share their experience as part of Rivers Givers. One Rivers Givers senior, when asked about his biggest lesson learned as part of the program, shared that engaging with nonprofits opened his eyes to his privilege and why informed philanthropy is important.

Another Rivers senior shared she felt completely disconnected to the social realities of folks outside her “bubble” before joining the program. Other students shared feeling “fully connected to their community for the first time,” and feeling “so motivated to create social change after seeing the variety of people spanning many realms that are experiencing inequity, and in turn working to change it.”

Ultimately, Cunningham hopes the lessons learned through community engagement creates lifelong service and philanthropy-minded students dedicated to making a difference. Here at Steppingstone, we are glad to have taken part in this meaningful learning opportunity. We are so grateful to the Rivers Givers students for learning about and choosing to invest in educational equity in Boston.

If you are interested in supporting Steppingstone or creating a similar learning opportunity for students, please contact Audrey James at

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