MEET THE TRAILBLAZERS OF 2 STEPS FURTHER PRIVATE FOUNDATION—the Studdiford siblings. Starting their own 501(c)3 nonprofit, Mairead, 17, Maeve, 15 and Owen, 12, skipped the awkward, shy phase that comes with adolescence, proving determined as any adult to ensure that underprivileged kids have the opportunity to experience higher education. Their newly instituted foundation, 2 Steps Further, assures local children will grow up to be college- and career-ready by the time they graduate high school.

Being active in social causes from an early age, their resumes are chock-full of altruistic entrepreneurship, from creating a pop-up Internet store, Bay Head Boutique, which donates 100% of its proceeds to charity, to starting the Entrepreneurship Club and inspiring classmates at Out-of-Door Academy, where Mairead and Maeve teach their peers how to build their own philanthropic businesses, “I believe in giving back to the world,” Maeve says, “because I have many blessings in my life and I would like to share my gifts with other children.”

The Studdifords wanted to personally connect with children to help them receive the college degree they deserve, but may not be financially able to obtain. Utilizing the online computer program in schools called i-Ready, which would reward students dependent on certain assignments, they created a financial aid system called “Step Up for College.” The program uses a proprietary algorithm that Mairead designed and Owen troubleshooted to make sure it functioned for younger children. For 2nd-8th grade students enrolled in the program, “Step Up For College” can save money in their own personal college funds each month by submitting their work on i-Ready, which gets converted into a dollar amount that is then contributed into a 529 College Savings Plan. If started at 2nd grade, a child could potentially earn more than $2,000 by the time they enter middle school. Even more noteworthy is the “2GEN” aspect of the program, from which the Studdifords got the name of their foundation, and which helps two generations step out of poverty at the same time, potentially killing two B.A.s with one stone. Parents having trouble sending their kids off to expensive universities is largely due to not attending college themselves—without a degree or specialty trade of their own to bring higher income into the family’s household. So in addition to the student’s 529 savings account, a parent may have one set up as well, investing in their own future. And the more the parent encourages their child to do their work, the more savings they gain. Both child and parent have the opportunity to each earn up to $500 a year.

After presenting their pitch to Principal Steve Royce at Gocio Elementary. The Sarasota County Title 1 School became the first institution to implement the program. Since its launch in February, families are enrolling as it continually takes off. 2 Steps Further has already made the mythical idea of college a foreseeable reality for many Gocio students. “I truly enjoy being able to sit with a child younger than me and help them with their math and English,” Owen explains. “I like to talk to them about attending college one day and I hope to see them again after they’ve graduated. I think it would be an awesome experience to see their dreams become reality.” Quickly receiving high praise from the community, the program expects to make way into more schools in the area—getting parents excited about helping their kids with their schoolwork and getting kid’s thinking about what they may want to be when they grow up. 

As for the Studdifords, Owen pictures himself at a big state school, playing tennis, studying politics and eventually becoming a U.S. Senator (don’t forget to vote for him in the election of 2036). Mairead and Maeve both share sentiments of finding a prestigious school where they can major in subjects focused on social causes, philanthropy and businesses management. For now, the siblings excitedly plan to meet with local organizations in the near future to pitch further funding for 2 Steps Further. “We hope to run this program for many years—locally, then regionally, and eventually keep growing our base to take it to a national and worldly level,” explains Mairead.SRQ