a Mississippi nonprofit serving the Gulf Coast

Stella Maris Explorers

Stella Maris Explorers is a catholic nonprofit organization serving children in the greater Biloxi, MS area. Our mission is to encourage art, faith, and science education through in-person programs. Stella Maris Explorers is 501(c)3 public charity and donations are tax deductible.

Why Support SME?

Stella Maris Explorers was founded to remedy a need for higher quality hands-on art and science education. We are providing access to science manipulatives and experiments, superior art supplies, faith-based activities, and field learning that would otherwise be inaccessible to our members. Mississippi homeschoolers do not have access to public funding or resources owned or activities organized by the public school districts. Our group is the only STEAM-based 501(c)3 public charity on the Gulf Coast who addresses the needs of this underserved population on a consistent basis. We have big future dreams, though, of serving those families who have chosen a faith based education in a traditional setting for their children which also cuts them off from state resources. Community support is crucial to our continuing ability to provide high-quality in-person programs and to increase our capacity for further and varying programs.

About Our Founding & Founders

How We Got Our Start

Stella Maris Explorers is the brain-child of Nicole Webb and Ashley Rodriguez (pictured left). They founded SME together to cultivate a vibrant catholic homeschool community in the Biloxi-Ocean Spring area. For many homeschooling families hands-on art creation and science experiments are the first things to be pushed aside in deference to reading, writing, and arithmetic. And the three "Rs" are foundational, no question about it! But the soul needs creativity and exploration - art and science. It was here that Stella Maris Explorers was born: to enliven a love of art, faith, and science in the children of the greater Coast community.

Additionally, it's always been the mission of Stella Maris Explorers to provide the most affordable enrichment option for homeschooling families. Keeping the costs of operations low and asking participating families to only cover the cost of materials and supplies. In the future, it is our hope to pursue grants and community donations that will make it possible for us to bring even more STEAM enrichment activities to the families we have the pleasure of serving.

Meet the Board of Directors

Ashley Rodriguez, President

Mrs. Rodriguez is a wife and homeschooling mother of four starting her fifth year as a home educator. She has dedicated much of her own life's work to furthering catholic religious education and believes the best way to grow children in the catholic faith is by living out the liturgical year. Mrs. Rodriguez holds a professional bachelor degree in architecture from Mississippi State University and a post-professional master degree in architecture from the Catholic University of America. Her master degree work specialized in catholic architecture and through her thesis and several courses, Mrs. Rodriguez has had a wonderful opportunity to study, in depth, the Catholic faith. Before becoming a full-time homemaker, she worked as an Associate Architect in two Mississippi firms and a Teaching Assistant at both MSU and CUA. In addition to the fourteen years she has spent as a catechist, Mrs. Rodriguez has given papers at conferences, been an invited conference moderator and reviewer, travelled internationally, and holds an American Institute of Architects Award for Excellence for a 2011 built project in Nepal. Her experiences have given her a comfort presenting to and leading groups as well as fueled her self-driven, independent, organized work style and ethic. Mrs. Rodriguez relishes the opportunity to serve as president on the Stella Maris Explorers Board of Directors and lead as the organization's chief volunteer.

Lorelei Worland, Vice President

Mrs. Worland is a homeschooling mother of one: a 9-year-old son with autism and asynchronous educational needs. She is passionate about child development. After earning her bachelor degree in German language and literature from the University of Alabama, Mrs. Worland worked in early literacy intervention in NYC tenement childcare centers. Later, she met her husband while taking graduate courses in education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After the birth of her son, Mrs. Worland dove headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship. She owns her own company, Books Faith Life, where she is the lead designer and artwork developer. Mrs. Worland is also the creative genius behind the popular digital marketing collaborative: Catholic Mom Bundle. In her parish, she is honored to serve young families as a faith formation catechist and also founded a weekly preschool music and art ministry. Mrs. Worland believes that all persons, regardless of age or ability, are called to be co-creators with God. Her personal motto comes from Pope St. John Paul II's Letter to Artists: "Through his artistic creativity man appears more than ever in the image of God..."

Mallory Carey, Treasurer

Mrs. Carey is a creative craft-loving mom of two: an eight year old daughter and a three year old son with Downs Syndrome. She is in her sixth year of homeschooling. Mrs. Carey espouses the Charlotte Mason Method and embraces play based learning. She strives to make Catholic faith based education the bedrock of her children's education as she and her husband both cherished their own traditional Catholic education. Mrs. Carey met her husband, Dr. Carey, at Spring Hill College, a Jesuit institution in Mobile, Alabama. She embraces attitudes of loving the whole person as a child of God and prayer through work (ora et labora). In addition to her bachelor degree, Mrs. Carey also holds a Master of Business degree from Spring Hill College. She is the owner of TM Recruiting and Consulting. Founded in 2010, this business endeavor has allowed Mrs. Carey to utilize her economics and finance background and grow her knowledge of organizational behavior, logistical efficiencies, fundraising, and corporate meeting management. She is passionate about the sciences. And is honored to serve in the Stella Maris Explorers organization where she has the privilege of seeing tiny scientists light up while learning about God's world. "Go forth and set the world on fire!"

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Stella Maris Explorers is a 501(c)(3) public charity