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 and to help families raise well rounded and faith-filled children. 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.

Along with the diocesan schools and parish CCD programs, catholic homeschooling programs complete the catholic education tree. Catholic homeschooling is a distinct and growing branch of education and formation. Homeschooling is increasingly popular, with rates nearly doubling since 2016. A National Home Education Research Institute survey indicates homeschooling has grown from 2.3 million US households in 2016 to 4.3 million US households in 2022. Despite misconceptions that the homeschooling community is against the diocesan school system, quite the opposite is true. We are ever mindful of our shared roots: our catholic faith and beloved Church. And our shared environment: the existing climate where children receive what they need to grow - it’s the environment they will eventually be entrusted to steward as adults. For the sake of all catholic children, our diocese, and our Gulf Coast community at large, SME is committed to helping each branch of this tree to be successful.

How We Got Our Start

Stella Maris Explorers is the brain-child of Nicole Webb and Ashley Rodriguez (pictured). 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 SME Board of Directors

Click on the headshots below to learn more about each Director

Ashley Rodriguez


Lorelei Worland 

Vice President

Mallory Carey


Mayra Alvarez


M. Cecilia Escobedo

Program Expansion Co-Chair

Betsey Estrade

Program Expansion Co-Chair

Shane Winters

Fundraising Chair