Stephen Paletta is a typical family guy—he's a devoted father of three and refers to his wife as his best friend. "She's the best thing that has ever happened to me," Stephen says.
Watch Stephen's video bio
While his family has always taken precedence, Stephen's other priorities in life have changed dramatically. Thirteen years ago, Stephen says someone challenged him to decide whether his life was going to be about significance or success. It took him until recently to figure out that his answer had less to do with the latter.
Stephen graduated from Cornell University, where he was an All-American lacrosse player and a civil engineering major. After college, Stephen worked in his family's general contracting business before starting his own company in the same industry. He is currently CEO of Renaissance Integrated Solutions, a technology-based company in the pipeline industry. "I have been blessed with a lot of success," Stephen says.
In 2004, he traveled to Rwanda—a trip that changed his life. "For the first time, I was really hands-on and connected to the plight of the poor and the Third World," he says. "The images and the people I got to know would not allow me to just go back to work and worry about making my own money." Stephen and his family financially adopted and corresponded with 10 children in Africa. He later created The International Education Exchange, a nonprofit organization that partners American and African schools. He currently lives with his family in Bedford, New York.
"I thought Oprah's Big Give would be an opportunity to inspire others to engage in philanthropy on their own. It will encourage people to move away from a strict career focus and spend more time on charities or caring for others."
Stephen's Favorite… Giving Back Moment:
The first things I built in Africa were classrooms and bathroom facilities for a school. They had previously had one working toilet for 2,700 children. It made such a difference for all of those kids. Food:
Peanut butter and jelly dunked in chocolate milk Movie: The Godfather Type of Music/Artist:
My wife's chocolate soufflé Time of Day:
Playing golf Vacation:
My mom's place in the Exumas Islands in the Bahamas Memory:
Holding my first daughter in my arms after she was born. I remember thinking: I have no idea what you are going to be, but I can't wait to see what happens. Snack:
I don't really snack. Weekend Activity:
Playing golf with my wife