Students in Transition Empowerment Program

About STEP

Students in Transition Empowerment Program (STEP) is a program administered by Traverse City Area Public Schools that provides free supportive, education-related services to students, ages 3-20, who lack fixed, regular and adequate housing. STEP ensures the educational rights of families and youth as required by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The STEP program works with eligible students who have lost permanent housing due to foreclosure, eviction, or reasons related to economic hardship to locate and coordinate available services based on each student’s individual needs. The goal of the program is to ensure school stability, remove barriers to full participation in their education, and support academic achievement while children are in residential transition.

“STEP is always there when the world feels like it is collapsing on my shoulders. I was ready to give up on high school…it was just too much to be an adult and a child while maintaining a social life. Then STEP came and now school is a breeze.”  –Student Testimonial 

STEP Services & Eligibility

Who is Eligible for STEP Services?

STEP serves students ages 3 – 20 in all schools throughout the school district. The STEP program works behind the scenes helping students to remain in their current school, maintaining school stability, as often as possible and when it is in the best interest of the child.

Any student who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate overnight residence (at anytime during the school year) is eligible to receive STEP services. Students may be found living in the following situations:

  • In a shelter, motel, vehicle, camper, or campground
  • Temporarily sharing the housing of friends or family (“doubled-up”) due to economic hardship
  • Unaccompanied youth living on their own, without a parent or guardian
  • Inadequate accommodations (lack of electricity, heat, plumbing, or overcrowding)
  • Abandoned buildings, or on the street
  • Students who are couch surfing, staying with friends
  • Foster care, less than six months in same placement
  • Displaced due to natural disaster or fire

School staff involved in identifying students in transition include the on site STEP specialist, bus drivers, food service staff, counselors, school social workers, teachers, secretaries, administrators, parents, students, or by word of mouth. Once identified, students can begin receiving the services they need in order to stay in school and obtain the education they need.

STEP Services Available

TCAPS Students in Transition Empowerment Program services include:

  • Support with school choice option
  • School supplies and/or backpacks
  • School transportation via school bus, BATA or gas card
  • School breakfast and lunch at no charge
  • Academic support and tutoring
  • Assistance in obtaining school records, including birth certificates and immunization records
  • Clothing for school purposes
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Assistance with obtaining a driver’s license (Roadmap to Success Program)
  • General funds for extracurricular activities or interests
  • Referrals for housing, mental health, counseling, medical, transitional living, resources, job training, work programs, post-secondary education counseling, and training, etc.

Students' Educational Rights


Students in Transition Statistics

In April 2009, over 100 students who qualified for STEP services were surveyed. Participants cited the following reasons when asked these questions:

PDF Document“Why are you in Transition?”

  • Financial issues (44.3%)
  • Abuse/Neglect (21.7%)
  • Loss of home, foreclosure, eviction (18.3%)
  • Parent addiction/mental health (17.4%)
  • To be with boyfriend/girlfriend (13.0%)
  • Abandoned, parents moved (6.0%)
  • Substance abuse (2.6%)

PDF DocumentIf you are in transition, meaning: without a fixed, regular, and adequate, (electricity, water, bed, and bath) living situation, where are you living? 

(Living situations listed below run from those cited most often to those cited least often.)

  • Friends/Family
  • With Relative
  • Apartment/Friend
  • Couch Surfing
  • Host Home
  • In a Shelter (Goodwill or Pete’s Place)
  • Camper/Campground
  • In a Car

PDF DocumentWhat are your immediate needs?

  • Getting A Job (47%)
  • Transportation (39%)
  • Drivers License (37%)
  • Housing (36%)
  • Buying A Vehicle (34%)
  • Clothing (32%)
  • Food (29%)
  • Drivers Education (27%)
  • School Work (24%)
  • Plan for Graduation (18%)
  • Counseling (16%)
  • College Applications (14%)
  • Medical (8%)
  • Budgeting (6%)
  • Heat/Electric (4%)
  • Day Care (2%)
  • Resume Building (2%)
  • Credit Repair (1%)

PDF DocumentWhat are your top three barriers to graduation? 

(Barriers listed below run from those cited most often to those cited least often.)

  • Transportation
  • Housing
  • School Work
  • Mental Health
  • Finances
  • Work Schedule
  • Pregnancy

What are your goals after high school?

  • Would Like to Go to College (60%)
  • Working (55%)
  • I Don’t Know (30%)
  • Marriage (18%)

Common Signs of Homelessness

Some possible signs that a student may be experiencing homelessness are:

  • Irregular attendance and frequent tardiness
  • History of attending many different schools
  • Consistent lack of preparation for class
  • Sleeping in class
  • Hostility and angeror extremes in behavior
  • (e.g., shyness, withdrawal, nervousness, depression)
  • Needy behavior (seeking attention or withdrawn behavior)
  • Poor health/nutrition
  • Inadequate seasonal clothing
  • Poor hygiene and grooming
  • Resistance to parting with personal possessions
  • (e.g., leaving a favorite toy/item unattended or putting a coat in a locker)
  • Multiple families at the same address
  • Difficulty in reaching a parent by phone

In Michigan, adults and children in families account for 52% of the total homeless population. This number may be under reported and not include families who are doubled up or living with friends and relatives due to economic hardship.

PDF DocumentHomeless Children & Youth: Causes and Consequences

Students' Stories


  • “Every day I think about where I would be if I didn’t meet Andrea and STEP, and receive all the help that I did. I am incredibly thankful for everything she has done for me. The days and days she spent tutoring me and helping me with everything that I needed were not overlooked. One thing I will say is thank you so much, Andrea, for everything you have done for me. That doesn’t repay her for all of the help I received, but that’s the first thing she deserves; a huge thank you. Because of her and the STEP program, I learned many great lessons about hard work and perseverance, graduated on time and successfully began my first semester of college.” –Recent TCAPS graduate
  • “I need help to figure out how to manage time between work, school work, and the things I love to do. In addition, I would appreciate help in finding ways to return to my previously fixed home and conflict resolution to heal the pain caused by the transition.” –Heather 18
  • “Talk to me, give me time, help me learn, slowly. Don’t underestimate me, trust me, be there.” –Tess 16
  • “It would really help to have a job so I could have money to better support myself and I could get a place to live.” –Haley 18
  • “I am not sure you can help me. I am not sure I am worth helping. I am still trying to figure that out.” –No Name 17

Student Quotes Regarding the Roadmap to Success Program:

  • To Zonta: “Thank you so much for the help paying for my license. You made my life so much easier to get back and forth to school and work, which I really needed because I am living along.” — Shelby, Age 18
  • To Roadmap: “I wouldn’t have my license if it wasn’t for this program and I needed it so badly with work, school, and a baby on the way.” –Hayley, Age 18
  • To Maidens: ” I would never have been able to get my license without your help. I thank you very much.” — Amber, Age 18
  • To Maidens” “Thank you so much for helping students like me. It makes a huge difference to know there is aid for me in times like these when we need it the most.” — Joanna, Age 18
  • To STEP: “It was the kind, friendly people of the STEP program. I knew I could do it because they all had faith and believed in me.” — Nicole, Age 18
  • To STEP: “I would never have been able to get my license if it wasn’t for the STEP program. I appreciate everything everyone’s done for me.” –Nicole, Age 18

Community Partners

Working together to reduce poverty and end homelessness through education.

We would like to pay special attention and give our heartfelt thanks to the following supporters of the STEP program and also to many other working partnerships that we have throughout the greater Grand Traverse Area:

Thank You to Our Community Collaborative Partner Agencies:

Thank You to Our 2015-2016 Donors:

  • Amber Ochoa
  • American Proficiency Institute c/o Cathy Szafranski
  • Amy Pflughoeft
  • Andrea Podsaid
  • Andrea Sazy
  • Angel Elsenheimer
  • Anna Kane
  • Barb Buckingham
  • Barb Zupin
  • Barbara Lee/John Spaulding
  • Beth Norconk
  • Betsy Gratiot
  • Brandi Reynolds
  • Brynn Lynch
  • Canasta Club c/o Nancy Perreault
  • Carey Owens
  • Carly Laird
  • Carol Brouwer
  • Carolyn Moehle
  • Celia Groenhout
  • Central Music Department
  • Cheryl Oslun
  • Chris Davis
  • Christine Guitar
  • Christine Thomas Hill
  • Cindy Berck
  • Colleen Smith
  • Courtney Russell/Nichole Dilloway
  • Debra Coburn
  • Dennos Docents
  • Donna Novak
  • Doris Ellery
  • Dorothy Grow
  • Eastern Elementary c/o Jackie Stremlow
  • Edwin Quintero
  • Emily Moore
  • Erica Gignilliat
  • Erik Falconer
  • Food Rescue c/o Dawn Shields
  • Ford Insurance Agency
  • Gary Appel
  • Gavin Carpenter
  • Hagerty Insurance c/o Louise Hagerty
  • Hal LaLonde
  • Homer Nye & Becky Mang
  • Ingrid Brophy
  • International School at Bertha Vos Staff Attn: Brenda Mortenson
  • Jame McCall
  • Jamie Sandy
  • Janine Rossbeck c/o Dennos Museum
  • Jean Peltola
  • Jennifer Dixon
  • Joanne Sanborn
  • Joe Esper
  • John Robert Williams
  • Judy Pratt
  • Julie Puckett
  • Julieana Bowers
  • Karen Send
  • Kate Gignilliat
  • Kathy Navin
  • Kelly Clark
  • Kelly Gignilliat
  • Kerry Vavabi
  • Kim Fleming
  • Kim Riley-Lampinen
  • Kristin Laing
  • Kristina Brunink
  • La Senorita c/o Kimberly McCourt
  • Lance Morgan
  • Libby McKay
  • Linda Butka
  • Lindsay Wells
  • Lisa Thomas @ NMC
  • Mary Pierce
  • Maryann Bishop
  • Matt Geib
  • Megan Crandall Meijer
  • Mike & Irene Cotter
  • Mike Siler & Family
  • Moms In Prayer c/o Anne Dickson
  • Ms. Karen Viskochil
  • National Honors Society
  • NMC Admissions c/o Cathryn Claerhout
  • NMC Bookstore c/o Rhonda Greiner
  • NMC Financial Aid c/o Pam Palermo
  • NMC Public Relations c/o Diana Fairbanks
  • Noppasom Nuntikulvanick
  • Old Mission Women's Club
  • Oleson Foundation
  • Pam Alfieri
  • Pam Davis
  • Pam Forton
  • Paper Angels c/o Michelle Goetz-Grail
  • Paul Soma
  • Peggy Link
  • RaeAnn Fiebing
  • Resurrection Life Church
  • Rick Vandermolen RJG, Inc
  • Robert & Tammy Coston
  • Ron & Mary Sanders
  • Ruth Bay
  • Sander Scott
  • Sarah McNamara
  • Sarah Pratt
  • Schmuckal Oil
  • Scott Hardy
  • Siebenthaler Foundation
  • Sophie Legault
  • Student Senate
  • Sue Kelly
  • Susan LaRose-Grover
  • Susan Manning
  • Susie Greenfelder
  • TCAPS Music Department
  • TCAPS Transportation Dept c/o Lynne Core
  • Thirlby Clinic Attn: Stacey Lane
  • Traverse Bay Sunrise Rotary
  • Traverse City State Bank
  • Tyson Burch
  • Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse
  • United Way
  • Virginia Driver
  • Walk In Clinic Attn: Laurie Houseman
  • West Side Community Church
  • Williams Chevrolet


Thank You to Our Funding Streams:

  • Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, 2% Grant
  • Michigan Department of Education
  • Rotary Charities of Traverse City
  • U.S. Department of Education, McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth Program Grant

Northwest Michigan STEP Program Contact Information

The Northwest Michigan Students in Transition Empowerment Program (NWM STEP), a consortium of 20 public school districts within the five-county Grand Traverse area, will address the complex needs of students who have been identified as “homeless.” District liaisons improve accountability of eligible students and provide specialized support and advocacy to ensure academic success and a successful transition to adulthood. Contact your local district liaison if you should lose your housing due to foreclosure, eviction, economic hardship, or similar reason or if you know someone who may need assistance.

Antrim County

Alba Public Schools
Doug Tippett
(p) 231.584.2000
(f) 231.584.2001
Bellaire Public Schools
James Emery
(p) 231.533.8015 ext. 223
(f) 231.33.6797
Elk Rapids Public Schools
Robin Anderson
(p) 231.264.8108 ext. 3145
(f) 231.264.2895
Mancelona Public Schools
Shelly Meeder
(p) 231.587.9764 ext. 218
(f) 231.587.9500

Benzie County

Benzie Schools
David Clasen
(p) 231.882.4498
(f) 231.882.7627
Frankfort-Elberta Area Schools
Jeff Tousley
(p) 231.352.7601
(f) 231.352.5066

Grand Traverse County

Abigail Jordan
(p) 231.933.8991
(f) 231.933.8975
Buckley Community Schools
Todd Kulawiak
(p) 231.269.3325
(f) 231.269.3833
Grand Traverse Academy
Kerrie Kornexl
(p) 231.932.6954
(f) 231.995.0880
Greenspire School
Kevin Kelly
(p) 231.946.4400/392.9384
(f) 866.805.1327
Kingsley Area Schools
Shannon Grossman
(p) 231.263.5261 ext. 3227
(f) 231.263.4623
TBAISD New Campus and Excelsior District #1
Deb Neddo
(p) 231.922.6335
(f) 231.922.6391

Kalkaska County

Forest Area Community Schools
Brian Mumby
(p) 231.369.3388 ext. 137
(f) 231.369.3618
Kalkaska Public Schools
Karmin Olds
(p) 231.258.9167 ext. 2127
(f) 231.258.5188

Leelanau County

Glen Lake Community Schools
Kim Wright
(p) 231.334.3061
(f) 231.334.6295
Northport Public Schools
Allison Wodek
(p) 231.386.5153 ext. 114
(f) 231.386.9838
Leelanau Montessori
Beth Bassett
(p) 231.271.8609
(f) 231.271.8689
Suttons Bay Public Schools
Sarah Christensen
(p) 231.271.8693
(f) 231.271.8656
Leland Public Schools
Laura Miller
(p) 231.256.3809
(f) 231.256.9854