Students in Transition Empowerment Program



Updated January 2019


About STEP: Students in Transition Empowerment Program (STEP) is a program administered by Benzie County Central 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.

Working together to reduce poverty and end homelessness through education: We would like to pay special attention and give our heartfelt thanks to the Community Partners and supporters of the STEP program. Also, too many other working partnerships that we have throughout the Northern Michigan Area.


Rachel Anderson

Benzie County Central Schools


231-275-7730 Ext. 6222


National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
NAEHCY Resources

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 any time 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

Benzie Students in Transition Empowerment Program services include:

  • Support with school choice option
  • School supplies and/or backpacks
  • School transportation via school bus, Benzie Bus 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.

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?”

(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%)

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

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. [PDF DocumentSTEP / McKinney-Vento District Liaisons Contact Information]

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) 231.922.6270

Kalkaska County

Forest Area Community Schools
Brian Mumby
(p) 231.369.2884
(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) 231.271.8671
Leland Public Schools
Laura Miller
(p) 231.256.3809
(f) 231.256.9844