Giving Back with Step Up
By David Hoekman
About the organization
The Step Up program at Hope College provides academic and cultural enrichment for 40 local middle school students (grades 6–8). The program, which began in the fall of 2010, helps students succeed in school and develop their future potential by caring for their social, emotional and academic needs within a mentoring context. Hope College students volunteer to provide after-school mentoring and fun enrichment activities.
Meet Kate Lozon, program director of Step Up.
Q. How did you get started?
A. I was inspired to get involved with Step Up after working in higher education for several years. I have a master’s degree in higher education and a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, Latin American Studies and nonprofit administration. Step Up allows me to combine all my passions and provide an amazing service to the Holland community. I love being able to work with both middle school students and Hope College students.
Q. What impact does Step Up have on the community?
A. In the 12 years since Step Up was created, it has served hundreds of local middle school students. These students are given opportunities and encouragement to explore higher education and future careers, in addition to the academic support they need now to be able to get there. Step Up also provides a place for Hope College education, psychology and social work majors to gain experience working with underrepresented students. They are then better prepared to enter the workforce and serve our community.
Q. Why do these organizations and their goals matter?
A. Step Up matters because we are providing crucial services to both local middle school students and Hope College students. In 2021–2022, 100% of Step Up middle school students came from an underrepresented background or received some sort of state aid. They are brilliant, funny, kind and resourceful students who just need a little extra support to get where they want to go. Step Up provides that support and encouragement to help them get to high school, graduate and, hopefully, attend college. Hope College education majors need experiences working with students from a variety of backgrounds.
Q. How can locals help or get involved?
A. Locals can give Step Up either in-kind donations such as educational materials, books, etc., or monetary donations. Volunteers also make presentations to the students or take them on field trips to area museums, businesses, etc.
Q. What is your favorite part about being involved with Step Up?
A. I love seeing the relationships that the kids build with their mentors and the differences they make in each other’s lives! n