Tracy Baynes, the Student Expedition Program's (STEP) founder, was moved by this fact and wanted to do something to help underprivileged youth.
After creating STEP in 2002, she partnered with NOLS Professional Training in early 2005 to serve their mission of providing life-skills and leadership training to low-income, college-bound high-school students in order to better prepare them for the challenges ahead in college.
Students go on a 3 week sea kayaking expedition in the pristine wilderness of Alaska's remote coastlines. For 23 days STEP participants paddle a sea kayak beneath towering glaciers and past wooded coves. They come back better leaders and role models for their peers.
Since the beginning of the STEP/NOLS partnership in 2005, 136 STEP students have completed a NOLS Expedition in Alaska. As of January 2013, 81% of STEP's graduates are in college or have graduated from college. Most are the first in their family to go to college. STEP students are attending top-tier schools nationwide including Georgetown University, Bowdoin College, Smith College, University of Notre Dame, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, University of Southern California, University of Richmond, Lehigh University, and Pitzer College.