NOLS: National Outdoor Leadership School Home

STEP Student Expeditions

The Problem

"Nearly half of all low-income students will not go to college." - College Board Task Force

The Solution

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.

STEP students experience the NOLS leadership curriculum while being exposed to the wilderness of Alaska.

Photo: Tracy Baynes



STEP / NOLS Videos




STEP's goal is to give future leaders the opportunity to pave their own pathway to lifelong success.

Photo: Tracy Baynes


“Thanks to the STEP Expedition and NOLS, I have grown into a person who knows that anything can be accomplished.”

- Stephanie, STEP/NOLS Graduate



NOLS Top of Page
NOLS Home About Us Courses Wilderness Medicine Institute NOLS Professional Training Alumni Store Donate Account NOLS Home Parents Press Room School Resources Photos NOLS.TV Events WRMC The NOLS Blog Introduction About Leadership History Mission & Values Profiles Partnerships Frequent Questions Find a Course Skills School Locations School Locations Leave No Trace Financial Aid Academic Credit Find a Course Skills School Locations Course Types Leave No Trace Financial Aid Academic Credit NOLS Pro Home 1-3 Day Courses 7-30 Day Courses Risk Management Staff Clients Design Your Course Contact NOLS Pro NOLS Pro 1-3 Days 7-30 Days Risk Management Clients Contact Us NOLS Pro Design Your Course NOLS Pro Staff Overview Outcome-based Curriculum Faculty Overview Outcome-based Curriculum Faculty Case Studies Overview Administrative Training Staff Training Consulting Conference: WRMC How to Apply Apply Online Download an Application Admission Policies WMI Home About WMI Courses Schedule FAQ Photos & Movies Curriculum Updates Employment Sponsors WMI Home About WMI Admissions Courses Schedule Host a Course Resources Gallery Alumni Home Trips and Events The Leader Alumni Chapters Employment Staying in Touch Volunteer Photos & Videos Home NOLS Photos NOLS.TV The NOLS Podcast NOLS on Flickr Leave No Trace Overview Leave No Trace Principles Leave No Trace Master Educator Courses Host a Course Contact Map of Events Dream Expedition Leadership Week Press Room Images for the Press Archives