STEP MC grads celebrate new beginnings

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By Jessie Wagoner


Christle Estabrook, Tony LePape, Allison Lewis and Jessica Smith have all faced significant hurdles in their lives. Recently, they were able to celebrate new beginnings and look to the future during their graduation ceremony from the STEP MC Getting Ahead program. 

The graduates, all part of the McPherson class, were presented with certificates of completion during a special ceremony. All four completed the 16 week Getting Ahead Program, which is focused on transforming lives by exploring the causes, effects and nuances of poverty. The participants, known as team leaders, partnered with facilitators Emily Spearman-Cannon and Jay Warner to complete the program. All of the participants expressed their gratitude for the program and the friendships they had developed as a result of their participation. 

“God has really blessed me with this group and I hope to continue to be a blessing to you all,” Estabrooks said during her speech. 

Since beginning the program, Estabrook has been able to get caught up on her child support payments, build a savings account, maintain her sobriety and continue her education. She says the program has helped her identify her barriers and navigate ways to bridge the gap between herself and other members of the community. She is looking to the future and hopes to soon be able to buy a home. 

Allison Lewis was excited to receive her certificate of completion. She was referred to the program by family members, who had participated and she found it very helpful. During her time participating in the program, she was able to secure her own residence and is now living on her own with her children. She developed lasting friendships with other participants and is also looking to the future, hoping to be able to purchase her dream vehicle soon. 

“Attending these classes not only helped me learn about living in poverty and all the hidden rules between classes, but I made friends with all of these wonderful people,” Lewis said. “I found my own apartment. I have a much higher paying job now and I’ve been able to set up and achieve some of my most reasonable goals.” 

STEP MC Director Austin Regier congratulated the graduates and expressed his thanks to the volunteers and sponsors who make the program possible. STEP MC has helped 56 adults and 42 children overcome proverty. The program helps individuals identify their 11 resources, which include, financial, emotional, mental, language, social capital, physical, spiritual, integrity, motivation, relationships and knowledge of hidden rules. Data has shown all participants have increased their 11 resources through participating in the program. 

“The people in the program are doing the hard work and we are honored to walk with them as they do that work,” Regier said. 

STEP MC could always use volunteers to assist with the program and provide financial support. For those interested in learning more about STEPMC, call 620-241-9011 or visit

“Tonight we graduated four people who are committed to overcoming poverty,” Regier said. “I want to give you a very heartfelt thanks to all of you who have made that possible and a very heartfelt thanks to our graduate, as well, who put in weeks of hard work. I hope you know this is just the beginning of where we believe you can get to.”