‘Powerful’ support after high school: Inside Step Year

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — George Miguel was in a tough place in his life when he met Brandy Arnold in February.

“Brandy has just been kind of a second mom,” said Miguel.

After graduating from Grand Valley State University in December with a degree in psychology, Miguel had no plan. As the first person in his family to go to college, Miguel was lost until he found Arnold.

“That support was very powerful,” said Miguel.

Under Arnold’s mentorship, Miguel and five other students just completed Step Year’s 5-month program.

Arnold directs the program. She says it’s designed to help high school graduates apply for college, receive financial aid, find internships, identify careers and navigate finances.

“I saw so much of myself in them and kind of wanted to be that support for them that I didn’t necessarily have,” said Arnold.

Step year is an extension of the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology. Miguel’s class was the first to go through the program since it was revamped.

“What we really want them to walk away with is a plan and more importantly the self-confidence to put that plan into action,” said Arnold.

Miguel was the only one enrolled in the program who had a college degree. He credits Step Year for his possibility to teach English in the Peace Corps.

Brandon Campbell, who was also in the program with Miguel, said Step Year helped him get accepted to Florida A&M University. And Step Year graduate Viviana Farfan praised the program for helping her land a gig as a graphic designer.

“That’s always been something I want to do because I can draw,” said Farfan.

Six Step Year programs in bus in New York City
A courtesy photo shows the students of WMCAT’s Step Year program during a trip to New York City. (Brandy Arnold/WMCAT)

Arnold’s work with helping the group find their place in the workforce will shape who they’ll become, along with the program-sponsored trip to New York City they took.

“I’m excited,” said Miguel.

Arnold said she’ll officially start recruiting the next class of Step Year students this fall. She plans to start working with the new group in January.

Anyone interested in going through the program is encouraged to visit WMCAT’s website.

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