Step Up Program Offers Domestic Violence Survivors Stability through New Career Opportunities


2018 is off to a busy start! For many, the New Year is chance to start fresh, set new life goals, find a new job, become healthier or secure a new place to live. For many Harbor House clients, starting fresh comes with the added challenges and hidden barriers that others do not face.

In 2017, our Economic Advocate, Ann Munro heard their struggle and was inspired to create a career-based program that would help women make a fresh start. She envisioned a wholistic educational program, in conjunction with a local company that would equip women survivors with the necessary personal and professional skills. This program would bridge the career and networking gap with the goal of the participants no longer needing to live paycheck-to-paycheck. So from this idea, the Step Up program was born and for many it represented a new beginning in a new career that would ultimately lead them to financial independence and self-sufficiency.

Step Up Logo

Ann launched the Step Up pilot program in March, 2017 in partnership with Guardian Life Insurance. 9 women participated in this 8-week course with company specific curriculum and several Guardian employees as mentors. At its completion, all the women interviewed for open positions and all of them reported an increase in self-confidence, job skill abilities and appreciated the ability to network with Guardian professionals. Out of the nine participants, four advanced to the next level of the interviewing process and then two were ultimately hired. The remaining participants chose to either stay in their current job, utilize their new skills to gain employment elsewhere or accepted alternative career development opportunities through Kelly Services.

 “I am so proud to have been a part of this pilot program. Thanks to all of the amazing, talented, and encouraging people who put this together and contributed to giving domestic violence survivors a STEP UP,stated Elisha Shepard, the first Step Up participant hired by Guardian and now their current NBBS Systems & Process Analysis and Women’s Leadership Network Regional Coordinator.

Word of Step Up’s early success is spreading. More employers are expressing interest and Step Up is being included as a possible regional job readiness model through the WI POINT Poverty Initiative. A second round of the Step Up program with Guardian launched in January 2018 with 6 potential hires in March.

To learn more about the Harbor House Step Up program please contact Ann Munro, Economic Advocate at