Tracy Baynes, Founder & President

Tracy founded STEP in 2002 and is the President. She brings 25 years of teaching and expedition leadership experience to the organization. Tracy obtained her doctorate in oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1993. Since then she has dedicated her career to teaching and leading expedition-based programs designed to increase students’ self-confidence, enhance their ability to meet unfamiliar challenges, and widen their view of what’s possible for the future. She has done so as a faculty member with a variety of institutions including Sea Education Association, Columbia University, Long Island University, and the University of Pittsburgh and now dedicates her full attention to STEP.


Les Smith, CEO

Les joined STEP in August 2018. He is an experienced executive with a demonstrated history of success in nonprofit leadership, fundraising, strategic planning, partnerships, and team building. Les received his doctorate in higher education administration as well as a master’s degree in public administration from Brigham Young University. He served as a faculty member at three prominent institutions and has worked as a mentor for adults seeking to continue their college experience. Les considers STEP to be the gold standard model for high school students aspiring to become first generation college graduates. Les and his wife Elaine have six children and 12 grandchildren.



Eileen McLeod, Program Director

Eileen joined the STEP team in 2011 and brought years of experience in the experiential education world as well as with the public education system in Arizona. She also brought a passion for working with youth and helping them to reach their full potential. Prior to working for STEP, Eileen led wilderness expeditions throughout the southwest for Outward Bound. She also served as a full time substitute teacher for various high schools throughout southern Arizona. Eileen graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College in Ohio and currently spends every moment that she isn’t working with her two amazing kids (and her husband and dogs).

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Dalia Luque, Program Manager

Dalia joined the STEP team in 2018 after graduating from Williams College in Massachusetts.  Before heading to college, the Phoenix native was a STEP graduate as well as a Questbridge scholar and college match recipient. Dalia is the first in her family to graduate from college. She majored in her three passions: Mathematics, Political Science, and Latinx studies. Dalia’s long-held commitment to serving under-resourced communities has motivated her to work with both St. Vincent de Paul and Promise Arizona. As a STEP alum and our newest staff member, she is excited to continue motivating and encouraging traditionally underrepresented students to pursue their college education in order to help ensure the success of our communities. 

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Katie Carmer - Program Manager

Katie joined STEP in 2019, bringing six years of experience as a humanities teacher and school administrator. Katie graduated from the University of Notre Dame with degrees in liberal studies and cello performance. After moving to Phoenix and teaching for three years, she decided to return to school and completed her Masters in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies at Stanford University. In addition to her work with STEP, Katie is actively involved in several music education programs and continues to hone her skills as a cello teacher. She is passionate about educational equity and believes that all students should have access to opportunities to grow intellectually and creatively. She loves working with STEP students because of their inspiring determination and energy.

“STEP made college a reality for my daughter. I always encouraged her to work hard in school, but past that I had no idea. Ashley became much more independent after the STEP workshops because she had all the information. They really really break it down. She was empowered to take the steps she needed to get in to college.”
— Patti Parrra, STEP Parent

Board of Directors

Tracy Baynes (Ex-Officio): Founder and President, STEP: Student Expedition Program, Inc.

Andrew White, Board Chair: Vice president, Treasury Management services, Alliance Bank of Arizona.

Charles Layne: Chief Executive Officer at MDSL, a global recurring technology expense management company.

Christine Burton: Chair, Burton Family Foundation Board. Member, The Aspen Institute Society of Fellows, Women in Philanthropy, ASU Presidents Club and Social Venture Partners.

David Diggs: Chief Executive Officer, DMD Systems Recovery, Inc.

Debora Luna: STEP Alum. University of Arizona Graduate. Service Coordinator, Arizona Early Intervention Program.

Joan Lowell: Former Executive Director, Hospice of the Valley. Former Vice President/Senior Advancement Officer for Donor Services for the Arizona Community Foundation. Current counselor in business and NGO development in Arizona, Russia, Ukraine, Thailand, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Luz Osuna: Strategic Capacity Industrial Engineer at Intel Corporation.

Morris Scott: Founder, DMD Systems Recovery, Inc., a secure IT asset disposal service.

Susan Erler: Educator. Former Coordinator of the Doctor of Audiology Program at Northwestern University.

Gail Williams (Advisor Emeritus): Founding Accountant and Advisor to STEP.


Development Committee

Charles Layne (chair): Chief Executive Officer at MDSL, a global recurring technology expense management company.

David Diggs: Chief Executive Officer, DMD Systems Recovery, Inc.

Morris Scott, Co-Chair: Founder, DMD Systems Recovery, Inc., a secure IT asset disposal service.

Andrew White: Vice president, Treasury Management services, Alliance Bank of Arizona.

Doug Diehl: Vice President, Wealth Strategies Group at Northern Trust Company

Adam Draizin: Co-founder, American Traffic Solutions

Advisory Council

Armando Contreras: CEO, United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona (UCP).

Luis De La Cruz: Global Transfer Pricing Consultant, Deloitte & Touche.

Ruben Gallego: Congressman, United States House of Representatives.

Derrick Hall: President & CEO, Arizona Diamondbacks.

Courtney Johnson: Board President, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Tucson.

Carol G. Peck: Former President and CEO, Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona.

Jonathan Rothschild: Mayor, City of Tucson.

Andy Shirk: Founder, True Roots Development.

Karen Sinchak Higby: Partner, Sinchak & Associates.

Greg Stanton: Mayor, City of Phoenix.

Richard Strobridge: Vice President, Healthcare of CRF Health Inc.

Corey Woods: Chief Operating Officer, Phoenix Urban League.

“The STEP staff are awesome individuals. They know what they are doing. They know what advice to offer individuals. They help prepare us to leave everything we know to go to a new environment.”
— Octavio Orozco Ibarra, STEP Alum, Bowdoin College