Step Up For Students appoints Gretchen Schoenhaar as new CEO

Apr 30 2024

April 30, 2024 — Step Up For Students, the nation’s largest education choice scholarship funding organization, announced today that Gretchen Schoenhaar has been appointed Chief Executive Officer.

Doug Tuthill, who has been Step Up’s president since 2008, will become the organization’s Chief Vision Officer.

The appointment follows a months-long search for a next-generation leader with extensive experience in payments, products and technology who can fulfill the public’s growing demand for education choice options.

“I am excited about the future of Step Up For Students and education choice,” said John Kirtley, Step Up’s founder and chairman. “Gretchen Schoenhaar comes to us with a distinguished career in the finance industry and with over two decades of executive leadership. Gretchen’s skillset will ensure Step Up continues to be at the forefront of the ever-expanding and evolving education choice revolution, and that our families and providers have the tools and support they need to keep up with the changes.

“Doug Tuthill has been instrumental in growing Step Up and education choice, and we are delighted that he is going to continue to develop the vision for the next generation of the movement. He will remain a highly visible driving force inspiring us to serve our families in new and innovative ways.”

Schoenhaar brings to Step Up a wealth of experience in entrepreneurship and the global financial and tech industries. Over the last 16 years, she has held leadership roles, primarily in banking. The last five years she worked for Barclays, the global investment bank, where she led critical teams and programs focused on creating payment functions, integrating complex technologies and operations to ensure customer delight, and implementing programs for demanding regulatory compliance.

She previously worked in executive roles at major public companies, including Verizon, Broadridge Financial Solutions and UBS. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Thomas Edison State College and a master’s certification in Innovation from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Having created and sold three businesses, she is devoted to supporting entrepreneurs as well as women and girls in STEM through training and mentoring.

Schoenhaar will guide Step Up during a time of historic growth in the education choice landscape, in Florida and nationwide. In the 2023-24 academic year, Step Up For Students delivered the largest-ever expansion of education choice scholarships in U.S. history. The nonprofit administers two-thirds of the education savings accounts (ESAs) in the country, serving approximately 380,000 students through its three largest programs – 100,000 more than in the previous year.

“I’m thrilled by this opportunity with Step Up For Students,” Schoenhaar said. “My parents were deeply supportive and involved in their children’s education, and I have always supported families having more options to choose from. Investing in our children is critical to their future success.

“I look forward to serving our families, schools and other providers in deeper and meaningful ways, helping parents choose the best options for their children and unleashing the power of technology and learning to set the foundation for the next level of growth.”

As Step Up’s Chief Vision Officer, Tuthill will continue to be a national thought leader on education choice policies. Under Tuthill’s nearly two decades of leadership, Step Up has grown from administering over 9,000 scholarships in 2007-08 to 400,000 in 2023-24. A former public school teacher and teachers union president, he has spent his career promoting policies that provide education opportunities and equity to underserved communities, and redefining how education is delivered in a modern, pluralistic society.

“I feel like I won the lottery,” Tuthill said. “I will now be able to focus on the next generation of the education choice movement, taking the lessons learned from Florida and seeing how they can be applied nationwide. I’m confident Gretchen has the right portfolio of skills that will ensure Step Up’s infrastructure will continue to evolve to meet the needs of families and providers, while I hope to help map the direction.”

About Step Up For Students
Step Up For Students is a 501c3 nonprofit based in Jacksonville and St. Petersburg that administers the following Florida education choice scholarship programs: the donor-funded Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and Personalized Education Program, and the state-funded Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options, Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities, the New Worlds Scholarship Accounts for K-5 public school students who struggle in reading and math, the Transportation Stipend for K-8 public school students, and the Hope Scholarship for public school students who have been bullied. Since its inception, Step Up has awarded nearly 2 million scholarships, significantly impacting educational equity and access across Florida.

For more information, contact Scott Kent at [email protected].

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