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A woman attends Step Forward's Professional Development course

No matter your age, Step Forward helps people discover and begin the careers of their dreams – careers that offer greater stability and security for their families. We offer personal assessments to determine interests, assess skills, set goals and establish a plan to achieve them. 


All services are free to eligible Cuyahoga County residents. 


Services are offered at either 1801 Superior Ave, Suite 400 in the Central Neighborhood Opportunity Center or 14209 Euclid Ave., inside the Forbes Early Learning Center. Hours of operation for both locations are Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., excluding holidays. 


We are happy to share our impact and outcomes from our professional development programs over the past year.

Call the Central Neighborhood Opportunity Center at 216-651-5188 to get more information and/or schedule an appointment for intake.  

Several individuals attend a professional development course

External Programs

External Programs

For Step Forward Workforce graduates seeking advanced skill level certification training, Step Forward: 

  • Promotes online and hybrid classroom instruction designed for successful completion of certifications. 

  • Offers free tuition paid certification training in Information Technology or Medical Administration fields. 

  • Strengthens community relationships by working with other organizations to match people with the right jobs. 

EXTR Anchor
  • What does Step Forward do?
    Step Forward has served residents of Greater Cleveland for 55 years. The Community Action Agency formed in 1964 in response to Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. In the past half a century, we have helped thousands of Greater Cleveland residents. We understand how hard it can be to make ends meet and how difficult it is to ask for help or know where to start. Step Forward counselors, coaches and teachers work with each individual or family to sort through the chaos and connect them with help to restore hope in the future. We do this by addressing four key areas: Step Forward is one of the State’s leading providers of Head Start, the preschool program that offers a holistic approach to learning for children and their families. Assisting people with job placement and earning a living wage or higher; Step Forward career planning and job training opportunities enable people to learn or improve skills, earn certification or improve readiness to pursue and win better job opportunities. Encouraging and teaching personal development; Our Neighborhood Opportunity Centers help low-income individuals and families access resources and support to address immediate needs and build long-term skills and opportunities to transform their lives. Step Forward helps ensure Cuyahoga County residents are warm in the winter and cool in the summer through energy assistance programs that help low-income individuals and families with their home energy bills during crisis and non-emergency situations.
  • Step Forward used to be called The Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland. Why did you change the name?
    For decades, we quietly, steadfastly opened our doors to help low-income individuals and families in Cuyahoga County take steps toward brighter futures. Throughout our 55-year history, we continuously evolved to meet people’s changing needs as the barriers and challenges of poverty changed. Our new name, Step Forward, reflects the next step forward for the organization to continue to be a vital resource to Cuyahoga County and the low-income residents who call it home. By stepping forward, we can help transform more lives and further strengthen our communities. We are stepping forward, but we are not walking away from the legacy of our organization. In fact, throughout our history we have shown that we must continuously takes steps to help us better serve low-income individuals and families in our community. To learn more about the name change from our President and CEO, Dr. Jacklyn Chisholm, please click here.
  • What are the eligibility requirements for your programs and services?
    All customers must be Cuyahoga County residents. The majority of Step Forward’s programs also have income requirements in order to qualify. Requirements differ based on the specific program. To find out if you qualify for our Early Head Start and/or Head Start programs, please call (216) 589-9922. To find out if you qualify for one of our personal or professional development courses, please call the Neighborhood Opportunity Center nearest you.
  • When do you take applications for your programs?
    Our programs take applications throughout the year. Head Start and Early Head Start are always enrolling children and families at their locations throughout Cuyahoga County. If a particular center is full, you can apply and be placed on a waiting list. The center will contact you as soon as a spot is available. The Personal Development/Family Development and Professional Development programs accept applications throughout the year at all of our locations. Step Forward's Home Energy Assistance Program has a select number of programs available year-round. The HEAP Winter Crisis Program operates from November 1st – March 31st. No new applications are accepted after March 31. For applications in process on or before March 31, all documentation for the Winter Crisis Program must be submitted to Step Forward's HEAP office by April 9, 2024. Documentation submitted after April 7th, 2024 is at risk of not being processed. The HEAP Summer Cooling program operates from July 1st – August 31st.
  • Where are you located?
    Step Forward has seven Head Start centers, four Neighborhood Opportunity Centers, and one Home Energy Assistance Program located throughout Cuyahoga County. Please click here to find the location that is most convenient for you.
  • What is a Neighborhood Opportunity Center?
    Step Forward operates four Neighborhood Opportunity Centers located in Cuyahoga County. The centers allow Step Forward to meet people in need where they live and work. NOCs are accessible and convenient locations designed to reduce or eliminate the need for transportation into Downtown Cleveland. Staff who work at Step Forward's NOCs assist clients by connecting them to early childhood education, the Home Energy Assistance Program, emergency assistance such as food, clothing, and rent and internet payments, personal development including counseling, anger management and Baby and Mommy Support, and professional development like workshops, job training and employment connection.
  • What is the Men's Elevation Conference?
    The Men's Elevation Conference, presented by Step Forward, is a first-of-its-kind event in Cuyahoga County. Introduced in 2023, the conference served as an opportunity for men to come together and ignite a passion for growth through education, motivation, and celebration. If you are interested in participating, presenting, or attending the next Men's Elevation Conference, please visit for more information.
  • What does the Head Start application process entail?
    When a family calls or files an online application to enroll a child, one of Step Forward's recruitment staff will answer the call or follow up on the application. The recruitment staff will complete the application process with the family member and depending on their location preference, will make a referral. At that time, one of Step Forward's Family Service Workers from the particular center will follow up with the family to finalize the enrollment process and gather required documentation to determine eligibility.
  • What documents are required for registration?
    Enrollment at Step Forward's Head Start is a collaborative process and our Family Service Workers are here to assist every step of the way. To complete the enrollment process, we require certain documents to ensure that we can provide the best care for your child. These include: -Proof of Birth: Birth Certificate, shot records, birth letter, etc. -Proof of Income: Two most recent pays stubs, 1040 tax form from previous year, W2, or written statement from employer, etc. -Proof of Residency -Medical Card -Shot Records -Physical Exam within 30 days of enrollment Our team is ready to help ensure that you experience a smooth and supportive enrollment experience.
  • Are you still enrolling children in Head Start for this school year? How can families sign up?
    Head Start preschool begins each fall in accordance with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District's academic calendar. However, Early Head Start and Head Start are always accepting new students. If a particular center is full, you can apply and be placed on a waiting list. The center will contact you as soon as a spot is available. Call (216) 589-9922 or click here to start the enrollment process today.
  • How much does the program cost?
    Early Head Start and Head Start are available at no cost to income-eligible families. Eligible participants include children whose families are living at or below the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Other eligible participants include children who are in the foster care system and those who are experiencing homelessness. Our program also accepts a limited number of children who do not meet the aforementioned criteria. Families can call (216) 589-9922 for more information.
  • Does Step Forward provide transportation for Head Start children?
    Step Forward does not provide transportation to and from the agency's Head Start centers. We have made it our mission to provide seven convenient and accessible locations across Cuyahoga County. Each location can be found here.
  • What if my child has a disability?
    Step Forward and Step Forward's Head Start are committed to providing inclusive environments where all children, including those with disabilities, are welcomed and supported. Through our Early Head Start and Head Start program, we embrace the unique abilities of each child and strive to create an atmosphere of acceptance and belonging. Staff is trained to accommodate diverse needs, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to thrive in a nurturing and inclusive setting. Inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood education is vital for their holistic development. It fosters a sense of belonging, promotes social interaction, and encourages learning experiences that are tailored to individual needs. By participating in inclusive programs like Head Start, children with disabilities benefit from a supportive environment that values diversity and empowers them to reach their full potential. If a child is physically or mentally challenged, they are automatically eligible for Step Forward's Early Head Start or Head Start program. The family will be required to provide medical documentation for the child's diagnosis.
  • What if my child does not speak English as their primary language?
    Step Forward is dedicated to providing an inclusive environment for children whose primary language is not English. We recognize the importance of supporting linguistic diversity and ensuring that all children and families feel welcomed and valued. In instances where a child does not speak English, our programs are equipped with bilingual staff members who can communicate effectively with the child and their family. Additionally, we are committed to making necessary arrangements to assist families in accessing our services in their native language, ensuring that language barriers do not hinder a child's ability to fully participate and thrive in our programs.
  • What kind of support does Step Forward provide for the health and well-being of enrolled children?
    At Step Forward, we prioritize the health and well-being of all enrolled children. For Early Head Start children, we provide formula and diapers to ensure their basic needs are met. For Head Start children, we offer breakfast, lunch, and a snack as part of our nutrition program. Step Forward's Health and Dental Coordinators collaborate with each center to schedule essential health services, including dental checkups, medical checkups, hearing screenings, and more, ensuring that every child receives the comprehensive care they need to thrive.
  • Can I apply online or over the phone?
    HEAP clients can apply online at Clients can also download a copy of the application and mail it to Step Forward's HEAP office at 2203 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44114. Those interested in emergency energy assistance will need an appointment in order to receive service. Appointments are available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. You can make an appointment as early as 8am via phone at (216) 350-8008 or you can schedule online at Appointment slots are secured very quickly. Due to the volume of requests for assistance, we encourage everyone who can't secure an appointment right away to keep trying. Scheduled customers need to have all necessary paperwork in-hand to receive assistance at the time of appointment.  Customers with scheduled appointments should submit their documentation at least 3 days in advance of their appointment to help with the telephone interview process. You can submit those documents via email to Learn more here.
  • What information do I need to bring with me when I meet with a HEAP representative?
    Please read the PDF here for a complete list of required documents.
  • How did your agency respond to the COVID-19 pandemic?
    The devastating impacts of COVID-19 meant the need for our programs and services increased dramatically. Like so many other nonprofits and businesses in our community, we rose to the challenge. We made our individual and family programs available online, we closed our Head Start Centers, but continued to engage with our children and families with virtual meetings and provided necessary resources and delivered baby items and daily lunches. We also updated our internal protocols to keep our locations safe and clean for our employees and the people we serve. In addition, Step Forward received funding through the CARES Act that allowed us to directly assist the people who needed it most. If you’ve been impacted by COVID-19, we may be able to help. Please click here to find out more. We know the impacts of COVID-19 will have far-reaching effects on our community. Whether you need assistance with immediate needs, or skills training to get a high-paying job, Step Forward is here to help.
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