You never know what a child’s home life may be like. They could have an extremely loving household, but their single mother is struggling to make ends meet. They could be surviving in a volatile environment where the highlight of their day is going to school. Federal funding can only go so far as to help these children who are not in control of their circumstances. Enter Putnam Education Partnership (PEP). PEP’s goal is to raise money for student needs that fall outside the allotted budget and federal funding, is an extremely impactful 501(c)(3) that many may not be aware of. 


Responsible for providing school safety enhancements and teacher appreciation grants, PEP prides itself on offering key tools that give families peace of mind that their child is in a safe and thriving environment while at school. On top of all the funds it supports, PEP’s backpack program feeds over 600 local students on the weekends who may not otherwise have access to a healthy meal outside of the school day. Things like lice kits, medical and dental assistance, and housing assistance are also initiatives that the PEP Student Needs Fund helps contribute to. 


PEP Executive Director and born-and-raised Cookeville native Katelyn Steakley has been an avid volunteer in the community for years. Following the devastating 2020 tornadoes in Putnam County, Katelyn formed Cookeville Strong, a 27,000-member Facebook group dedicated to helping those in need. The urge to give back is ingrained in Katelyn’s DNA, and she hopes to spearhead many more initiatives within the PEP organization for years to come. 


Serving the Putnam County school system, PEP provides a safety blanket for children and families, so students can show up to school ready to learn each day. Visit for more information. 

-by Chelsea Dartez