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Top 19 Accomplishments in 2019

Season's greetings and happy New Year! Last night brought the end of a decade and the beginning of a new one. MCAN already has ambitious plans for 2020, but first we'd like to pause and reflect on our top 19 college access and attainment successes that happened in the last year.

In 2019, MCAN:

  1. Received a three-year $1.35 million grant from The Kresge Foundation to support our work and launch new initiatives;
  2. Awarded $929,000 in grants to 41 organizations across the state;
  3. Hosted 125 key stakeholders in the MIHEART Talent Summit;
  4. Empowered 56 college advisers to serve through the AdviseMI program;
  5. Engaged 343 high schools in the College Bound Michigan Initiatives;
  6. Celebrated the receipt of a $150,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation;
  7. Offered professional development to 635 people at the 2019 MCAN Annual Conference;
  8. Monitored 15 House and Senate bills proposed by the State of Michigan legislature;
  9. Adopted the governor's new Sixty by 30 goal;
  10. Hired 1 new executive director;
  11. Trained 56 LCAN colleagues at our combined Maritime Academy and coached 27 Local College Access Networks in their collective impact work;
  12. Awarded more than 11,000 SCECHs earned through training opportunities;
  13. Broadcast 2 videos by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer about college attainment;
  14. Engaged over 100 attendees representing 23 school-based teams at the inaugural Michigan Postsecondary Strategy Institute;
  15. Served 18,053 students through AdviseMI in the 2018-19 program year and connected with 129 AdviseMI alumni as a network;
  16. Established a 75% FAFSA completion goal for 2020;
  17. Honored 11 leaders with College Access Impact Awards;
  18. Organized 15 different events; and
  19. Hosted 99 individuals for our third annual College Access Advocacy Day.

MCAN's annual report will be released this spring and provide a more in-depth review of the year. Thank you to all of the phenomenal college access and attainment leaders who support MCAN and help improve the future of Michigan students. We can't wait to work with you in 2020!

Author: Ryan Fewins-Bliss, MCAN executive director

Posted: Jan. 1, 2020

Reflections From a First-Year Adviser

Deja Clemons is a first-year college adviser for the AdviseMI program and serves at Redford Union High School.

Being a first-year adviser can be extremely tough and exhausting. This is especially true when there are large shoes to fill. The adviser who preceded me broke many barriers in an effort to increase college access in the local community. Thankfully, I have support from the AdviseMI program and community members so that together we can break down even more barriers. 

During my first semester at Redford Union, I connected with every student in the senior class in a group setting or individually. At least once a week, I would spend an entire day in the English classes, forming a strong bond with the teachers and students. By being an open and available source of support and information, students are comfortable coming to me whenever they have a question. Most of my senior class has completed at least one college application. I made it a requirement for students to apply to our local community college and complete research on a program they might be interested in at that college. While not every student will end up attending the community college, it gave hope and insight to students who might not have known they could obtain a postsecondary credential so close to home, for a fraction of the assumed cost.

While I had some high points in my first few months, there have also been some continuing challenges. FAFSA completion has proven to be a beast. Low FAFSA completion rates can often be tied to low parent involvement. I’ve noticed that many parents still don’t understand the process of applying to college, and are skeptical when their student asks for personal information. I am brainstorming ideas on how to keep parents informed and push the FAFSA numbers through the roof.

Moving forward, I want to have at least 50% of my students complete the FAFSA by the end of the semester. I would like to sit down with all of my students individually, so that no one feels left out and they all have a chance to talk with me one-on-one. It is also my goal to get about half of my students to apply to three or more colleges. Looking back on these last three months, I am proud of what I have accomplished at my service site, and cannot wait to see what the future holds.

Author: Deja Clemons, AdviseMI adviser
Posted: Dec. 18, 2019


A Challenge is What I Didn’t Know I Needed

Chandra C. Scott is director of strategic outcomes for the Mobile Area Education Foundation and leads the 75,000 Degrees Talent Hub in Mobile, AL.

More times than not, workshops leave you feeling incomplete and not having any feedback other than “it was good” or worse, “I enjoyed the food.” The Talent Hub Learning Lab hosted by Michigan College Access Network in St. Louis provided just the opposite (but the food was good!). This three-day convening of Talent Hubs gave my team and I just what we didn’t know we needed…confirmation and a challenge.

Day one of learning was filled with data dives with a focus on equity, strategy impact and reflection. Data experts like Sara Lundquist (who I want to be when I grow up) and Leanne Davis, elevated our understanding on how the application of data is key to building a sustainable path to equitable systems change. I now look at our scope of work differently using the three lanes of complex systems to gauge its impact – Manage It, Solve It or Dissolve It. It was rewarding for our team to assess our progression and see that we are being intentional about equity (Solve It) and systems change (Dissolve It). This new lens of assessment was matched with confirmation through a team discussion facilitated by Lumina Foundation’s own Dakota Pawlicki. Working with three distinctly different institutions within our 75,000 Degrees Talent Hub, I know oh so well how a data point can have different contextual meanings for each institution. This reminded us how it’s ok for similar data progressions to not have similar narratives. The power of data lives within the context! Remember, this was just day one.

Ryan’s team outdid themselves when they opened the morning with Nicole Hudson, assistant vice chancellor for the Academy for Diversity and Inclusion at Washington University. She challenged our team’s institution leaders on a very simple phrase…faculty office hours. Most of us interpret this as a time when students should get clarity, direction or confirmation. However, when you don’t function in a student-centered narrative, you don’t realize that "office hours" might be interpreted as a time to not bother faculty. This challenged our team to not only evaluate how many students take advantage of faculty office hours but to consider renaming this time all together. Hudson’s conversation impacted me the most when she shared two graphics: one with an individual climbing a broken ladder and two others climbing ladders with additional support risers, and the other graphic had individuals climbing intact ladders with equitable starting points. Her question/message with these graphics was simple. Are you functioning one way (inequitable) but think you’re functioning the other way (equitable)? This has challenged me to be consciously intentional about how every approach and scalable strategy is implemented. To lead with the question, “will this function as I desire, or will it create more inequities?”

As day two was winding down, Brett Bradshaw and Asali Waters with the National Equity Project began their session on Applying Equity to Practice. It sounds harmless, right? Wrong! During their presentation we were given some cards to use during our team time to assess how we address equity in our work. As we were going through each card, a phrase hit me in the gut. Fail safe. This two-word phrase literally stopped every thought and triggered an emotion that was unexplainable. Being fortunate and trusted to lead our Talent Hub, I never felt there was room for me to exist in a fail-safe environment. I literally thought I would need counseling because of a two-word phrase. But what this revealed to me, which I subconsciously knew, is that my team is with me every step of the way. We are each other’s fail-safe net. This session of Applying Equity to Practice took on a different meaning for me. Applying Equity to Practice means I don’t have to carry the burdens and challenges our Talent Hub face alone. I have an amazing and dynamic team who challenged me to not face these challenges alone but to share them. Now I know everyone thinks they have a great Talent Hub team, but I dare to say I truly do have THE BEST team ever! So, when someone asks "How was the Learning Lab?" I simply reply, “I wish you could have been there!”

Author: Chandra C. Scott, director of strategic outcomes for the Mobile Area Education Foundation
Posted: Dec. 11, 2019

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