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Counseling should focus on college AND career opportunities

This blog is written by State Representative Brett Roberts. Roberts is serving his second term representing Michigan’s 65th House District. He is a sixth-generation farmer, and is a lifelong resident of Charlotte in Eaton County.

The state Department of Education sets a requirement that all school counselors have 150 hours of professional development over the course of five years to remain certified to work with K-12 students. That’s a strong standard, but it’s not specific enough.

With the expansion of career opportunities in Michigan, education needs to be more diversified and step away from the “one size fits all” concept it has become over the past 30 years. That’s why I authored legislation to update the professional development guidelines, stipulating 25 of the 150 hours be dedicated to career and technical education (like skilled trades) and 25 hours for college preparation.

In early November, Gov. Rick Snyder agreed with the legislation and signed it into law.

The path from introduction of the bill to the governor’s signature illustrated the importance of counselors being exposed to more career platforms. Parents and students look to these education professionals for insight and direction for what to do after high school, such as suggesting colleges or the educational guidelines for a specific career. But what if the student shows an interest and ability in a career that doesn’t require college?

Too often, counselors may not know where to go from there. In fact, during testimony before a House committee, the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling noted that many high school counselors felt unprepared to advise students in career and college selection. Many students and parents surveyed felt that they are receiving inadequate help and planning from their high school guidance professionals. 

Counselors face challenges because the changing local job market, along with the evolving college selection and financial aid process, makes it difficult for them to stay current and informed. We cannot accept that reality. Instead, we should seek to update the standards to help counselors diversify their education to become more knowledgeable about the opportunities for students.

Kids who are preparing for the professional world need to know that there are plenty of different options available to them. There are thousands of career opportunities in Michigan’s skilled trade industries. These careers pay well and allow recent graduates to kickstart their professional lives right out of high school. This law will give students better knowledge to take advantage of opportunities like these.

Colleges are no different, and now 15 state-funded institutions provide their own programs to match interest with demand.

From the beginning, Michigan College Access Network supported this legislation because giving students more options for life after high school will give them a better chance to succeed. When counselors know more about different postgraduate opportunities, then students and families will know more as well. Success in life is more about multiple choices available to us in Michigan, not one size fits all.


Author: Michigan State Representative Brett Roberts
Posted: Dec. 13, 2017

Now is the time for Michigan high school seniors to pursue college dreams

State Superintendent of the Michigan Department of Education Brian Whiston recently provided guest commentary to Bridge Magazine supporting Michigan College Month. The following is an excerpt from his piece. To read the full op-ed, please visit Bridge Magazine.

Gov. Rick Snyder declared October “Michigan College Month” and I’m proud to support the governor and other education organizations’ efforts to increase postsecondary education in Michigan.

Getting students focused on a path that excites and inspires them will help prepare them for postsecondary success and a fulfilling career. Our goal to have Michigan become a Top 10 education state in 10 years will assist our students in this effort and drive a prosperous Michigan now and into the future.

Michigan College Month aims to help ease the stress of the college application process by dedicating time and resources to ensure all high school seniors have submitted at least one college application, applied for at least one scholarship and have filed the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Special efforts are being made to reach out to low-income students and to students who would be the first in their family to attend college.

Last year, the Governor appointed two powerful commissions, comprised of experts in their respective fields. These leaders spent months examining data to better understand the education and economic needs of Michigan in the years to come.  The result of these commissions was the 21st Century Education Commission and 21st Century Economic Commission reports.

The biggest takeaway from each report?...Continue Reading


Posted: Oct. 23, 2017

Maritime Academy: Participant Reflections, Part Two

Since 2012, the Michigan College Access Network has hosted Maritime Academy, a three-day, intensive dive into the Collective Impact framework as applied to Local College Access Networks. This invite-only, intimate gathering of LCAN Coordinators and Leadership Team members from across the state and country are selected to join the staff for a comprehensive training. Last month marked the fifth year of Maritime Academy. This blog is the second of a two-part series that includes testimonials from several Maritime Academy graduates.  


Danielle Funderburg 
Board Trustee, Romulus Community Schools
Leadership Team Member, Wayne County College Access Network

"I’ve been a champion of college access for over six years and I thought I had a grasp of what collective impact was until Maritime Academy schooled me, now I have my ‘constituent-sea’ legs (I’ll tell you about that in a minute) and needless to say, I experienced several Ah-ha moments, or in this case “Ahoy”!

Once I got past the ambiance of Hotel Indigo’s eco-friendly hotel theme connecting me to mother earth, the whimsical nautical charm of Traverse City and its gorgeous lake view, and humming Christopher Cross’ 1980 song “Sailing”, I got right down to business, digging for the hidden treasures in Collective Impact. I was in great company with other LCANs locally and as far as Iowa, Colorado and Florida.

My first Ah-ha was; collective impact feels unnatural at first, but when executed with fidelity it can and should produce an LCAN that is not only productive, but also laser focused on its common agenda using shared measurements.  That got me thinking; it has always been exactly that—awkward! Having several high level leaders in a room hashing out the specifics, on HOW to solve a problem is cumbersome. It’s easy to have a small group of individuals come up with a plan for change, but in all actuality, that wouldn’t be enough to put a dent in a massive goal, especially the one MCAN’s got. Collective impact takes many constituents (organizations) in a sea of opportunity mobilizing, making college accessible and degree/certification attainable.

My next Ah-ha was—collective impact is triune and most authentic when you have a Leadership Team with high level thinking making decisions that bring about policy and system changes. An LCAN Coordinator as captain of the ship making sure that all the organizations and resources are aligned and available so the proposed destination can be reached and a strong anchor that can help support the direction of the LCAN without interfering with the “process”. Personally, this trinity is the framework my LCAN should review to move us off the sandbar. 

I had other revelatory moments but my major take away from this training, (besides my head exploding from all of the valuable information pumped in it over the three day period), was—this is HARD, continuous work! The leadership team can’t get complacent on decision-making. The LCAN coordinator must establish continuous communication for the network, align resources and facilitate the collective impact process and the anchor has to be comfortable with being the silent partner. Lastly, everything [common agenda, shared measurement systems, alignment, action steps, communication, and backbone support] is (and should be) connected to everything else when charting a course.

This training is a must-have in acquiring a deeper understanding of collective impact as it pertains to college access. 

So, was Cross singing about college access?  It’s Possible!

Sailing takes me away, to where I've always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me, And soon I will be free

Bon Voyage!"


Margie Haas 
Coordinator, Barry Career Access Network

"Thank you to MCAN for allowing me to return to Maritime Academy this year with two of our Leadership Team board members. My expectations were greatly exceeded. By attending the academy as a team we strengthen our commitment to the vision of Goal 2025. Learning the elements of Collective Impact and how to facilitate implementation was vital as a team. We had great conversations about the steps in the Collective Impact process that we’ve already accomplished and where we want to go. Personally, I now have two additional people that can speak to our initiative. It won’t be just me talking! Going forward we will review, revisit for revisions, recommit to Goal 2025 as a team."




Author: Sarah Anthony, Deputy Director for Partnerships and Advocacy
Posted: Sept. 12, 2017


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