Adviser Spotlight: Ashley Popp

AdviseMI is an initiative of the Michigan College Access Network that works with AmeriCorps to place recent college graduates in Michigan high schools with low college-going rates. The advisers are trained to help students navigate the complex college exploration process, retake college admissions tests, apply to colleges that are a good match/fit, complete the FAFSA, secure financial aid, and matriculate to college. Ashley Popp is a second year adviser exiting the program who served at Alpena High School and ACES Academy.

1. What is your college going story, and how did it lead you to this position?

I was fortunate enough to have the support of my parents through the college admissions and financial aid process. I visited Central Michigan University and Michigan State University prior to applying to college. Ultimately, I chose to attend Central Michigan University because of the merit-based scholarships they offered me, the location of the campus, and the opportunity I had to play clarinet in the Chippewa Marching Band!

At CMU, I was able to explore my passion for service through the Honors Program and the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center. I participated in four alternative breaks and served as a mentor through the Lunch Buddies program. I also tutored first-year chemistry students for two years, worked as a Supplemental Instruction leader, and lead group fitness classes on campus. My time at Central Michigan University was life-changing for me, and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to learn and grow through the experiences I had and the people I met at CMU!

When I learned about AdviseMI, I was excited to help students get to college so they could have a similar life-changing experience, like I’d had at CMU. Affordability and location were the most important factors when I was deciding which college to attend. I liked that I would be helping students determine which college was the right fit for them. I was also excited to learn and experience life in a new place, so I made the move to Alpena!

2. What was the biggest lesson you took from your time as an adviser?

During my time as an adviser, I helped many students and families through the college admissions and financial aid process. In time, I expect they will forget exactly what I said or what form I helped them complete. Instead, I hope they remember that I cared about them, treated them with kindness and respect, supported their decisions, and encouraged them when they felt stressed or overwhelmed.

I’ve always liked the quote widely attributed to Maya Angelou that reads, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I will never forget those who have been there for me on my own personal journey and I hope the students I’ve served have felt supported and encouraged during our conversations. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to positively impact the lives of students and families in Alpena.

3. Describe an initiative or program you spearheaded during your years of service.

During my first year of service at Alpena High School, I facilitated College Application Week as it had been facilitated in previous years. Seniors had the opportunity to complete admissions applications for the entire day on Wednesday with optional sessions during lunch periods on Thursday and Friday. During my second year of service, I wanted to offer seniors more opportunities to complete applications and begin the FAFSA during the school day with help from myself, their counselor, and Alpena Community College staff.  I communicated MCAN’s shift to Michigan College Month to the Alpena High School counseling team and proposed a two-week schedule of opportunities for seniors, including four days of application and FAFSA workshops.

Although seniors were assigned a specific time based on their last name, they could attend any time and attend multiple sessions. Students had the option to complete and receive help with completing college applications, sending their transcript to colleges, creating an FSA ID, and starting the FAFSA. Many students attended multiple workshop sessions, and those that attended more than one typically submitted at least one application, created their FSA ID, and often started the FAFSA.

4. What opportunities, if any, has this experience offered you now that you are completing your service?  What are you plans now that this term has ended?

My experience serving with AdviseMI has taught me how to respectfully enter a community and build professional relationships with students, parents, administrators, and community members. I’ve had the opportunity to interact with students and families similar and very different from my own. Through these interactions, I have gained a different perspective about life and the challenges many people face, specifically ways poverty and trauma impacts students’ lives, goals, and academic success.

My experience serving with AdviseMI has also provided me with many professional connections, including my colleagues at Alpena Public Schools, fellow AdviseMI advisers, admissions and financial aid staff at Alpena Community College, four-year universities across the state, and MCAN staff. I am incredibly thankful to have developed strong relationships with professionals in the K-12, higher education, and non-profit sectors as I determine my next step professionally. I plan to move to the Ann Arbor area to be closer to family and friends.

To learn more about AdviseMI visit


Author: Ashley Popp, AdviseMI Adviser Alum
Posted: July 16, 2018

Michigan College Access Network | 200 N Washington Square, Suite 210, Lansing, MI 48933 (map) | (517) 316-1713 Contact Us | Site Map | Terms and Privacy