Navigating Challenges and Sharing Insight at the Maritime Academy

Local College Access Networks (LCANs) are community-based college access alliances supported by a team of community and education leaders representing K-12, higher education, the nonprofit sector, government, business and philanthropy. These networks are committed to building a college-going culture and dramatically increasing college readiness, participation and completion rates within their community. Each year, they attend Maritime Academy, where they undergo a rigorous three-day comprehensive training in order to strengthen their college access strategy.

Melissa Miller serves as the LCAN Coordinator for the WE CAN! Newaygo County and attended Advanced Maritime.

Seeking to impact large-scale social challenges necessitates a different type of thinking and contribution from key stakeholders in order to shift mindsets, change hearts and grow cultures aimed to achieve more for those impacted. Collective impact is different because it encompasses a type of synergy around a shared vision and process that rises above collaborative action. However, beginning this endeavor of collective impact is complex work. We as LCAN Coordinators so eagerly want to solve these intricate issues of today and tomorrow efficiently, effectively and sustainably. Yet the truth is this work is multi-faceted, ambiguous, takes time but in the end is completely worth it. If a silver bullet existed to solve every community’s educational and economic needs, then we would not continue to hear the weighted concerns of caring families, or every sector ranging from private, public and non-profit. The fact is, higher education access and attainment impacts all of us. 

Thankfully, organizations like the Michigan College Access Network strive to develop and strengthen local strategies to impact the Big Goal of educational attainment. Through the development of local college access networks, MCAN is committing to growing collective impact in local communities across Michigan. Serving as an LCAN Coordinator for WE CAN! Newaygo County, I have had the privilege to learn and appreciate the complexity of collective impact and feel the growing pains of progress as well as witness the triumphs of collective action. It is easy, as a new coordinator, to feel overwhelmed by the answers you do not have or isolated by the challenges you face as you rally around community stakeholders. However, it is imperative to remember to take a deep breath and realize that collective impact is not about you having to have all the answers. Collective action on system changes and opportunities takes time to understand, cultivate, and grow. Remember that you are a key part of the system that is coming together intentionally to ignite and push the educational movement in your community for a reason. Everyone has a part to contribute and as a new LCAN Coordinator, your role is to help those around you stay focused on the process and the goals of the network.

That is the beauty of the support garnered from MCAN. They intimately understand the challenges faced by LCAN Coordinators striving to have system-level changes in their communities and they step up to walk alongside you to ensure you feel supported. The Maritime Academy is a strong example of that intentional support that continues to prove the value of shared time together with colleagues. MCAN brings in subject experts to grow your understanding of collective impact and cultivate a culture of learning. During the three-day training, MCAN staff can’t help but share their authentic care and enthusiasm about your growth and development as a partner in the college access movement. By attending the Advanced Maritime Academy, it became clear to me that interacting with other LCAN colleagues offered a space to listen to one another, engage in constructive problem solving and provided an opportunity to celebrate each other’s accomplishments. Even though every community revolves around a localized strategy, LCAN colleagues are able to provide wise insights on lessons learned from their communities, share applicable resources and examples to aid forward movement, and serve as a helpful sounding board for navigating both challenges and opportunities. For these reasons, I am thankful to have participated in the Advanced Maritime Academy because I truly believe that being a part of this larger movement and group of strong leaders has helped me to better serve Newaygo County.

 

Author: Melissa Miller, WE CAN! Newaygo County Student Advancement Consultant
Posted: Sept. 18, 2018

 

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