Two Years of Preparing for Michigan College Month: An Adviser's Perspective

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.

Nedra Hall is a second-year adviser who serves at Fitzgerald High School.

When beginning as a first-year adviser, I experienced a little fear in my heart when Michigan College Month (MCM) was introduced. Not the type of fear to be concerned about, but fear of what lied ahead. When establishing myself at Fitzgerald in September of my first year, I remember being determined to set high precedence for myself. I knew FAFSA was one of my main initiatives, so I began making plans for a FAFSA night to be executed as soon as the application opened. I struggled at first trying to learn the layout of the school and how to set up scheduled room requests for my event. However, I utilized information from summer training about how to make connections at the school that I serve. That is when I started to establish a connection with Tammy Findlay and Sharron Yoshonis, who were Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) coordinators at Fitzgerald. My first year as an adviser was heavily influenced by these two women. They not only provided guidance for me, but also allowed me to learn things on my own. For FAFSA night, I asked them how their previous financial aid nights looked, and they told me that they hadn’t had one in a very long time and when they did only a few parents showed. I anticipated the possibility that the outcome would be the same, but I took it a step further by going to each 12th grade English classroom to tell students about the event and finding out how to send out text blasts to parents. Another challenge I faced was getting a response on attendance. In turn, that made things harder when creating things like informational FAFSA folders for parents or ordering snacks. When FAFSA night occurred, it was a bittersweet moment. I was surprised when I had such a large turnout of students and parents. Granted, we ran out of folders and food, which made some guests disgruntled, but students were about to learn and complete their FAFSA. One of the main highlights of my first year is having the support of not only my site supervisor, but also finding support in people I had just met.

Coming into the program as a second-year adviser was almost as worrisome as the first, if not more. The WOIA program at my school had been discontinued, so I lost the support of Tammy and Sharron. I still had support from my program directors and some staff members, but this time around, I realized that everything is on me. I understand this can sometimes be a heavy burden to carry. At the beginning of the school year, our community went through a horrific ordeal where we lost a student. The passing of this student added an emotional barrier on top of everything else. Honestly, my second year felt harder than my first. Despite the challenges we faced as a community, I was determined to make the most of MCM. The students needed things to look forward to, and our community needed things to look forward to.  I planned for things for MCM utilizing the framework that was established during my first year. During my MCM, I scheduled several different On-Site Admissions with multiple schools coming on the same day, with over 40 students signed up for some. I moved FAFSA night one day after the application opened and some students brought donated food and the attendance was so high, we almost ran out of standing room. I feel humbled by the experiences I have gone through. To be immersed in a community and a school where people honestly do care about each other is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

 

Author: Nedra Hall, Second-Year AdviseMI Adviser, Fitzgerald High School
Posted: Oct. 23, 2018

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