My First MCAN Conference

This past week I attended and worked my first conference with the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), which is ironic considering I didn’t officially start in my new role as Strategy Assistant until March 11. The 9th annual MCAN conference brought together counselors, scholars, as well as leaders in government, business and local communities. The atmosphere was electric and everyone there was on a mission united by one outcome: make college more accessible for Michigan students! The fact that I was able to be a small part of this is amazing. To say that I was overwhelmed at points during the two-day affair would be an understatement. However, being uncomfortable is the best way to grow and I know that I will do that with MCAN!

The conference started at 8:00am on Monday, March 4. But for the MCAN team, it started at 4pm March 3 with set up. I was thrown right in hanging signs, setting up the registration table and carrying boxes. The MCAN staff treated me like I was an old pro and welcomed my contributions and suggestions as we prepared for the conference to open. 

It is worth mentioning that I am the new Strategy Assistant for High School Innovation, and as such, I was primarily tasked with running the State Continuing Clock Hours (SCECHs) table for counselors attending the conference. On Monday, I also had the opportunity to attend the much anticipated awards ceremony, where MCAN honored education practitioners and advocates who have been leaders in their field. Each award had a nautical theme like the Marina or Flagship Award. Among all the fun and reverie of the awards, there was some sadness. Our fearless leader, Brandy Johnson, announced her resignation as did our logistical and conference planning powerhouse, Lisa King. Though I never worked for Brandy or Lisa, other than for the two days at the conference, it was abundantly clear how much MCAN means to both of them. I truly hope to live up to their expectations and help continue to make MCAN thrive! During the ceremony, I was simply struck not only by the things the award winners had accomplished but also how selfless everyone was. Education can be thankless, but to see so many dedicated individuals was not only inspiring, it was truly humbling.

Day two started just as early as day one, but I am happy to say that working the SCECHs table was much easier. My new boss, and all around amazing person, Jamie was able to turn the captchas off, and we got everyone signed in quickly and off to their sessions. During the downtime between sessions, I really got to know my new coworkers.  For example, I learned Emma and I were at Michigan State University (MSU) at the same time and probably crossed paths. Christopher is a huge fan of musical theatre, rivaling myself in his knowledge of show tunes! Shavonna is currently enrolled at MSU pursuing a degree in Social Work, which is awesome considering I’m an adopted child. I also got to meet some great local leaders in charge of the Local College Access Networks (LCANs) and make some connections to the people on the front lines of MCAN’s mission. It seemed that just as the conference was getting going it was brought to a close with nachos and ice cream to celebrate a wonderful two days. Forty-eight hours is not a long time in the grand scheme of things, but these 48 hours were extremely special to me. I began what will be a wonderful career working with MCAN. I came to Lansing scared of what the conference would entail and full of new-hire jitters, but I left feeling energized and truly apart of the MCAN family! It is time to get to work!

Author: Tony Parsons
Posted: March 19, 2019

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