Decision Day 2015: Moving the Needle and Reaching Higher

This blog is part one in a series that will highlight the efforts of three Local College Access Networks and their schools in hosting College Decision Day 2015, in which 110 schools from throughout the state participated. To view a collection of Decision Day feedback and comments collected from social media, check out our Storify page. Schools, LCANs and students were asked to show their Decision Day support by simply wearing a college t-shirt and posting a picture to social media using the hashtags #DecisionDay and #ReachHigher.


College Decision Day 2015, which was held on and around May 1, celebrated the college-going accomplishments of high school seniors from throughout the state. Michigan entered the national spotlight for its efforts, thanks to the First Lady's Reach Higher campaign, in which Detroit was selected to host a citywide College Decision Day (also referred to as College Signing Day). The visit from Michelle Obama brought much-deserved attention to the college-preparation efforts of not only Detroit schools' staff and students, but college-access professionals and students from throughout the state.

Schools that hosted College Decision Day did so as a grand finale to college-preparation efforts that took place throughout the school year, which included statewide initiatives such as College Application Week and the College Cash Campaign. To learn more about how schools celebrated, and the role Local College Access Networks play in encouraging College Decision Day participation, Michigan College Access Network spoke to representatives from three LCANs whose schools participated in, and/or hosted Decision Day events. Today’s blog highlights the efforts of the Capital Area College Access Network.

Capital Area College Access Network

Capital Area College Access Network Executive Director Michele Strasz knows the importance of recognizing students' postsecondary admission achievements. "For many of these students, Decision Day activities are the only community celebration of graduation these students receive," says Strasz. "It's a big deal for many of these students. This is it."


Lansing-area students celebrate 
College Decision Day

The LCAN's Decision Day participation grew from three high schools in 2014 to six schools in 2015, which now include Eastern, Everett, and Sexton high schools from within the city of Lansing; and Holt, Waverly, and Webberville high schools. Strasz says that initially, she met with the five college advisers who work in the schools to walk through their tentative plans for celebrating Decision Day, and learn how the LCAN could support their efforts. While counselors and college advisors spearheaded the implementation of activities, Cap CAN assisted with preparation, such as coming up with ideas and contacts for obtaining donations for giveaways, preparing press releases for the media, and assisting with setup and organization. The schools' varied celebrations included a week of activities culminating in a barbecue; a senior breakfast that included a surprise visit from Michigan State Spartan mascot Sparty; and in the case of Everett High School, College Decision Day activities that involved high school students in grades 9-12.

"At Everett, underclassmen were able to experience Decision Day and see that the seniors were having a great time, and that they should look forward to it and think about college for themselves," says Strasz. She also noted that Everett's high school-wide Decision Day activities were funded in part by the R.E. Olds Foundation, which awarded a grant to support College Decision Day activities. The high school's event included a small college and career fair that offered student panels on making college and career decisions; information about financial aid opportunities; and featured some local employers and college representatives. The day culminated with a senior luncheon that included congratulatory remarks from Lansing School District Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul and R.E. Olds Foundation Trustee Diana Tarpoff, who both posed for photographs with the students. Strasz credits both the Foundation and Lansing School District, with providing strong leadership within the network.

When asked how other LCANs might maximize their own College Decision Day celebrations, Strasz recommends that LCANs and their schools begin planning Decision Day activities far in advance, and view it as part of a continuum of efforts from College Application Week onward. Doing so makes planning more manageable, and the bulk of work won’t take place during spring testing season and other end-of-year activities.

Despite the extra work involved in planning for Decision Day, Strasz believes it’s worth it. "A lot of times, young people don't have the support at home we might hope for, so feeling community support and love is very important to them," says Strasz. Fortunately for students within Cap CAN's boundaries, there are a number of supporters at both the school and community level to cheer them on and encourage their college-going efforts.

Christ Taylor headshot 2013Author: Christi Taylor, director of statewide initiatives, Michigan College Access Network

Posted: May 27, 2015

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