Michigan's College Access Blog

Decision Day 2015: Moving the Needle and Reaching Higher

Part Three

This blog is part three in a series that highlights 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. 

Launch Manistee College Access Network

 Brethren DD 5 picmonkeyed 1024x763
Brethren High School Students celebrate College Decision Day  

Launch Manistee has bragging rights. The LCAN successfully rallied all six high schools within its boundaries to participate in College Decision Day (and two other statewide initiatives) for the first time this year. Program Coordinator Mary Ann Behm says efforts began in August, when encouraging registration for College Application Week, and then continued through the College Cash Campaign and Decision Day. During College Application Week, 96 percent of seniors across Manistee County applied to one or more colleges. "As a county, we had so much enthusiasm and energy going into that initiative [College Application Week]," says Behm.  "We had our first ever FAFSA Completion Event in Manistee County during February, where we had participation from the counselors and financial aid departments of our three closest colleges." Building on this momentum, Launch Manistee then moved its focus to Decision Day.

"The support from the LCAN leadership team was extremely important," says Behm." They were genuinely enthusiastic about the idea and concept of Decision Day. I also discussed it with the area superintendents at their meetings to gain support from the top down." Behm also garnered support from the community, and obtained donations from local organizations such as the Manistee Rotary Club, and a screen-print shop, which donated event funds and Decision Day-themed t-shirts to 234 seniors in Manistee County. School counselors took charge by planning their own activities within the schools.

The efforts of the Launch Manistee leadership team, counselors, and Behm seem to have paid off, as these testimonials from excited staff members indicate:

"We are having a blast! ...the seniors are in such an excited mood! They have gone to talk to our middle school students...purely their idea, and are loving the experience of sharing with the youngsters. We head into the gym for our rally at 1:35. Kids are all in their shirts...took lots of pictures!"

-Staff Member, Brethren High School

"It went very well. Our students discussed what they are planning to do after high school with other students. Everyone listened extremely well and it sparked some great discussion regarding futures and planning."

-Staff Member, CASMAN Academy

Behm expects that next year, Decision Day in Manistee County will be even bigger and better. She intends to begin planning earlier in the year, and recommends that other schools start planning at the beginning of the year too, so as to avoid generating extra work during spring break and testing time periods. "Maximize it. Plan it earlier," she says. "Next year, we'll have learned from each other and other schools who have done it." Still, Launch Manistee's inaugural effort resulted in six high schools participating in all three statewide initiatives; they should certainly be proud of that.

MCAN Tip: To save you time and effort, we are asking schools to sign up for every initiative they’d like to participate in, using this survey. Schools may sign up for as few or many as they would like.


Christ Taylor headshot 2013Author: Christi Taylor, director of statewide initiatives

Posted: June 4, 2015

Decision Day 2015: Moving the Needle and Reaching Higher

Part Two

This blog is part two in a series that highlights 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 the first blog post in the series, click here. 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. 

Detroit College Access Network  

DCSD M.Obama on Stage
College-bound students from greater Detroit are recognized by Michelle Obama on College Decision Day.

To say that schools within the Detroit College Access Network had a successful 2015 College Decision Day is an understatement. In Detroit alone, more than 2,000 high school seniors from over 40 high schools celebrated their postsecondary future. The culmination of year-long college-going efforts resulted in a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama, who spoke to Detroit's college-bound seniors on Friday, May 1 at Wayne State University. R&B Singer Ciara and University of Michigan Football Coach Jim Harbaugh also were present and helped drum up positive publicity for the event.

"I have received so many 'thank-you' emails telling me what a powerful day it was, how they [college-access professionals] felt like the atmosphere and culture was so great," says Ashley Johnson, DCAN coordinator. "Students were sitting and engaged for up to three hours at a time, talking with fellow students who were going to the same college." Johnson also cites the work of college representatives who were present, as having a great impact on the event. "They looked at lists to help ensure students had completed all of the steps that follow notification of college admission - paying education deposits, official acceptance, and ensuring the students weren't facing roadblocks to completing the requirements."

DCAN includes more than 50 schools in the Detroit area. Its efforts to rally College Decision Day participation started at the beginning of the school year. During College Application week, Johnson says DCAN encouraged its schools to start thinking about the College Cash Campaign and Decision Day events.  "Having everyone see that it's a series of events for seniors - that these three events help students enroll in college - is helpful," says Johnson. 

Because of the number of schools it supports, DCAN seeks to make the most impact by providing high quality training that equips counselors and college advisers with the tools to build a college-going culture among students. Johnson says that building support within the schools is not difficult, thanks to having individuals on DCAN's leadership team who are college-access experts, and already invested in the cause. She also credits the use of hard data, which is essential to encouraging school participation. Johnson says that DCAN collects data for every campaign it runs. It’s a tactic that pays off, as it helps gain buy-in from school leaders. Johnson suspects that once the college enrollment data for the class of 2015 becomes available, it will be even more compelling.

Johnson encourages other LCANs to help their schools celebrate College Decision Day. "This [College Decision Day] gave Detroit an opportunity. A chance to take work beyond the school building and get the community involved," she says. "People want to help. It's a selling point and a great way to involve the business community. Detroit students are college bound."

To learn more about some of the Detroit students who are college bound, watch this YouTube video, which highlights six Detroit students who share their stories of challenges, determination, and of chasing their dreams of going to college. #CollegeBoundDET

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

Date: June 2, 2015

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.

Introduction 

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."

 CapCAN

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

Achieving the Dream, Part 4

Bay College – Student Success, Community Success, Culture of Success

This blog is the fourth and final installment in a series that highlights the work of colleges that received an Achieving the Dream grant from the Michigan College Access Network. The grant assists with creating, expanding and sustaining research-based interventions that help more students, particularly low-income students and students of color, persist through degree completion. To view the first blog post in the series, click here; second blog, click here; and third blog, click here.

BayCollege 2

Since the beginning of its involvement with the national Achieving the Dream initiative, Bay College President Dr. Laura Coleman has been unquestionably committed to an agenda of student success, and the process of continuous quality improvement. Likewise, the board of trustees has provided regular encouragement and support for the college’s many Achieving the Dream efforts. Bay College benefits from committed leadership, and its greatest accomplishment in this area has been the establishment and sustained impact of the Student Success and Completion Team.

The Student Success and Completion Team is a cross-functional group of Bay College leaders. Throughout the past four years, the team has been extraordinarily influential in growing a culture of continuous quality improvement at Bay College. Without this team’s hard work, passion to improve student success, and willingness to innovate, none of the improvements made at Bay College would be a reality.

Since its involvement with Achieving the Dream, Bay College has made numerous, large-scale institutional improvements. These include:

  • The introduction of supplemental instruction;
  • A first-year experience course to introduce students to principles and methods to be successful in college and in life based on the principles of the On Course textbook;
  • A revamped new-student orientation program that incorporates student participation and feedback through the use of iClickers, which are devices to allow individuals to provide instant feedback;
  • An improved advising model that pairs new students with their faculty advisor during orientation;
  • Increased professional development opportunities for faculty and staff; and
  • Improved transitional studies practices (e.g. mandatory placement and two, new full-time transitional studies faculty).

While these improvements are significant, perhaps the greatest systemic improvement at Bay College is the prioritized student success agenda. Student success has become the driving force behind nearly all of Bay College’s operations. In fact, it is the first entry in the college’s list of institutional priorities – student success, community success, and a culture of success.

Bay College has done an exemplary job of involving a wide variety of people in the college’s Achieving the Dream and continuous quality improvement efforts. At least 50 percent of all administration and faculty are regularly involved with Achieving the Dream in some way; and virtually everyone – employees and students alike – has been impacted by one of the college’s six interventions. This tremendous participation rate is Bay College’s greatest accomplishment in the Broad Engagement category of the Achieving the Dream initiative. The cooperation among faculty, administration, and staff has improved noticeably since Bay College became involved in Achieving the Dream, in addition to greater inclusion of external partners in improvement initiatives. For example, local K-12 teachers and administrators have attended several of Bay College’s professional development sessions. Local community leaders also were active participants in spring 2010, during the development of Bay College’s new purpose, vision, and mission statements.

As an Achieving the Dream leader college, these are just a few examples of the activities that Bay College is proud to engage in.

Guest Author: Cindy Carter, interim dean/executive director of admissions services, Bay College

Posted: May 21, 2015

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