Michigan's College Access Blog

Mastering Service: An Adviser's Reflection

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.

Brittany Hall is a first-year adviser who serves at Ferndale High School.

One of the natural trajectories for AmeriCorps members after our year(s) of service is to pursue a graduate degree. The work that we are doing ignites our passion and brings to light what truly fulfills us, which could explain why so many of us choose to continue our education and expand our knowledge base. Doing so enables us to best serve our communities and our world as we move into our career and continue our service in other ways. Several members also choose to work on their degree during their time of service. I want to share with you some of the challenges and rewards of serving and being in school, and how this experience has contributed to my service.

My experience coming into AdviseMI and serving my first year as an AmeriCorps member has certainly been unique because of my educational background. I am one of very few members of my cohort who came in with a master’s degree. I was right on the cusp of not being eligible to apply for the position since I graduated in 2015 with my bachelor’s degree, but the search was extended, and I immediately jumped on the opportunity to get in and interview with service sites. While I have not served and been in graduate school at the same time, I can speak to two key pieces with confidence: the workload/added stress of being a graduate student and what having an extended base of knowledge can do for your service.

One of the biggest challenges of taking graduate level courses during your time of service will likely be the time commitment. Similar to a service position, I was a graduate assistant at Oakland University while I pursued my degree. It became exhausting to balance my 20 hours a week and make time for classes, homework, and self-care. The level of academic rigor is quite different from that of the undergraduate experience, so I had to adjust to a new way of thinking/learning and set aside more time for school. No matter which graduate degree you pursue, I can promise that there will be a copious amount of reading for each and every course you take. You will also be challenged to think more critically and holistically, which can take a while to adjust to. Fitting all of these new pieces into the puzzle that is your life can be a challenge, but I promise it is possible! 

In my opinion, there are far more pros than cons when it comes to obtaining a graduate level degree as you serve. Depending on the program you choose, much of your knowledge will come to life through class discussions. As a service member, I see society and societal issues through a unique lens, which can enhance both you and your peers’ understanding of a particular theory, issue, or topic that you are covering in class. Most importantly, though, the knowledge that I am gaining in the classroom is bound to transfer over to my work as a service member. I have found that my degree has lent itself to my service work. I am able to dig deeper and meet my students with a better understanding because of the social justice aspect of my graduate program. My student development background has allowed me to foster an environment of understanding, patience, and growth in my office. I guarantee you will find yourself using pieces of what you learn from your graduate degree in the service work that you do. Putting theory to practice will help you better absorb knowledge and will enhance your service experience: it is truly a win-win situation. Additionally, AmeriCorps supports us financially by offering the opportunity to earn the education award. This allows all of us to pursue our dreams and not feel as financially burdened as some folks might.

 Knowledge is power. Use what you know to take action, improve yourself, improve the communities you’re in, and impact others by spreading your knowledge. Always be receptive to new information, too!

 

Author: Brittany Hall, College Adviser, Ferndale High School
Posted: Dec. 11, 2018

2018 CHIEF MATE AWARD RECIPIENT: Jennifer Brown

School counseling programs play a vital role in ensuring students are provided the support they need to enroll in and complete college - a key component to Michigan meeting our Big Goal - 60 percent by 2025. The recipient of this award is an individual school counselor or school counseling program that has made significant strides in advancing the college readiness and enrollment supports and services to students which assists in moving the needle on critical postsecondary metrics. 

1. The award you received is for individuals who make significant strides in advancing the college readiness and enrollment supports and services to students, what lead you to pursue this kind of work?

I had the great fortune to have a high school Counselor who took the extra time to work with me during my senior year at Bullock Creek High School.  I was a first-generation student and had absolutely no clue what it would take to apply to college, take the ACT, and apply for scholarships.  Mr. JP LaCroix was there for me every step of the way.  Even more, fortune came my way when I was hired at my own high school, Bullock Creek, to work under JP.  He provided mentorship and guidance in working with juniors and seniors prior to his retirement.  I have a passion for meeting students' needs, whether it is emotional, social, or planning for life beyond Bullock Creek. I especially enjoy working with first-generation students and their families because I know that it can be a difficult road to college.

2. You are helping us draw closer to Goal 2025 as a college access champion. Can you tell us about one program or initiative you have pioneered or worked on in your role that has helped you make strides toward college readiness and attainment in your community?

Bullock Creek High School has a team of teachers, counselors and administrators dedicated to ensuring our students leave Bullock Creek with a plan.  I am proud of our initiatives, such as increasing our dual enrollment, starting an Early College Program, and most recently, our involvement with MCAN.  Through MCAN and our local LCAN, Midland County Career and College Access Network, Bullock Creek was able to secure a college adviser and receive a Reach Higher Grant.  This jump started our push toward Goal 2025.  Having a college adviser has increased our ability to meet one on one with our students who need it most.  I am proud that we have made significant strides toward reaching our goals.

3. We believe that college and credentials can be life changing to people across the state, why do you believe that is true in your community?

Many of our students come from first-generation, low-income families.  I believe it is important to challenge the students in our community to dream big and pursue their goals.  We can help our students to achieve their education and career goals by empowering them, providing mentorships, and equipping them with the tools necessary to be successful. Preparing our students to apply for a college degree, seek a certification, or join the military helps to them discover their passion.

Author: Jennifer Brown, School Counselor and Early College Coordinator, Bullock Creek High School
Posted: December 4, 2018

My “Drive” for College Access

Christopher Tremblay is the current Director of External Engagement at the Michigan College Access Network.

Prior to joining MCAN in August as the Director of External Engagement, I had been active in the college access movement for eight years.  My first participation was as a leadership team member for Project ACE (Access to College for Everyone), a local college access network that existed in Wayne, Michigan.  Over the years, I had considered college access to be my “professional hobby” since I was an enrollment management professional.  During my affiliation with MCAN, I served as an external evaluator for MCAN grants, published an article about college access marketing, became a member of MCAN, served on the taskforce that launched MCAN’s school counselor training program, served on the implementation committee for the original College Application Week, to name a few.  As you can see, my roots in college access run deep.

As a first-generation college graduate, I am grateful to my mentors who showed me the way through college and into my professional career.  Those mentors include Amy Schwentor, Beth-Gregory Wallis, Marian Hawkins, Donna St. John, Diane Ariza, Pam Liberacki and Stanley Henderson.

In 2014, I was inspired to co-create the Journal of College Access with Dr. Patrick O’Connor.  Since the first issue in 2015, the Journal has published 28 articles that have been downloaded some 9,000+ times!  It has been rewarding to showcase the important work and research happening throughout the United States.  We always are seeking new submissions, so give it some thought.

In honor of my new “drive” for college access in my new role, I felt it was fitting that I had a license plate to showcase my commitment to MCAN and Goal 2025 (60% of adults 25-64 with a postsecondary credential).  Most of you know that I have expressed my professional work with a personalized license plate since I first became “MRWMU” in 1995.  So the trend continues.  (Note:  Brandy Johnson thought I should have gone for “MRMCAN,” but I was able to surprise her when I presented “MCAN 60.”

In January-February, I am thrilled to be teaching a graduate level course on college access and equity for students at WMU, my alma mater (Go Broncos!).  This will give us another opportunity to shape the minds of others interested in this important work. 

I look forward to serving Michigan’s citizens by advocating for change that enables more Michiganders to pursue and earn a postsecondary credential!  #goal2025

Author: Christopher Tremblay, Director of External Engagement, Michigan College Access Network
Posted: Nov. 27, 2018

Alumni Feature: Lindsay Mieden

Lindsay Mieden is a former College Adviser who served at Woodhaven High School. Lindsay currently serves as a school counselor at Gabriel Richard Catholic High School.

“Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists they become the best they can possibly be.”

-Rita Pierson, Educator

TED Talks 2013

 Pursuing and accepting the College Adviser position with AdviseMI was the best decision I’ve ever made. I had no idea at the time, but those two years of service set me up on the journey that I am on today, and I truly do not know where, or who, I would be without it. After graduation with my Bachelor of Arts in degree in psychology from the University of Michigan-Dearborn in April 2015, my future path did not yet feel clear. I knew the general work that I wanted to do—work with youth and make a difference—but I was not sure of how to get there. However, the moment that I read the College Adviser job description, my excitement went through the roof, feeling that I was meant for this job. Knowing that I would be in a position to help students have access to postsecondary education, along with the financial resources for those opportunities, felt like my life calling. Little did I know, my college adviser position would be so much more.

My experience serving Woodhaven High School in Brownstown, Michigan was fulfilling. The staff was extremely supportive, and the students were incredible! Seeing them excited about the college application process and all of the potential opportunities ahead of them was incredible, and I felt honored to be part of their journey.

However, it did not take long before I realized that this work was more than assisting with career assessments, college applications, and financial aid letters. These students had real life challenges that they faced each day. These obstacles in their lives were tough for them to navigate during their high school years, and I knew that if they were not given the tools to overcome them at that point in their lives, their chances of making it through their postsecondary education were slim. It was with this realization that I knew I wanted to become a school counselor, and I enrolled in Central Michigan University’s Clinical and School Counseling program.

I have since graduated with my Master of Arts in counseling and am working as a school counselor at Gabriel Richard Catholic High School in Riverview, Michigan Now, I help my students not only with the college application process but also with their overall development. Whether they face mental health obstacles, academic struggles, or fears about the next chapter of their life, it is my job to help them overcome that. Working with students on developing their mental health has quickly become one of my biggest passions, and that has stemmed from my role as a College Adviser. 

To some, it may seem strange that postsecondary planning and mental health are linked, but I would disagree. It is my belief that everything we do, or not do, in life stems from our mental health: self-confidence, ability to cope, resiliency, and ability to adapt to new situations. I think to myself, “What if every student struggling with depression knew that things would get better? What if every student who was labeled as a behavior issue had help identifying their strengths instead of being told about their weaknesses? What if every student who struggled academically had an adult who believed in them?” High school is such a delicate time in a student’s life, and if each child truly had a champion who never gave up on them, imagine what they could become. I am blessed to not only have a job that allows me to do this, but also to work with a staff who believes in this message as well.

I do not know what the next chapter of my life holds, because I would have never imagined that I would be where I am. The experiences that the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) provided me has set me up on the path that has become my career. I am beyond blessed and privileged to do what I love every day, and I owe that all to MCAN.

 

Lindsay Mieden, MA, SCL, LLPC
School Counselor (A-K)
Gabriel Richard Catholic High School

 

 

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