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The theme for this year’s MCAN conference is Champions for Opportunity: Prioritizing Michigan’s College Attainment. My work is focused on helping educators become champions of college opportunity, so needless to say, I’m excited for this conference! My personal mission is to ensure that student outcomes are not determined by zip code, and I do this by ensuring that teachers have what they need to help all students achieve at high levels.

I work for an educational nonprofit, AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination). At AVID, we have a saying: When teachers are engaged, all students succeed. Our focus is on providing the best resources, training, and research-based strategies to our educators. We impact students through giving teachers what they need to help more students be college-ready. We care about teachers, and the tools and support that they receive, because we were founded by a teacher.

In 1980, Mary Catherine Swanson, an English teacher in San Diego, California, saw many at her school lowering expectations and giving up on the new students who were being bussed in from San Diego’s lower-income areas (aka, the wrong zip codes). Swanson felt that it was her moral imperative to create real college opportunities for these students. That year, she created AVID—a class that provided academic and social support, raised expectations, and gave those first 32 AVID students the opportunity to become college- and career-ready. Today, 37 years later, AVID serves 1.5 million students in 46 states and 16 other countries/territories.

Our data tell the story of AVID’s impact in closing the achievement gap. AVID seniors outpace the national average of enrolling in college for the first fall term after high school. This success is exceptional considering that AVID’s student population is largely comprised of students who are underrepresented in higher education. AVID students are also persisting in college at higher rates. Our latest data show that 85% of AVID students overall are persisting into year 2 of college versus 78% nationwide.

We have a goal of ensuring that all students reach their full potential, and we meet this goal through partnering with schools and working side-by-side with teachers, administrators, and district leaders to create new opportunities for students.

The vital question for all of us to consider is: How many more students do we want to impact? Will we let students slip through the cracks or settle for the status quo? I shared the story of AVID’s founder because it continually inspires me to push for better opportunities for all students. If you’re reading this, I think it’s safe to say that you’re with me in this fight. I’m excited to be a part of Michigan’s work to impact more students and help all of them achieve their college dreams, and I’m also excited to meet all of you at the upcoming MCAN Conference, so we can discuss ways to champion college attainment for all students.

If you want to learn more about how AVID partners with schools and the research-based strategies that we provide, please contact me by email at vpeterson(a)avid.org or by phone at 773-426-8912. I hope to meet you at the MCAN Conference, as well.


Author: Dr. Valerie Peterson, Partner Engagement Manager, AVID
Posted: February 15, 2017

National School Counseling Week is Underway; MCAN Supports Our School Counselors!

This week, Feb. 6-10, we celebrate National School Counseling Week. The effort, which is sponsored by the American School Counselor Association, will focus public attention on the special contributions of counselors within the U.S. school systems.

Michigan College Access Network is thrilled to join in this celebration of school counselors. We believe that school counselors are well poised to lead the charge in ensuring students are socially, academically, logistically and financially prepare for postsecondary education. To all of the hard-working school counselors out there, we see you! There are many resources available to help promote National School Counseling Week. We also encourage you to review the following opportunities available throughout the year from MCAN:

School Counselor Postsecondary Planning Training Course
The Michigan College Access Network and Michigan Virtual University co-host an annual training course in postsecondary planning for Michigan school counselors. Participating counselors complete an eight-month, professional development course that focuses on the college-going process and combines web-based and in-person instruction. Counselors accepted into the course will receive an $800 scholarship to complete the course at no cost, with the exception of personal travel to and from three, in-person sessions in Lansing. Registration for the 2017-18 cohort will open in April 2017. Learn more.

College Access Professional Development Scholarships
MCAN now provides scholarship funding to school counselors to attend non-MCAN trainings and conferences to support their professional development. This funding opportunity helps ensure school counselors are able to assist all students in the development of their postsecondary education plans with the most relevant and up-to-date information available. Scholarships are available on a rolling basis until allocated funding is depleted within the fiscal year, which begins October 1 annually. Learn more.

MCAN Annual Conference
On March 13-14, MCAN will host its seventh annual conference, Champion for Opportunity: Prioritizing Michigan's College Attainment. More than 400 community leaders, educators and college access professionals will gather in Lansing for the event. The conference theme will emphasize the importance of prioritizing college attainment in Michigan in order to advocate for our students' success and embrace our role as champions for college attainment strategies. School counselors are welcome and encouraged to attend! Register now

College Access Awards
Each year, during the annual conference, MCAN honors the organizations and individuals whose efforts go above and beyond to improve postsecondary attainment. The College Access Awards features eight award categories that recognize individuals and organizations that have had a tremendous impact on increasing college readiness, participation, and completion in Michigan, particularly among low-income and first-generation students and students of color. School counselors figure prominently in the awards program. In particular, the Chief Mate Award honors an individual school counselor or counseling program that has made “significant strides in advancing the college readiness and enrollment supports and services to students…” The Steward Award recognizes an individual or organization that has dramatically contributed to “increasing the skills, talent, and knowledge of college access professionals” – such as school counselors and advisers.

This National School Counseling Week, remember that MCAN supports and applauds the work of school counselors! We encourage participation in National School Counseling Week activities, to draw attention to this important work. Be sure to download the free resources, including a social media toolkit, sample morning announcements, sample press release, photo challenge signs, and much more! Show your support on Twitter by using the hashtag #NSCW17.

Author: Jamie Jacobs, director of capacity building 

Posted Feb. 7, 2017

Celebrating School Counselors

This year MCAN requested nominations for the Steward Award for the 2017 College Access Impact Awards, and we were blown away by the responses we received. It was incredible to see how many amazing, dedicated high school counselors are working across Michigan to ensure all students are socially, academically, logistically, and financially prepared for postsecondary education.

Though we won’t announce the winner of the Steward Award until the 2017 College Access Impact Awards on March 13 (register here), we wanted to give you a glimpse at a few of the nominees. Each day this week, in celebration of National School Counseling Week, we’re going to share a new counselor profile on this blog and on MCAN’s Facebook page and Twitter. Join us in celebrating the hard work of this incredible lineup of counselors!

Monday’s Featured Counselor: Jennifer Brown

School: Bullock Creek High School
Years served as a school counselor: 18 years
“I love being able to be part of the students’ realizations that their educational and career dreams are achievable.”







Tuesday’s Featured Counselor: Brenda Averett

School: Ypsilanti Community Schools
Years served as a school counselor: 20 years
“I am passionate regarding college and career readiness, because I know if we expose students earlier to career planning students, they will realize the correlation between academic performance and their future aspiration, therefore setting higher academic goals.”







Wednesday’s Featured Counselors: Kathy DeKeyser and Erica Tuohy

Kathy DeKeyser
Whitmore Lake Middle & High School
Years served as a school counselor: 11 years
“I love helping students with their postsecondary plans because I love watching them get excited about the opportunities and experiences that await them after high school.”







Erica Tuohy
School: Grand Rapids Public Schools
Years served as a school counselor: 9 years
“I love helping students with their postsecondary plans because providing tools for postsecondary success gives our students a clear sense of direction, empowerment, and ultimately happiness and a fulfilling future.”






Thursday’s Featured Counselor: Keri Haskins

School: Bridgman High School
Years served as a school counselor: 6 years
“I believe that by helping students create a plan for postsecondary education, every student has the opportunity to achieve their goals and find success.”


Friday’s Featured Counselor: Carmen Hughes

School: Camden-Frontier Schools
Years served as a school counselor: 7 years
“Postsecondary planning is the absolute favorite part of my job because every student’s goal, financial situation, and opportunity is unique; they realization that college is an attainable option, especially for first-generation families, is an amazing feeling!”



Author: Jamie Jacobs, Director of Capacity Building

Posted: Feb. 6, 2017


The Journey That Changed My Life: Felix's Story

Better Make Room is a public awareness campaign by First Lady Michelle Obama to target Generation Z (young people ages 14-19) to celebrate education, change the national conversation, and reach students directly where they are by giving them a space to create content while also navigating the college-going process. Better Make Room, is part of Civic Nation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, leverages traditional and new media platforms to celebrate student stories in the same way that we often celebrate celebrities and athletes. With partners in the business, philanthropic, media, and education realm, this campaign stretches across the country to inspire students and give them the tools they need to reach higher for college. 

Felix (far right) pictured with his friend Camden and
Mr. Mangelsdorf. 

The following Better Make Room student takeover story features a West Ottawa High School graduate, Felix Payan. His story has been re-published with permission, and was originally featured here

"I grew up in a single parent household. This may seem like a common occurrence in today’s world, but it was very difficult for me to grow up without having a positive male role model present in my life. For the past eighteen years, all I ever wanted was for someone to treat me like a son. I grew up in Holland, Michigan and I was not as good at speaking English compared to my peers. There was a language barrier between me and all my classmates for most of elementary school, but despite the challenges, I seemed to always overcome them no matter how many times I doubted myself.

When I began middle school my intentions changed from wanting an education to wanting to fit in with everyone else. I wanted to impress my classmates, so I began talking back to teachers, making fun of others, and making fun of myself. The idea of an education was blurred by wanting to be popular and cool around my friends. It was in middle school when I received my first glimpse at the racial burden that I carried as a Mexican-American. One day, on my way home from the boxing gym, a man stopped me and started questioning me. He said things like, “What’s in the backpack?” “Don’t think I don’t know about your kind and the gangs around here.” He proceeded to talk and the last thing he said was branded into my head: “Don’t think it will make a difference whether I kill you or not, either way you’ll just end up another dead Mexican.” For the longest time I believed that was what I was; just another Mexican destined to become a criminal. I began craving trouble and anything that came with it.

At first, I started to believe all of those things that this man said to me. Then one day I crossed paths with an old friend named Camden Mangelsdorf. Camden became a brother to me. His father and mother brought me into their home and treated me as if I were their own son. Still to this day the Mangelsdorf family provides me with an incredible support system, and Camden remains my friend, and I can confide in him with anything that is on my mind.

While I was in high school, I didn’t have much motivation to graduate. Since my two older brothers were high school dropouts — I figured that I was destined for the same future. Luckily, I passed my freshman year. I remember at the end of that year, my english teacher Mrs.Wilson came and found me in class, and brought me instructions and the summer work that I needed for her Honors English course. I did not complete it, because I figured I would not be able to handle an Honors English course. On the first day of sophomore year, Mrs.Wilson hunted me down and said that she wanted me to take that honors English course and that she would help me finish up the summer work that I had previously decided not to do. After making it through Honors English that year, she convinced me to take AP English during my junior year. I decided to keep pushing myself and took on more Honors and AP courses.

As a kid I desperately wanted a role model, and as I got older the idea of changing the world and being that positive role model for other kids kept me going. Mentors and teachers have become those role models for me and have kept me out of trouble and on the right track. The Mangelsdorf family and my teachers from West Ottawa High School became my support system that made me want to continue my education. To this day they still check up on me whether I’m right down the street or all the way across the world.

While I may be improving my life, there are still some things that are very hard. My older brother is still going in and out of jail, and consequently, I felt very alone in high school. Despite all of the obstacles, I was able to overcome all the odds and graduate high school and pursue a four year degree. I am now attending Ferris State University where I am putting my destiny into my own hands and I plan on receiving my degree regardless of obstacles that get in my way. My goal is to receive my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing and Social Work. My experiences are what give me the motivation to change the world. I plan on working for a non-profit organization, so that I can hopefully help out anyone who is going through difficult obstacles in their life like I did."


Posted: November 16, 2016

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