Michigan's College Access Blog

2016 School Counseling Postsecondary Training Course: A counselor's perspective

This week marked the launch of the fourth annual School Counselor Postsecondary Planning Training Course, led by the Michigan College Access Network. Since 2012, MCAN has trained over 330 high school counselors in an effort to strengthen their ability to help students better prepare for their postsecondary path. The following highlights the experience of one high school counselor who completed the course in 2012. 

The MCAN postsecondary course has been the single most useful form of professional development that I have taken since I graduated from college. Like many counseling programs in the 90s, I had coursework related to many topics in counseling and even a class or two on career-exploration and school culture. However, information regarding college research, college match and financial aid were left as "on the job" training.  The MCAN class fills in those gaps. It provided me with the most current information for helping my students reach their future goals.

More importantly, the MCAN class was tremendously energizing and motivating.  Each session would leave my brain spinning with ideas for improving our counseling department services.  As a result of this course, we have completely revamped our parent programming, have added College Application Week, the College Cash Campaign, College Decision Day, a district-wide College Awareness Day and have monthly Post-Secondary Advisory Committee meetings which explore ways to help our students be more successful with the transition to their post-secondary educational programs.  We have been awarded with $10,000 in Reach Higher grant funds, but realistically we could have done all of the programming for under $1,000.  

This course has helped our department gel with our administration and has given us a clear focus for our work.  In addition, since post-secondary access is something that applies to all students, it has help reduce the feeling that our massive student caseloads prohibit effective programming.  We have changed our efforts to areas where we can be effective and it has helped impact our everyday work environment.  It has been a wonderful opportunity and I recommend it to every counselor I know.


Author: Erica Empie, Counselor, Hartland High School

Posted: Sept. 28, 2016 

The Power of Maritime Academy: An LCAN Coordinator’s Experience

Since 2012, the Michigan College Access Network has hosted Maritime Academy, a three-day, intensive dive into the Collective Impact framework as applied to Local College Access Networks.  This invite-only, intimate gathering of LCAN Coordinators from across the state and country are selected to join the staff for a comprehensive training. Last week marked the fourth year of Maritime Academy. The following is a testimonial from Laura Heohn, Livingston Career and College Access Network Coordinator and a 2015 Maritime graduate.

In August of 2015, I was hired as the Career and College Readiness Coordinator for Livingston County. One of the major responsibilities listed in this job description was to build and activate an LCAN. As a former school counselor, leading the creation of a Local College Access Network (LCAN) would fit well in my wheelhouse of interest and experience; I just didn’t know exactly what it was or where to start!

Prior to my first official day on the job, I was handed a manual called “Charting the Course”. I learned that we were in the midst of the planning process, but couldn’t seem to get a lot of traction to move the network forward. I was also asked to spend my first official three days of work in the lovely Traverse City at a training called Maritime Academy in the company of several strangers (the staff at Michigan College Access Network as well as other LCAN Coordinators), who would later become some of my strongest work allies.

Being an eternal nerd, I attempted to read the entire manual prior to arriving at my training on Sunday night. While this was somewhat helpful in giving the direction in what I would be doing, it also produced heart palpitations in fear of how it would be accomplished. This fear was mixed with relief, however, as “Charting the Course” walks the coordinator through a step-by-step process of accomplishing the tasks necessary to create the network. This was, to date, the first job I had that provided detailed instruction in how to be successful!

At Maritime Academy, we were coached through examples and hands on activities to teach us the details of successful Local College Access Network building. I learned I was an “acorn” (MCAN’s term for the newly-developed network) and was privileged to sit in the company of many “oak trees” who were willing to share their best practices as well as their mistakes. Maritime Academy is organized in such a way that you learn from each staff member at MCAN, and have the opportunity to receive guidance from them as well as build relationships critical to the success of our LCAN moving forward.

Upon returning to reality from the up north beauty, I came back to work at Livingston Educational Service Agency (LESA) energized and ready to hit the ground running. By September, we had built a fabulous Leadership Team with many powerful players from Livingston County collaborating around the necessity of post-secondary attainment and completion. In October, this team spent time scouring over data to mine our priority areas. In November, we developed a Common Agenda, and by February, we applied for the Implementation Grant, which was accepted.

Attending Maritime Academy my first day on the job was a huge attribute to the success of our network growth, so I am thankful that LESA had the vision to begin my position this way. Similar to taking golf lessons prior to going out on the course, there was no opportunity for me to pick up bad habits that would later have to be undone. I am happy to say that our grant was accepted and the Livingston Career and College Access Network has been officially activated! 


Guest Author: Laura Heohn, Livingston Career and College Access Network coordinator and 2015 MCAN Maritime Academy graduate

Posted: Sept. 1, 2016


College Changes Everything: John Austin

This video blog is the last of eight installments in a series that profiles college access professionals. During the selected interviews, participants explain how college proved to be a “game changer” in their lives. Interviews appear on MCAN's blog every Tuesday, June 14 through August 2. 

John C. Austin

Colleges Attended
Swarthmore College, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Degrees Earned
Pubic Administration (B.A. Swarthmore College), Pubic Administration (M.P.A. Harvard Kennedy School of Government)

Current Job Title/Employer
President, Michigan State Board of Education

Year of College Graduation
Swarthmore 1983, Harvard Kennedy School 1990

Who, if anyone, encouraged you most to attend college?
My parents and high school teachers encouraged me to attend college. There was always an expectation that I would graduate with a college degree.

What surprised you most about college?
I remember taking notes and paying attention in my Public Administration class realizing that I had not decoded the material—I had not fully grasped what was being communicated.  I needed to dig deeper to get the full understanding of the text and material. I had to learn to understand and to read differently, with more insight in order to truly comprehend the information.  It was like a new way of looking at the world opened up.  

Where do you think you'd be/what might you be doing if you hadn't attended college?
I don’t know where I would be without a college degree.  College opened up new arenas of work, connected me with new people and opportunities, and helped guide me toward the field I found most interesting: government and public policy.   


Posted Aug. 2, 2016

College Changes Everything: Wytrice Harris

This video blog is the seventh of eight installments in a series that profiles college access professionals. During the selected interviews, participants explain how college proved to be a “game changer” in their lives. Interviews will appear on MCAN's blog every Tuesday, June 14 through August 2. 

Wytrice Harris

Colleges Attended
Wayne County Community College, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Wayne State University

Degrees Earned
Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, Master of Arts in Mathematics, Master of Education in Instructional Technology 

Current Job Title/Employer
Detroit Promise College Success Coach for Macomb County Community College, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce

Year of College Graduation
Wayne County Community College 2001, University of Michigan-Dearborn 2004 and 2006, and Wayne State University 2011

Who, if anyone, encouraged you most to attend college?
My mother was my biggest encourager.  She was the first in her family from rural Alabama to go to college and raised me with the expectation that I would do the same. My children also inspired me to go back to college. I am a non-traditional college student who returned to college at the age of 30 when my twins were six-months old. I decided it would be impossible to expect them to finish what they started if I never finished what I started. 

What surprised you most about college?
When I initially went to college after high school, I was surprised by the amount of studying that college required. I graduated from to Cass Technical High School, a magnet school in Detroit, but still felt unprepared for the academic responsibility that college required. 

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome while attending college?
I initially went to Florida A&M University, a historically black university almost 1000 miles away from Detroit. For me, this proved to be too far. I turned into the student I tell all my students never to become: someone who put having fun and partying over going to class and obtaining a degree. I ended up on academic probation and returned home.  Going back to school was an obstacle for a long time, because I always assumed it was too late, it would take too much, and/or that a college degree wouldn't be worth it. Boy was I wrong! The hardest step was the first one and then each step became easier and easier.

Where do you think you'd be/what might you be doing if you hadn't attended college?
To be honest, I would probably be stuck in a service job where I would do well but never get paid anywhere close to the worth of the work due to the lack of education credentials.  I'd likely be working a job I had to instead of choosing the jobs I wanted to work. 

Feel free to expand on your video response to tell us more about how/why college was a “game changer” for you.
College wasn't just a game changer for me but for my husband our entire family.  My husband and I are high school sweethearts. He dropped out of high school in the 10th grade but was inspired to complete his GED after I returned to Detroit from Florida A&M Univeristy. We decided to attend Wayne County Community College together. He now has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and is a few classes shy of a master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary. He now serves as the faith-based coordinator of Cease Fire, a program aimed at providing real and timely interventions for violent offenders in the city of Detroit. 


Posted July 26, 2016

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