Michigan's College Access Blog

2018 COMPASS AWARD RECIPIENT: Former State Representative Brett Roberts

Ensuring public policy supports Michigan’s momentum toward achieving the Big Goal – 60 percent by 2025 – is a critical strategy of the Michigan College Access Network. Working with mission-aligned allies, MCAN advises policymakers at all levels on crafting dynamic legislation that results in reduced barriers and increased attainment across the state and country. Recipients of this award have launched and/or championed bold proposals that focus on increasing Michigan’s postsecondary attainment rate.

1. You received the Compass Award based on your ability to ensure policy supports Michigan’s momentum toward achieving the Big Goal, 60 percent degree attainment by the year 2025. Tell us why education is one of your priorities?

Education has continued to be one of my priorities because it ensures that Michigan will have a healthy economy for generations to come. By investing in our students today, we are creating a solid foundation with which students can work toward the careers that suit them best. Following the great recession, students were often choosing that college was too expensive for them, or that it was more affordable to pursue a degree in another state. I don’t want that to be the reality for my own kids. Michigan is growing more and more every day, and strengthening schools and colleges in the state will incentivize current students to invest their time and professional lives back in Michigan instead of moving elsewhere.

2. What specific upcoming policies/initiatives around education do you see having a big impact in Michigan?

The Legislature recently approved the Marshall Plan, which is a $100 million project designed specifically to support Michigan's educational systems and guide them toward preparing students for careers and in-demand jobs. It’s no secret that Michigan’s unemployment rate has dropped significantly in recent years, however, we now have thousands of job openings in careers where the labor supply is struggling. With the approval of the Marshall Plan, I think that Michigan can reasonably expect that students today will be guided, if they’re interested, toward jobs that Michigan is in desperate need of filling. Doing so will result in a positive impact on the state’s economy.

 3. Do you have any advice for constituents interested in advocating for or engaging in policy such as education policy?

The most effective leaders in any policy start where it matters most: the local level. If you’re interested in education policy, get involved. Go to school board meetings and don’t be afraid to engage with teachers, parents, or other school leaders. If you feel strongly enough about education policies, I would encourage you to either run for a seat on your local school board or pursue degrees that allow you to reach new conclusions about the most effective policies that schools and colleges can use when instructing their students.

Author: Former State Representative Brett Roberts
Posted: January 8, 2019


Reflecting on 2018: A Year of Gaining Momentum

Happy New Year! As we enter 2019, we can't help but look back on some of the exciting and new accomplishments that happened at MCAN in 2018. It was a year of momentum and energy. We are excited to see what 2019 brings!

In 2018, the MCAN staff:

  • Awarded $1.13 million in grants to more than 41 different organizations across the state;
  • Engaged 346 high schools in the Michigan College Month campaign and 291 high schools in the College Cash Campaign;
  • Celebrated a $50,000 grant from the FCA Foundation for AdviseMI;
  • Trained 60 LCAN colleagues at our combined Maritime Academy and coached 27 Local College Access Networks in their collective impact work;
  • AdviseMI received one Outstanding National Service Award;
  • Awarded 10,177 SCECHs through MCAN’s various training opportunities;
  • Said goodbye to Sarah Anthony (now State Rep. Anthony) after eight years of service to MCAN and to Connor McLaughlin after two years of service to MCAN;
  • Welcomed three new staff members: Shavonna Green, Jahshua Smith, and Christopher Tremblay;
  • Moved to a new office at 200 N. Washington Square in downtown Lansing;
  • Welcomed 692 members in our first year of membership;
  • Released the Total Talent report in partnership with 15 Michigan Higher Education Attainment Roundtable (MIHEART) members;
  • Hosted 100 students during Michelle Obama’s book tour event in Detroit; 
  • Leveraged a new partnership with scholarship platform Scholly impacting 10,000 students at 82 high schools; and
  • Recognized an additional 82 school counselors among 45 counties for completing the Postsecondary Planning Training Course and launched the Advanced Counselor Training course modules with 101 completers. 

Watch for our annual report to be released this spring, where we will elaborate more about our 2018 accomplishments. To everyone who has dedicated their time, energy and support, we at the Michigan College Access Network thank you!


Author: Christopher Tremblay, MCAN director of external engagement
Posted: Jan. 3, 2019

2018 Blog Review

The Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) is grateful for our 31 blog offers of 2018! MCAN’s college access blog is a platform utilized to share the success stories and initiatives that are making strides toward advancing college access. Before the year comes to a close, we would like to reflect on all the amazing efforts and accounts that we published this year.

Advanced Maritime Academy Reflections: 

My Experience at Maritime Academy
Author: Ann Konarski, Lapeer County CAN! Coordinator

Navigating Challenges and Sharing Insight at the Maritime Academy
Author: Melissa Miller, WE CAN! Newaygo County Student Advancement Consultant

Maritime Training: A Compass and North Star to Guide our Work
Author: Mark Litt, Wayne County College Access Network College Access Coordinator

Adviser Blog Series:

The birth of the “Bro Code”
Author: J'Mesha Anderson, AdviseMI Adviser, Henry Ford Academy

Advising Two Schools, Achieving One Goal
Author: Mary Wilson, Second-year AdviseMI Adviser Maple Valley High School & Relevant Academy  

Two Years of Preparing for Michigan College Month: An Adviser's Perspective
Author: Nedra Hall, Second-Year AdviseMI Adviser, Fitzgerald High School 

What Service means to me: An Adviser's Reflection
Author: Alexa Girouard, Second-Year AdviseMI Adviser, Belding High School

Mastering Service: An Adviser's Reflection
Author: Brittany Hall, College Adviser, Ferndale High School

Alumni Adviser Blog Series:

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

Award Winner Features:

Author: Jennifer Brown, School Counselor and Early College Coordinator, Bullock Creek High School

In the Community:

Expanding Early College in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Author: Chelsea Hart, Early College Liaison, Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District Michigan Nonprofit Association AmeriCorps VISTA Program

Are there Invisible Students on Your Campus?
Author: Pam Kies-Lowe, State Coordinator for Homeless Education Michigan Department of Education, Office of Educational Supports

Breaking Barriers as a First-Generation College Student
Author: Felipe Lopez Sustaita, Executive Director of the Hispanic/Latino Commission of Michigan  

Innovative Program Grant Tales of Success: 

Leveraging Innovation for College Readiness
Author: Jenny Griffen, Development and Communications Manager West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology

Pursuing Persistence and Completion: Innovative Program Grant jump starts Washtenaw's Community Scholarship Program
Author: Ashley Kryscynski, formerly the Coordinator for Washtenaw Futures

Legislative Work:

MCAN Legislative Recap
Author: Brandy Johnson, Executive Director, MCAN 

Higher education costs are out of hand, keeping degrees out of reach
Author: Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO, Michigan League for Public Policy

Michigan Needs to Commit to “Total Talent”
Author: Brandy Johnson, Executive Director, Michigan College Access Network 
Author: John Austin, Director of the Michigan Economic Center, Former President of Michigan State Board of Education

MCAN Updates: 

Top 5 Reasons to Attend the MCAN Conference
Author: Lisa King, Communication Consultant

MCAN is Moving!
Author: Vicky L. Wright, Operations Manager, MCAN 

Stronger Nation, Stronger Michigan: 2018 Update on Michigan’s Progress Toward Goal 2025
Author: Jamie Jacobs, Senior Director of Capacity Building, MCAN

2018 College Advocacy Day Recap
Author: Emma Walter, Strategy Assistant, MCAN

Decision Day 2018 Recap: Celebrating the Journey to Higher Education
Connor McLaughlin, Former Program Associate, MCAN

MCAN Legislative Recap
Author: Brandy Johnson, Executive Director

College Adviser to Admissions Counselor
Author: Dan Mitchell, Northern Michigan University Admissions Counselor, MCAN Board Member

Gearing Up for Michigan College Month
Author: Joan Helwig, Marlette Jr./Sr. High School Counselor

My “Drive” for College Access
Author: Christopher Tremblay, Director of External Engagement, Michigan College Access Network

School Counselor Highlights:

#NSCW18: Why I Love Being A School Counselor
Guest Author: Cathy Longstreet, Counselor, Hastings High School  

Second Year Adviser Feature Stories:

Adviser Spotlight: Kanyn Doan
Author: Kanyn Doan, AdviseMI Adviser Alumna

Adviser Spotlight: Ashley Popp
Author: Ashley Popp, AdviseMI Adviser Alumna

Adviser Spotlight: Simone Dixon
Author: Simone Dixon, AdviseMI Adviser Alumna

MCAN features people and partners in the community who are doing exceptional work in the college access field. If you would like to be considered for a spotlight feature or learn more, please contact Emma Walter, MCAN's strategy assistant for external engagement, by sending an email to Emma(a)micollegeaccess.org.

Author: Emma Walter
Posted: December 18, 2018

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

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