Michigan's College Access Blog

Adviser Spotlight: Kanyn Doan

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AdviseMI is an initiative of the Michigan College Access Network that works with AmeriCorps to place recent college graduates inMichigan 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. Kanyn Doan is a second year adviser exiting the program who served at Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy.

1. What is your college going story and how did it lead you to this position?

My college story begins at Ramstein American High School in Ramstein, Germany, where I attended my final year of high school while my dad was serving in the United States Air Force. I was a 17-year-old who would begin college by herself in the states, while my family was thousands of miles away. I knew I needed to be by my extended family, so I began looking for colleges in Michigan, where both of my parents are from.  I came across Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan (a city I had never head of), and was the only postsecondary institution I ended up applying to, and then later being admitted to. I embarked at Grand Valley studying Film and Video, and quickly found my calling in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Through involvement in the Women’s Center at Grand Valley, as well as studying abroad, and creating an education that has embedded a lasting impression on my purpose in this world, my college going experience was of the most important experiences of my entire life.

2. What was the biggest lesson you took from your time as an adviser?

The greatest and most impactful lesson I’ve taken from being an adviser is the lesson of sustaining relationships. You can talk to anyone in education and they will tell you how foundational and vital relationships are within the learning environment; my time as an adviser truly showed me the importance of building and upholding relationships in order to truly create change. When I began as an adviser, I observed the way in which the environment I had just entered flowed, how communication ran, and how every staff member was there to sustain the mission and vision in place: to never give up on our students, and to provide them with the opportunities they so deserve. Having gained this knowledge, I embarked on my role as an adviser with authenticity, critical listening, and dependability at the forefront of my mind. With these aspects in place, I was able to build strong relationships with both my students and fellow staff, and created a space where students knew they could come to get the answers they needed. This was a two-way street, however. The students taught me more than I could have ever asked for, and they did so effortlessly. They taught me how to be a reliable and responsible professional, and they taught me what is truly found when you build powerful and trusting relationships within the community that you are in. My students still constantly get a hold of me with questions and updates on their experiences, and I know that this would have never happened if I were not taught how to build relationships with those in my community.

3. Describe an initiative or program you spearheaded during your years of service.

After gaining a great deal of appreciation for the community that Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy has built within itself, I began to think about a way in which I could use high parental participation and commitment within cultivating the college going culture at this school. I created an event called Prepare The Parents, a night that allowed for parents of senior students to meet and talk with postsecondary education professionals, as well as community members that are in place to help their child in the college-going process. After two consecutive and very successful years, Prepare The Parents brought accessibility and communication to a low-income community with a high percentage of first-generation college going students as well as their parents who were empowered to understand the college experience, and provide support to their child as they embark on the journey that is postsecondary education.

4. What opportunities, if any, has this experience offered you now that you are completing your service?  What are you plans now that this term has ended?

I often tell people how good of a decision it was for me to take on the role of a college adviser immediately after graduating college. I truly believe that there is no other position that provides you with the opportunity to meet people from various backgrounds and expertises, as well as expand your own creative expression, and develop your unique style of professionalism. Without this position, I would have never met the individuals that I am lucky enough to now have in my network. Because of the experience that I was able to have at Grand Rapids University Prep Academy being a college adviser, I have been granted the opportunity to be a Student Success Coach at Grand Rapids Community College, where many of my students are now pursuing their associates degrees before attending a four-year institution. In this next chapter of my career, I will use the foundational people, tools and knowledge that I obtained while being a college adviser at Grand Rapids University Prep Academy. I am forever thankful for all of the people that have undoubtedly supported me on my journey to where I am now. Though I will miss my service site and all of the incredible students, staff and friends I know there, I am anxious to embark on yet another opportunity for me to grow, learn, and blossom.

To learn more about AdviseMI visit http://www.micollegeaccess.org/statewide-initiatives/advisemi.


Author: Kanyn Doan, AdviseMI Adviser Alum
Posted: July 3, 2018

Decision Day 2018 Recap: Celebrating the Journey to Higher Education

As the school year comes to a close and seniors are preparing for their next steps after graduation, the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) is taking a moment to reflect on our statewide Decision Day celebrations. Over 250 participating Michigan high schools, from Painesdale to Detroit, took to the month of May to celebrate their seniors’ decisions to pursue postsecondary education. These events ranged from pep rallies to school fairs, and recognized a combined 37,000 seniors in front of their fellow students. Decision Day events celebrate graduating seniors, build a college-going culture in schools, and inspire younger students to take the first steps on their journey to higher education. These events are widely attended by underclassmen; this year’s celebration included an estimated 51,200 non-seniors who participated. These numbers are significant given that 88% of surveyed host sites agreed that the initiative benefited their efforts to build a college-going culture in their school, and 83% believe that it will have a positive impact on college attainment and/or enrollment. 


The most successful of these celebrations extend beyond the school building itself, and engage the local community. This engagement comes from a variety of sources and looks differently from community to community. Many local businesses donate materials or sponsor events, nonprofits often provide volunteers or help plan the event, while local media may cover events or publish lists of seniors with their decisions. Higher education institutions also often provide giveaways, speakers, and/or mascots to help elevate the work of the high schools. All of these pieces help ensure that seniors feel supported by their community as they begin their journey to and through postsecondary education.

Congratulations to the Class of 2018! We look forward to working with Class of 2019 next school year.


Connor McLaughlin, Program Associate
Posted: June 6, 2018

2018 College Advocacy Day Recap

Last year, the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) released its four-year strategic plan. Through the development of this plan, we reaffirmed our commitment to serving as a strong advocate for low-income, first generation college students, and students of color. In addition, we received a Member Advocacy Grant from the National College Access Network, which helped us as we revitalized Advocacy Day. Having strong community support for MCAN’s college access vision and this financial support allowed us to develop this day to break down barriers facing nontraditional college students through training, education and policy.

Last week, MCAN hosted its second annual College Access Advocacy Day, which brought over 50 college access champions visited the Capitol to participate in the event. This year, participates received comprehensive training from Michigan’s Children while also hearing inspiring messages from State Senator Jim Anaich and State Representatives Darrin Camilleri and Ben Frederick. In addition to the training, the event provided an opportunity for attendees to meet with state legislators and discuss Michigan’s educational challenges and opportunities.  

Participants were able to discuss their respective programs and initiatives with state legislators and also advocate for several legislative priorities, including:

  • Key programs included in the Governor’s Marshall Plan for Talent, including:
    • MI Bright Future Expansion
    • Talent Pledge Scholarships
    • Career Navigators
  • Adequate funding for Michigan’s colleges and universities as they support Michigan students toward degree completion
  • Increased financial assistance to Michigan students as they pursue postsecondary education
  • Adoption of a postsecondary education attainment goal (60% degree attainment by 2025)

Each legislator also received a local data brief, highlighting the various college access professionals and programs working to improve degree attainment in their legislative districts. These profiles can be downloaded HERE.

We hope that each participant at our Second Annual College Access Advocacy Day felt empowered by the experience and encouraged to utilize their training and resources to continue their advocacy efforts and engagement at the both the state and local level.

If you would like more information on MCAN’s Advocacy Strategy, visit www.micollegeaccess.org/advocacy or contact Brandy Johnson, MCAN’s executive director. 


Author: Emma Walter, Strategy Assistant
Posted: May 9, 2018

The Birth of 'The Bro Code'

From the beginning of my time serving as an adviser, I’ve been trying to find what we call balance. I’ve been attempting to give 100 percent to both myself and students; however, it is never that simple… This isn’t the kind of job where you can leave your “work” at work, because we carry the concerns and issues of our students, inside of our hearts. Simply speaking, I work from both my mind and my heart, when performing my responsibilities as an adviser. With this being said, these two sources served me well, on January 19th, 2018, as I facilitated The Bro Code.

This event was birthed from me wanting my senior males to see their college potential. I had such a difficult time breaking ice with many of them, due to their closed perspectives about college. In meetings, from some more than others, I’d get blank stares and phrases like “I don’t need to go to college”, or “This school stuff ain’t for me…”.They’d leave their meeting, and I’d be furious, because they were so unresponsive!! It seemed as if they didn’t believe me when I would say “You can go to college and do amazing things there!”, but as I dug deeper, I realized that they didn’t fully believe in themselves.

Though they never shared that with me in plain words, I knew. I knew I needed to find relatable figures in the Higher Education field, who could speak their language. I, obviously, didn’t know enough of this “code” to break through to them… and then, it clicked: I didn’t know the “bro” code. For weeks, I brainstormed a mini leadership event and bounced ideas of my amazing supervisor, Cherice Redwine-Fergerson and our Conflict Resolution Coordinator, Troy Haney. They served as the sounding board, who were honest with me, about what would or would not be engaging for the students. After much pruning, I had created an event that consisted of: leadership activities based on pop culture references, motivational speeches, and a filling lunch - all led by relatable men in the higher education field.

Finally, when the day arrived… everything that I hoped for occurred. It took time for my students to get comfortable with their group leaders, but when they did? I believe my students began to see themselves. The group leaders were amazing men I’ve met in my career: Christopher Scott, Admissions Representative, University of Toledo; Dr. Terry Flennaugh, Coordinator of Urban Education Initiatives for the College of Education, Michigan State University; Craig Boyd, Assistant Director Regional Location, Western Michigan University; Matthew Sehrsweeney, Representative, Wayne County College Access Network; Daniel Graves, Director of Curriculum at Henry Ford Academy; Troy Haney, Conflict Resolution Coordinator at Henry Ford Academy; and Ron Mixon, student at Central Michigan University. Eventually, I heard laughs, honest dialogue, problem solving, and witnessed the exchange of confidence. It was later confirmed that someone “got it”, when one of my most challenging seniors said he now wants to share his experience through high school with underclassmen, so that “Nobody has to go through what I went through…”

I was so full… not because it could be said that a great event took place, but because impactful connections were made, and students left changed. For me, that’s what this job is all about.


Author: J'Mesha Anderson, AdviseMI Adviser, Henry Ford Academy
Posted: March 28, 2018

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