Michigan's College Access Blog

My Experience at Maritime Academy

Local College Access Networks (LCANs) are community-based college access alliances supported by a team of community and education leaders representing K-12, higher education, the nonprofit sector, government, business, and philanthropy. These networks are committed to building a college-going culture and dramatically increasing college readiness, participation, and completion rates within their community. Each year, they attend Maritime Academy, where they undergo a rigorous three day comprehensive training, in order to strengthen their college access strategy.

Ann Konarski serves as the LCAN Coordinator for the Lapeer County Access Network and attended Advanced Maritime.

Advanced Maritime allowed me time to really immerse myself in the nuances of Collective Impact. So often, in our daily network routines, we look at the big picture and the next immediate move. The Academy lets us stop to really take every idea word-for-word and recognize the small picture, without the time constraints of our network tasks.  I love that I have time to really connect with my colleagues, learn who they are, what they’re doing in their own network while also looking at the minutia of best practices. Sometimes it’s all in the details!

Here in Lapeer County, we are focusing on Leadership Team development, engagement, and sustainability. Our group spent the entire Maritime Academy concentrating on the benchmarks including, where we currently are and where we want to head.  The exactness of language and plethora of examples really identified to me the path we need to walk with all our network partners and leaders.

As with my initial Maritime Academy, I left feeling terrifically energized and ready to tackle anything.  This training really puts me “in the zone.” It’s fun, it’s challenging, and it’s power-packed with great information. The intensity of three full days is such a great jump start to the next chapter our network is working toward.  Just when I feel inadequacies in my coordinating efforts, I learn and feel and see how great our network is really doing.  This is enhanced because of the care and passion of MCAN leaders and all my LCAN peers.

Thanks so much for allowing all of us to be who we are, in our individual geographic locations, and yet make us feel and know we are part of this big picture. This entire group of people cares so greatly about their students, community, and the state.  It’s impressive to witness the drive and passion associated with these networks and coordinated efforts and initiatives.  It is teamwork at its finest. Lapeer County is working hard and is very appreciative!


Author: Ann Konarski, Lapeer County CAN! Coordinator
Posted: Sept. 10, 2018


College Adviser to Admissions Counselor

Dan Mitchell is a current board member for the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) and recently completed his service as a Michigan State University College Advising Corps adviser in Alanson and Pellston Public Schools in northern Michigan. Currently, he is an Admission Counselor at Northern Michigan University. 

1. Tell us about your experience as a college adviser.  What was the biggest lesson you learned through this experience?

When I went to Michigan State University as an 18-year-old, I assumed that every other student there came from a background nearly identical to mine. Even though my experiences with student government and serving as a Resident Assistant broadened my horizons and introduced me to diverse people, I still maintained the idea that every other student’s college-going process was just like mine. It wasn’t until I started my work at   as a college adviser that I realized how aloof I was in that sense. Through my formal training and through talking to teachers and staff members at the schools, I quickly developed a new framework of what college is, how certain barriers to college exist for different people, and that college can open doors not just for individuals, but for families, communities, and even states. What I’ve learned as a college adviser is that everyone’s trajectory to and through college looks different. Working in the field of higher education now, I know it will make me a better counselor and educator to see each student’s unique set of experiences as a strength.

2. What is your advice for incoming future advisers?

For incoming advisers, my biggest advice is to remember the importance of the personal connections you make with students, high school staff, community members, and even college representatives. I know college access groups need to pay attention to informative data and numbers: Goal 2025 and “moving the needle” are branded into my brain. However, it is important to remember that behind every dataset or individual percentile is a student, their family and their future. The statistics and the stories need to go hand in hand. A high FAFSA completion rate looks good to donors and can earn an adviser a nice plaque, but it also means that more families will have less of a financial burden when pursuing higher education. Personal connections are also important when it comes to delivering information to students, which is why I tried to incorporate fun, memorable, and interactive components to all of my student presentations. I want my students to have the image of my face photo-shopped on Iron Man’s body stuck in their brain forever as a reminder that when they go to college, they need to assemble a College Success Team, just like Tony Stark had the Avengers. Personal connections matter and I am so grateful to be working in an Admissions Office where personal attention to every prospective student is a core value.

3. Tell us how your experiences have shaped your choice to stay in the college access field?

I have always loved school and education. I was the kid that cried on the last day of school for years. When I was seven, I said that I wanted to be the president of Harvard. I have joked that I want to be a student the rest of my life, but that does not pay the bills, so my goal is to stay in higher education working with college students in whatever capacity I can be helpful and impactful. I enjoy being an educator: teaching biology labs at Northern Michigan University is exciting and rewarding, but I see my role as an Admissions Counselor as an educational role, as well. The best part of my job is that I get to help students and their families realize what’s possible. There are more opportunities available to you in college than at any other time in your life. In both my College Adviser and Admissions Counselor roles, it is important that I help people take action toward those possibilities, while trying to remove stress and obstacles.

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 you would like to recommend someone to us, please contact Emma Walter, MCAN's strategy assistant for external engagement, by sending an email to Emma(a)micollegeaccess.org. 


Author: Dan Mitchell, Northern Michigan University Admissions Counselor, MCAN Board Member
Posted: Sept. 5, 2018

Are there Invisible Students on Your Campus?

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.

Signs of homelessness on college campuses can be easy to miss. Students sleeping in library reading nooks, vehicles in student parking lots that rarely change location, backpacks bulging with a student’s possessions, youth bringing plastic baggies to events serving food (to collect leftovers)…  

Food insecurity is the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or the ability to acquire such foods in a socially acceptable manner. The most extreme form is often accompanied with physiological sensations of hunger.

Homelessness means that a person is without a place to live, often residing in a shelter, an automobile, an abandoned building or outside, while housing insecurity includes a broader set of challenges such as the inability to pay rent or utilities or the need to move frequently.

All these challenges affect students, and the results this year suggest that it is more common to endure them during college than to have all of one’s needs met.


Housing and food insecurity are not new issues on college campuses. The Wisconsin Hope Lab, a research group focusing on issues of postsecondary student equity, found in its 2018 “Still Hungry and Homeless in College” survey of 43,000 students, at 66 institutions, that 36 percent of four-year college students were food insecure in the 30 days preceding the survey, with that figure being 42 percent for community college students. Similarly, 36 percent of university students said they were housing insecure and 9 percent said they were homeless, while 46 percent of community college students cited housing insecurity and 12 percent said they were homeless.

As the State Coordinator for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth at the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), my work focuses on supporting public schools in removing barriers to education for pre-K through 12th grade students, who are experiencing homelessness in order to enhance school success, and to help them reach beyond to postsecondary education. We do this through 34 regional McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Grants, encompassing all counties and intermediate school districts in the state, and nearly 98 percent of all public school districts.  Regional coordinators work with school district Homeless Liaisons to identify students experiencing homelessness, provide school supplies, transportation, help with obtaining school, health and other important records, academic support and tutoring, school meals and snacks, clothing, shoes, under and outer wear, school uniforms, counseling and referrals for many more community services to meet the family’s and students’ unique needs.  Every public school district is required to designate a staff member to identify and serve students experiencing homelessness. 

Patricia Gentile, president of North Shore Community College in Denvers, MA, told the Education Dive, 

“Addressing those emergency needs beyond tuition and fee support is what we are going to have to do to make sure our students enroll and complete.”

“This is going to impact our workforce over time. This is not a charitable thing; it’s an economic thing.”

After high school graduation (or GED completion), however, there is no such mandate for postsecondary institutions to designate staff to support such students. Fourteen State Education Agencies (SEAs) - including Michigan - have developed Higher Education Networks, consisting of Single Points of Contact (SPOCS) - leaders in the financial aid offices at postsecondary institutions, to identify and support college students experiencing hunger and homelessness. These programs provide training and resources for SPOCs to increase the educational attainment of the most vulnerable college students.






What can YOU do to support these vulnerable students on your campus?

  1. Observe and collect data – Develop and distribute a survey for all students to learn the extent of food and housing insecurity among your students and on your campus. Check the WI HOPE Lab’s annotated list of these studies for examples.
  2. Develop a resource network – Identify an appropriate staff member to serve as a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for your institution and/or campuses. Join the SEA’s Higher Education Network for Homeless and Foster Youth. Work with the SEA’s Homeless Education Coordinator to identify state, regional and local resources for food and housing support.
  3. Request training for faculty and staff about the extent of the problem, the impact of these issues on students, and ways to support students experiencing these struggles. This is available through the SEA’s State Homeless Education Coordinator and national organizations. (See Resource List at end of this article.)
  4. Start with the EASY STEPS – Start a food pantry on campus with donations from administrators, faculty, and staff. Make campus housing available during the semester and holiday breaks for students in need (not just international or out of state students). Make community resources and contact broadly available on campus. Strengthen relationships with student organizations.
  5. Destigmatize requests for help – Review campus, student and building policies and procedures to determine if any pose barriers to students who are experiencing food or housing insecurity. Communicate publicly across campus, online and through staff and faculty of the incidence of such issues on your campus, the availability of the resources and how students can access them and refer others to them.

Resources on Hunger and Homelessness for Postsecondary Insitutions 

Did You Know?


Author: Pam Kies-Lowe, State Coordinator for Homeless Education
Michigan Department of Education, Office of Educational Supports
Posted: Aug. 23, 2018

Pursuing Persistence and Completion: Innovative Program Grant jump starts Washtenaw's Community Scholarship Program

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. 

In 2016, Washtenaw Futures received an Innovative Program Grant from MCAN to help launch the Community Scholarship Program and College Success Coach Initiative, a new program developed in partnership with the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, Washtenaw Community College, and Eastern Michigan University. The Community Scholarship Program provides renewable scholarships for up to five years of college for students who are economically disadvantaged, students of color, and/or first-generation college students, and also provides a College Success Coach for scholars to help them successfully navigate to and through college.

Thanks to a generous, anonymous $1 million donation to the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation that jumpstarted the Community Scholarship Program, scholarships for the program were fully funded. However, through active engagement with Washtenaw Futures, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) recognized that students needed more than just scholarships to successfully complete college. Local data showed that many students were not persisting or completing college, and as a community focused on equity, this glaring disparity was impossible to ignore.

Thus, the College Success Coach component was developed in partnership with Washtenaw Community College and Eastern Michigan University to provide wraparound supports to the program’s scholars, making the program truly collaborative. The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation now manages the scholarship awards, Washtenaw Community College serves as the “home base” and anchor institution for the College Success Coach, Eastern Michigan University provides Success Coaching training, and Washtenaw Futures provides administrative oversight and partnership management. 

The Innovative Program Grant helped seed funding specifically for the College Success Coach component of the Community Scholarship Program by closing the funding gap needed to cover a part-time, 20 hour/week Success Coach’s salary and programming for scholars in the program’s first year. Without the Innovative Program Grant, the Community Scholarship Program would not have been able to hire its first Success Coach, Shawntae Harris, while the program’s partners worked to develop a sustainable funding model.

As with any new program, unexpected challenges came up that surprise no one who understands working with marginalized youth: food insecurity, transportation challenges, homesickness, housing insecurity, financial emergencies, and more. Coach Shawntae helped students work through a number of challenges that popped up during the school year, but it became increasingly clear to the Community Scholarship Program’s planning team that students needed access to an emergency fund to get them through life’s road bumps, especially since their families oftentimes could not contribute financially during emergencies. A third component of the Community Scholarship Program was added in 2017 called the Emergency Aid and Financial Assistance Fund, available to all scholars to ensure that emergencies did not derail their education.

Since the program’s inception, 33 students have been welcomed into the Community Scholarship Program, including the third cohort of students enrolling in college this fall. Nine of 11 students in Cohort 1 and 12 of 13 students in Cohort 2 successfully enrolled in college within 12 months of graduating high school, and most persisted into their second year of college. For the 2017-18 academic year, the program grew to add a second part-time Success Coach, Courtney Morris, who was also a former MCAN AdviseMI College Adviser. After Courtney and Shawntae completed their Master’s degrees in May 2018, the Community Scholarship Program made the decision to combine the two part-time Success Coach positions into one full-time College Success Coach, officially hiring Personna Hover, who formerly served as a College Adviser with the Michigan College Advising Corps. We look forward to growing the program with Personna as she serves Cohorts 1, 2 and 3, as well as future scholarship cohorts!----

female standing outdoors with blue necklace and grey dressThis blog post was written by Ashley Kryscynski, formerly the coordinator for Washtenaw Futures as of August 1, 2018. Washtenaw Futures is the Local College Access Network (LCAN) for Washtenaw County and was started in 2014. Washtenaw Futures is also part of Washtenaw County’s broader Cradle-to-Career Collaborative in partnership with Success by 6 Great Start Collaborative and the Washtenaw Alliance for Children and Youth.

Michigan College Access Network | 200 N Washington Square, Suite 210, Lansing, MI 48933 (map) | (517) 316-1713 Contact Us | Site Map | Terms and Privacy