Michigan's College Access Blog

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

Continuing to Serve: Honoring our Veterans

This week, we celebrate the very essence of our democracy. On Nov. 8, our country participated in an election. Election Day unfolded in a peaceful manner and the results were counted for every local, state and federal level of government. The ability to have a peaceful, civil election is a result of the blood, sweet, and tears of all American Veterans. Our American Veterans made the sacrifice that their children and grandchildren will live in land that is free and have the opportunity have a better life than their parents. As a military veteran, I am humbled and proud to say I served this county and made a difference in this nation. I am humbled to continue my commitment to services as the director of the Michigan Veteran Education Initiatives (MVEI) program.

The Michigan Veteran Education Initiative is an effort to support veterans transitioning to civilian life and to aid in their pursuit of a college education. The program provides one-on-one support to help the thousands of veterans who enroll in Michigan’s educational institutions by providing outreach services, support and information. Launched in 2014, MVEI has serviced over 2,200 student veterans at fifteen colleges and universities across the state of Michigan. It is with great pride to watch the each Veteran Resource Representative (most of whom are veterans themselves) provide tangible assistance in the areas of employment, education, medical and quality of life to all of student veterans to assist in their transition to civilian life. These veterans deserve this and more, I am honored to say I had the opportunity to not only serve my county but now my fellow veteran.

To all my fellow veterans, "Thank you for your service."


Author: Leonard Rusher, Director, Michigan Veteran Education Initiative

Posted: Nov. 9, 2016



Find College Bound Resources at Your Fingertips in MeL Teens/CollegeBound

High School students who are headed to college and their parents/supporters can find especially selected tools and websites that will assist them with deciding about and preparing for college in the College Bound section of the Michigan eLibrary’s, MeL Teens, http://teens.mel.org/MeLCollegeBound. Covering the areas of deciding where to go, how to finance a college education, to preparing for the various college entrance exams, the resources in MeL Teens/College Bound will help students be better prepared to make decisions and then assist them with being successful in the process. 

Besides direct links to the Khan Academy prep for Michigan’s SAT, students can find additional practice and preparation in MeL’s LearningExpress Library.  This resource is available at no cost to all Michigan residents and contains actual complete practice tests, courses and eBooks on not only the SAT, but the PSAT, ACT, AP and CLEP and more.  Just click on the “College Preparation Center” link and you will find an amazing array of in depth resources to help prepare for college success including an eBook on how to write the college admissions essay.  All you need to do to get started is to create a free account in LearningExpress Library which enables you to store the tests, courses and eBooks you’re using.  The SAT preparation and practice is an excellent complement to what is provided in Khan Academy.

By way of an update, the following information will detail what new resources have been added to the College Preparation Center as of August 2016:

SAT® and ACT® Test Prep
Twenty-five (25) new resources were added for 2016 SAT® test preparation, including complete, full-length practice tests in a test-simulation mode that helps students become confident with the format, timing, and content of the official exam. Complete practice tests and two (2) writing practice tests were also added for the ACT® test.

CLEP® Test Practice
Two (2) practice tests for the CLEP® College Mathematics exam have been updated to match the latest CLEP® test specifications.

If you have any questions on how to use LearningExpress Library or any of the resources found in the Michigan eLibrary (MeL), please contact your local public library or your school’s media center.


Author: Deb Renee Biggs, Library Consultant & Michigan eLibrary Coordinator, Library of Michigan/Michigan Department of Education

Posted: Oct. 26, 2016

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