Michigan's College Access Blog

Adviser Spotlight: Ashley Popp

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. Ashley Popp is a second year adviser exiting the program who served at Alpena High School and ACES Academy.

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

I was fortunate enough to have the support of my parents through the college admissions and financial aid process. I visited Central Michigan University and Michigan State University prior to applying to college. Ultimately, I chose to attend Central Michigan University because of the merit-based scholarships they offered me, the location of the campus, and the opportunity I had to play clarinet in the Chippewa Marching Band!

At CMU, I was able to explore my passion for service through the Honors Program and the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center. I participated in four alternative breaks and served as a mentor through the Lunch Buddies program. I also tutored first-year chemistry students for two years, worked as a Supplemental Instruction leader, and lead group fitness classes on campus. My time at Central Michigan University was life-changing for me, and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to learn and grow through the experiences I had and the people I met at CMU!

When I learned about AdviseMI, I was excited to help students get to college so they could have a similar life-changing experience, like I’d had at CMU. Affordability and location were the most important factors when I was deciding which college to attend. I liked that I would be helping students determine which college was the right fit for them. I was also excited to learn and experience life in a new place, so I made the move to Alpena!

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

During my time as an adviser, I helped many students and families through the college admissions and financial aid process. In time, I expect they will forget exactly what I said or what form I helped them complete. Instead, I hope they remember that I cared about them, treated them with kindness and respect, supported their decisions, and encouraged them when they felt stressed or overwhelmed.

I’ve always liked the quote widely attributed to Maya Angelou that reads, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I will never forget those who have been there for me on my own personal journey and I hope the students I’ve served have felt supported and encouraged during our conversations. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to positively impact the lives of students and families in Alpena.

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

During my first year of service at Alpena High School, I facilitated College Application Week as it had been facilitated in previous years. Seniors had the opportunity to complete admissions applications for the entire day on Wednesday with optional sessions during lunch periods on Thursday and Friday. During my second year of service, I wanted to offer seniors more opportunities to complete applications and begin the FAFSA during the school day with help from myself, their counselor, and Alpena Community College staff.  I communicated MCAN’s shift to Michigan College Month to the Alpena High School counseling team and proposed a two-week schedule of opportunities for seniors, including four days of application and FAFSA workshops.

Although seniors were assigned a specific time based on their last name, they could attend any time and attend multiple sessions. Students had the option to complete and receive help with completing college applications, sending their transcript to colleges, creating an FSA ID, and starting the FAFSA. Many students attended multiple workshop sessions, and those that attended more than one typically submitted at least one application, created their FSA ID, and often started the FAFSA.

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?

My experience serving with AdviseMI has taught me how to respectfully enter a community and build professional relationships with students, parents, administrators, and community members. I’ve had the opportunity to interact with students and families similar and very different from my own. Through these interactions, I have gained a different perspective about life and the challenges many people face, specifically ways poverty and trauma impacts students’ lives, goals, and academic success.

My experience serving with AdviseMI has also provided me with many professional connections, including my colleagues at Alpena Public Schools, fellow AdviseMI advisers, admissions and financial aid staff at Alpena Community College, four-year universities across the state, and MCAN staff. I am incredibly thankful to have developed strong relationships with professionals in the K-12, higher education, and non-profit sectors as I determine my next step professionally. I plan to move to the Ann Arbor area to be closer to family and friends.

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


Author: Ashley Popp, AdviseMI Adviser Alum
Posted: July 16, 2018

MCAN Legislative Recap

We at MCAN are committed to providing our college access community with comprehensive legislative updates to ensure that they are immersed and well informed on all legislative news that pertains to college access. With the adjournment of this session several large changes will be implemented in relation to college access. Governor Snyder signed a variety of bills that will contribute to the funding of the Marshall Plan for Talent, a $100 million workforce training plan designed to address Michigan's talent crisis. In addition, a package of career readiness bills were also signed, that will expand career opportunities for Michigan residents. Finally, the Governor signed his final Fiscal Year Budget for 2019 into law.

The Marshall Plan for Talent

The Marshall Plan for Talent invests $100M in an effort to improve the state’s talent pool by training citizens for high-demand career fields, providing educational supports, expanding career exploration opportunities, and supporting innovative teachers and curriculum. High-demand fields include professional trades, manufacturing, engineering, information technology, computer science, machine learning and artificial intelligence, mobility, health care, and business. MCAN is particularly eager about these components of the Marshall Plan:

  • Talent Pledge Scholarship Program: Appropriates $20M for scholarships/stipends to help low-income individuals with the cost of obtaining an associate degree or certificate in a high-demand field. For those pursuing a one-year certificate, individuals qualify for a $750 scholarship and $250 stipend. For those pursuing a two-year degree, individuals qualify each year for two years for a $500 scholarship and a $250 stipend. Scholarship recipients must be between 16 and 45, file the FAFSA, be enrolled full-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and meet income requirements. This program also invests $2.44M for grants to colleges to provide coaches to students who receive these scholarships.

  • Workforce Certificate Incentives: Appropriates $2.3M for grants, stipends, and bonuses to incentivize students to earn an in-demand workforce certificate while still in high school. If a high school student completes an in-demand workforce certificate, the state will award a total of $500, including $250 to the school district and $250 to the student.

  • Career Navigators: Allocates $10.5M for competitive grants to districts to hire new staff for career counseling activities, such as robust EDP creation, identifying work-based learning opportunities, and identifying career exploration activities. The grant will support the position for three years, and the district must commit to retain the position for at least an additional two years. Schools cannot supplant resources currently utilized for career counseling. To apply for funding for a Career Navigator, districts must apply as a “Talent Consortium”, which is a partnership between K12, higher education, and employers.

  • MI Bright Future Expansion: Allocates $4M for the expansion of MI Bright Future, a web-based career exploration platform.

Career Readiness

The legislature passed a package of bills related to career readiness designed to fund multiple initiatives to help strengthen Michigan’s talent in the workforce. MCAN supports several aspects of this package, such as:

  • SB684: Requires that EDPs include information about career pathways and opportunities, and that students review and revise their EDPs each year.

  • SB685: Requires that School Improvement Plans demonstrate that students have access to practical career training/experience and counseling on career opportunities.

  • HB5139: Requires school districts to incorporate a career development program into their curriculum. Instructs the Michigan Department of Education in consultation with the Department of Talent and Economic Development to develop, adopt, and share a model program of instruction.

  • HB5141/HB5142: Allows schools to engage non-certificated, non-endorsed teachers to teach in an industrial technology education or CTE program. Prohibits the state from reducing state aid payments to schools that hire these non-certificated, non-endorsed teachers.

  • HB5145: Allows educators to use time spent engaging with employers or tech centers to count toward certificate renewal in the form of state continuing education clock hours or professional development.

Fiscal Year Budget for 2019 

The Fiscal Year Budget for 2019 is inclusive of several key aspects as they relate to college access, including;

  • A 2 percent increase for operational funding of public universities and a 1 percent operational increase for community colleges. In order for a university to qualify for increased funding, the university must restrain tuition increases by no more than 3.8 percent or $490 (whichever is greater).

  • A $3M state appropriation for support the Michigan College Access Network. This will mark the seventh consecutive year of state funds for MCAN. The appropriation provides vital funding for many of our college access programs and services, including LCAN grant funding, AdviseMI, Innovative Program Grants, Michigan College Month, and Michigan College Cash Campaign.

  • Increased funding for student financial aid, including a $6M increase to the Michigan Competitive Scholarship Program (a 22.8 percent increase) and a $6M increase to the Tuition Incentive Program (a 10.3 percent increase). The Tuition Grant program maintains existing funding levels but the maximum award for the Tuition Grant program will increase from $2,000 to $2,400. Additionally, the state will set aside an additional $1.5 million in captured property tax for Michigan Promise Zones.

  • Increased funding to support Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate testing fees for low-income students, from $750,000 to $1M. Funds may also be used for College-Level Examination Program fees.

MCAN has worked hard to be an advocate for adequate funding for higher education and increased financial aid for Michigan students. We look forward to partnering with the state to ensure that we have a well-educated and well trained workforce.

For more information on MCAN’s advocacy strategy, please visit www.micollegeaccess.org/advocacy.


Author: Brandy Johnson, Executive Director
Posted: July 11, 2018  

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

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