MCAN Hosts Regional "Reach Higher" Convening

“Reach Higher” aims to strengthen school counseling and advising to help more high school students pursue higher education

EAST LANSING, Mich. – As part of the First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Reach Higher Initiative,” the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) hosted a regional 2016 Reach Higher convening August 1-2.  The First Lady’s initiative strives to ensure all students understand the importance of furthering their education beyond high school. MCAN hosted the convening in partnership with six Midwestern states, including: Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Indiana.

The Reach Higher Midwest Convening was held at Michigan State University and brought together state teams made up of state agencies, school counselors, counselor educators and college access professionals to explore strategies to improve school counseling and college advising. 

“We’re working to educate students that a high school diploma is not enough to succeed in today’s global economy,” said Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network. “We’re honored to host the Reach Higher Convening in Michigan and proud to collaborate with states in our region on the best strategies to increase the number of students furthering their postsecondary education.”

Educators and policymakers increasingly realize the important role school counselors play in guiding students through their  postsecondary decisions. There is currently an average ratio of one counselor for every 471 students, making it clear more support is needed for counselors as they strive to help students.  The Reach Higher Initiative is committed to helping high school counselors assist more students continue their education beyond high school. 

“School counseling should not be an extra or a luxury just for school systems that can afford it,” Michelle Obama said. “School counseling is a necessity to ensure that all our young people get the education they need to succeed in today’s economy.”

In 2014, Reach Higher hosted a national convening at Harvard University that brought experts from the field together to discuss how to better support school counselors and college advising in their efforts to help every student reach their fullest potential. This led to six states organizing their own regional convenings in 2016, including Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Massachusetts and Maryland.

At these convenings, state teams are encouraged to develop commitments that align with President Obama’s 2020 North Star goal to place the United States as one of the top nations with the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

The Reach Higher Initiative is an administration-wide effort administered by the White House in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education.

Notable speakers from Monday and Tuesday’s event included Don Yu from Civic Nation and Rebecca Villareal from The Kresge Foundation. 


About Michigan College Access Network

As the leader in the state’s college access movement, MCAN’s mission is to increase Michigan’s college readiness, participation and completion rates, particularly among low-income students, first-generation college going students, and students of color. For the sixth year in a row, Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate has increased — from 35.7 percent of 25-to-64-year-olds possessing at least an associate degree in 2008, to 39.3 percent in 2014. Additionally, it is estimated another 4 percent of Michiganders have a high-quality certificate, bringing Michigan’s official attainment rate to 43.3 percent. It is MCAN’s goal to increase Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate to 60 percent by the year 2025. For more information, visit

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