Michigan College Access Network Hosts Seventh Annual Conference, Announces Impact Awards

March 14, 2017 - LANSING, MICH. – The Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) held its seventh annual conference in Lansing and announced eight outstanding postsecondary education advocates from across the state on Monday and Tuesday. The theme of this year’s conference was “Champions for Opportunity: Prioritizing Michigan’s College Attainment” and emphasized the important role leaders play in increasing college attainment in Michigan.

“The Impact Awards recognize individuals and organizations that are championing the importance of postsecondary attainment,” said Brandy Johnson, executive director of MCAN. “The award winners have been vital to sustaining the progress our state, and more importantly, our students have made. Michigan is preparing for the careers of tomorrow and we know all of these individuals are looking to the future as well.” 

This year’s Impact Award winners were:

The Board of Directors Award – Dan DeGrow, Superintendent, St. Clair RESA

The Board of Directors Award was introduced in 2015 to recognize organizations who actively supported MCAN’s goal of raising postsecondary attainment by 60 percent by 2025 (Goal 2025). Dan DeGrow received this award to symbolize his impact on postsecondary attainment in Michigan.

During his time with St. Clair County RESA, Dan championed legislation that created the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP) in 1987, the largest need-based aid program in the state. Previously, Dan served as a commissioner on Lt. Gov. Cherry’s Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth, which led to major accomplishments like the Michigan Merit Curriculum, universal access to a college entrance exam (now SAT) for all juniors, creation of promise zones and launch of MCAN.

He has long supported students in St. Clair County through the RESA with significant resources for college access programming, college advising and community partnerships, and has served on all iterations of MCAN’s governing bodies.

The Beacon Award – Fostering Success Michigan
The Beacon Award recognizes those that strengthen success through partnerships. Fostering Success Michigan is a statewide initiative that aims to increase access and success in higher education and post-college careers for youth with experience in foster care. Fostering Success Michigan earned MCAN’s Beacon Award for its support of MCAN’s mission and its dedication to helping achieve Goal 2025.

The Cardinal Award – Hazel Park High School
The Cardinal Award recognizes those that enhance college access activity in communities by promoting campaigns that help create a sense of urgency around the postsecondary planning process. Hazel Park High School received the Cardinal Award due to their participation in MCAN’s statewide initiatives, including College Application Week, College Cash Campaign and Decision Day. They have been recipients of the Reach Higher grant and have made strides toward improving college access and postsecondary attainment in their community.

The Chief Mate Award – Catherine Longstreet, Counselor at Hastings High School

The Chief Mate Award recognizes a school counselor or school counseling program that significantly increased postsecondary attainment in their school. Catherine Longstreet has worked to create a college-going culture at Hastings High School. She has had success in improving college application and FAFSA completion rates, along with other college benchmarks, for Hastings students.

The Compass Award – Venessa Keesler, PhD., Deputy Superintendent, Michigan Department of Education
The Compass Award recognizes those that advocate for postsecondary attainment. Venessa Keesler was honored for spearheading the development of Michigan’s Every Student Succeeds Act and for her commitment to lowering barriers in education for underrepresented students. She embodies a college access champion—one who was a first-generation college student who conquered challenges before eventually graduating with degrees from Harvard and Michigan State University.

The Flagship Award – Jackson County Cradle to Career Education Network 
The Flagship Award recognizes those that develop sustainable college access networks in Michigan. Jackson C2C Network, a local college access network serving Jackson County, was selected as the recipient because of their strong commitment to growing their network and increasing degree attainment for Jackson County residents.

The Ombudsman Award – Dillon Frechen, Michigan State University College Advising Corps, Alexa Lynch, University of Michigan College Advising Corps,  Lindsay Mieden, AdviseMI

The Ombudsman Award recognizes three college advisors for their on-the-ground efforts in increasing college access and postsecondary attainment in Michigan and working toward reaching our Big Goal of 60 percent by 2025. The recipients of this award have demonstrated a passion for increasing college access, have persevered over challenges while engaged in their year of service, and have proudly represented AmeriCorps to students, families and the public.

The Steward Award – Hartland School Counseling Program
The Steward Award recognizes those that have dramatically contributed to increasing the skills, talent and knowledge of college access professional in Michigan. MCAN selected the Hartland School Counseling Program as recipient of the Steward Award because of their counselor development initiatives. Each counselor in the Hartland School Counseling Program is trained in college readiness and champions a college-going culture. Hartland School Counseling Program has also been a vital advocate for MCAN’s initiatives.

The conference featured keynote speakers Dr. Michael Sorrell, president, Paul Quinn College; Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO, Lumina Foundation; and Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper, president, Institute for Higher Education Policy. 

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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 micollegeaccess.org

Media Contact

Sarah Anthony
Deputy Director for Partnerships and Advocacy
Email: Sarah(a)micollegeaccess.org
Cell: 313-355-4078

Download the press release (PDF)

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