2017 All about advocacy.
Serving as a voice for underrepresented students.
At MCAN, we love to roll up our sleeves and take direct action. Still, we recognize that many of the barriers underrepresented and nontraditional college students face can only be addressed through policy. Lucky for us, advocacy is kind of our thing.
In 2017, we expanded our voice at the Michigan State Capitol by working strategically with policymakers to prioritize postsecondary education and, specifically, college affordability. That spring, we held our first-ever College Access Advocacy Day. More than 60 college access champions visited the event, which provided an opportunity for LCANs, promise zones and other college access and success programs to meet with state legislators to discuss Michigan’s educational challenges and opportunities.
Advocating at the Capitol
This year, we also served as a leading voice in the passage of Public Act 151 (HB 4181), a law that instated new requirements for school counselors, specifying that counselors would receive 50 hours of professional development in college-career readiness every five years. Sarah Anthony, MCAN’s former deputy director of partnerships and advocacy, testified before the House Committee on Workforce and Talent Development on behalf of MCAN, in favor of HB 4181. For Patrick O’Connor, former associate dean of counseling at Cranbrook Schools and MCAN board member, this was one of the most memorable moments in MCAN’s history:
“When Sarah spoke, the room was silent. That’s not an easy thing to do in the legislature,” he says. “Everyone’s passing papers, running around, they’ve got a million things to do. But Sarah commanded that room. I am convinced to this day that Sarah’s testimony was the dealmaker to get that training enacted. A picture of that bill signing still hangs in her State Rep. office today.” This law continues to be instrumental for ensuring school counselors have the resources they need to help their students navigate the often complex college-going process.
We also took some time in 2017 to work on ourselves at MCAN. In March through September, our board of directors and staff took on a new, holistic, strategic planning process. We held stakeholder interviews, conducted surveys, and held focus groups with Local College Access Networks, K-12 practitioners, state leaders, national experts, and funding partners to assess needs across the organization. This was also an ideal opportunity to reflect on MCAN’s accomplishments up to that point and analyze how these can be leveraged to support the college access landscape for the coming years. With a new strategic plan hot off the press, we were ready to take our advocacy and leadership to the next level.
Adapting to change
The year 2017 also marked the beginning of significant leadership changes at MCAN, with former Executive Director Brandy Johnson going on extended leave. “We really were a family at MCAN. We were there for each other in all of the beautiful times, and the really hard times,” Brandy says, “Going to each other's weddings, being there for babies, losing family members. The one thing I'll never forget, and the greatest gift I've ever received, was when MCAN gave me more time with my daughter.
“In 2017, my daughter was born with all sorts of birth defects and anomalies. Even for a strong person, this was a struggle. Three weeks after she was born, Sharlonda Buckman, the board chairperson at the time, called me and told me that the board had voted to approve a six-month paid leave of absence for me so I could be with my daughter. I started bawling. It was the biggest gift; I loved being at MCAN, but at that moment in time my daughter needed me. It just goes to show that the staff and board were one big family.”
- Served as a leading voice in the passage of Public Act 151 (HB 4181), a law that requires school counselors to receive 50 hours of professional development in college-career readiness every five years. Sarah Anthony, MCAN’s former director of partnerships and advocacy, testified before the House Committee on Workforce and Talent Development on behalf of MCAN, in favor of HB 4181.
- Held our first College Access Advocacy Day
- Expanded the AdviseMI program to serve more students by partnering with 70 high schools
- Released professional development scholarships for school counselors
- Celebrated former Executive Director Brandy Johnson receiving the Centennial Award for Excellence for influencing the education community in a progressive manner
- Testified before the House Higher Ed Appropriations Subcommittee meeting at the Michigan State Capitol
- Saw MCAN board member (and former vice chairperson) Patrick O’Connor appointed to serve as one of six School Ambassador Fellows by the U.S. Department of Education