Written by Briana Gasorski for The News-Herald and published on October 10, 2017. Click here to view the original publication on TheNewsHerald.com.
At least 70 Michigan high schools — including some Downriver — are starting off the school year with a recent college graduate assigned to their building to serve as an adviser to promote higher learning.
And it’s working — at least in Lincoln Park.
The Michigan College Access Network’s AdviseMI program hires recent college graduates from across the state to serve as college advisers in schools with lower college-going rates.
“The goal is to target first-generation college students, lower-income students and minority students and show them that college is not impossible,” MCAN’s Sarah Anthony said.
Although high schools offer access to guidance counselors, Anthony said, there’s a great need for something more.
“Due to the student-to-counselor ratio, the guidance counselors simply don’t have the time to be able to provide this type of service to students,” she said. “The goal is to help build a college-going culture, and we need the willingness from the schools and communities to participate.”
Lincoln Park is among the schools that has been a part of the AdviseMI program since its start three years ago. Eric Calvin, director of instruction and evaluation, said the program has helped set Lincoln Park apart from other districts.
“For the last two years, we have had the highest percentage of kids applied to college in our school’s history”, he said.
Having an attainment rate of 35 percent in 2008 and going to an estimated attainment rate of 43 percent in 2015, Anthony said, means the goal of 60 percent in 2025 should be feasible.
“The goal is to really open students’ and their families’ eyes to all of the possibilities for postsecondary education to provide a better quality of life for themselves,” she said. “These college advisers that just graduated could go anywhere and do anything but they have dedicated themselves to bettering their own communities by bringing their knowledge of how college works to their local high schools.”
Taylor’s Kennedy High School is among the schools that are in their first year of the program and adviser Jayde Storrs said she couldn’t be happier to be involved.
“I graduated from (Saginaw Valley State University) and I grew up in Saginaw,” she said. “I really researched thoroughly for an area that had similar demographics and an area where I knew the students and their situations were relatable.”
Having advisers who are recently graduated from college assist high school seniors in their postsecondary education plans provides a strong connection, Storrs said.
“With the advisers being closer to their age and having similar life experiences, this program offers a peer-to-peer connection,” Storrs said. “Unlike teachers and administration, the students know that I am 100 percent here for them and that my only job is to believe in them.”
Lincoln Park High School’s college adviser, Marisa Tucker, said having college advisers working with students helps tremendously.
“I love interacting with the students,” she said. “I think this program is a huge help to students because they know someone is really rooting for them and that they aren’t alone.”
For the first-generation college students, Calvin said, programs like this really help lower the hurdles.
“We try to focus on the entire student body as a whole to start giving them exposure to future schooling options,” he said. “This program really lowers the hurdles for the first gen students and helps give them a plan and access to different schools and opportunities they might not have realized that they had.”
Storrs said she couldn’t agree more.
“I think that this program really helps relax the students that get that college pressure from home but really helps put pressure on the kids that haven’t had that before,” she said. “They know they have to do it, but this program teaches them how.”
From filling out FAFSAs and learning how to apply for college to taking students on college tours and helping them prepare for SATs, these college advisers work in unison with the guidance counselors to help ensure all of the students are succeeding at every level.
“We definitely work in unison to provide a college-going culture for students,” Tucker said. “I feel right at home here with how welcoming everyone is. The students are so full of dreams that it’s inspiring and encouraging, and it’s my job to encourage them to have a plan and believe that they can succeed.”
Having grown up Downriver, Tucker said, she hopes students will want to give back once they graduate.
“I’m here to advocate for the students and talk through any problems they or their families have,” she said. “I hope that at some point these students try to give back to the community in a similar way.”
Calvin said he hopes to see other schools in the community offer this program.
“This program is giving an unprecedented amount of access to after-school options for students,” he said. “When the teachers, staff and community show that they care for these kids, it leads to a better education overall.”
While the AdviseMI program is geared towards seniors, Storrs said she has different goals for every grade level.
“Obviously the goal for the seniors is to get them into a postsecondary plan,” she said. “For the juniors, I want to prepare them for the SATs, and underclassmen I really stress the importance of their GPA and hope that at some point these students will convey these messages to their younger siblings and family members and really become citizens that contribute to their community as a whole.”
Other Downriver high schools enrolled in the program are Carlson, Ecorse, Melvindale and Woodhaven.