Press Release: MCAN College Access Impact Awards Recognize Three Metro Detroit Organizations and Individuals

Detroit Regional Chamber, Hazel Park adviser and Chandler Park adviser awarded for contributions to increasing postsecondary attainment

LANSING, MICH. – The Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) held its eighth annual conference in Lansing and recognized numerous outstanding college advocates from across the state on Monday at the annual College Access Impact Awards dinner, including Britteny Mitchell, a Michigan College Advising Corps adviser at Chandler Park High School, Moussa Traore, a Michigan State University College Advising Corps adviser at Hazel Park High School, and the Detroit Regional Chamber. Seven award categories recognized the hard work and dedication of 12 individuals and organizations that have gone above and beyond to improve postsecondary educational attainment in Michigan.

Mitchell and Traore are both recipients of the Ombudsman award, for their service at Chandler Park Academy and Hazel Park High School, respectively. The Ombudsman Award recognizes individuals whose passion for college access helps them persevere over challenges while engaged in their year of service as an AmeriCorps member through one of the college advising programs within the state.

The Detroit Regional Chamber earned MCAN’s Beacon Award because of their strong leadership in the college access and degree completion space, their innovative FAFSA Challenge, their long-­‐term and ongoing support for the Detroit College Access Network and Detroit Drives Degrees, as well as their support of the Detroit Promise. The Beacon Award recognizes those that work to unite programs, activities and/or operations in support of postsecondary attainment through partnerships.

“Our annual conference celebrates the individuals and organizations who work tirelessly to improve postsecondary attainment in Michigan,” said Brandy Johnson, executive director of MCAN. “Congratulations to Britteny, Moussa, the Detroit Regional Chamber and all of our outstanding award winners. Their commitment to creating a college-­‐going culture in Michigan is making a difference in the lives of countless high school students.”

In addition to the award ceremony, the Michigan College Access Network hosted hundreds of college access professionals and education leaders during the two-­‐day conference. The conference theme, “Cultivating Tomorrow’s Talent,” emphasized the important role  talent development plays in improving   the future  of  Michigan.  MCAN  supports  initiatives  to  help  students  as  they  pursue  postsecondary education  in Michigan.

The Annual Conference included numerous breakout sessions and three keynote speakers: Michele Siqueiros, president, of The Campaign for College Opportunity, Laura Owen, director of the Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success at American University, and John Fox, head of Mopar sales and operations at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

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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 seventh 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 39.4 percent in 2016. Additionally, it is estimated another 4 percent of Michiganders have a high-­‐quality certificate, bringing Michigan’s official attainment rate to 43.7 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.

So, You Think You’re Ready for College?

By: Afrkah Cooper

I had been preparing for college my whole life, but I still felt unprepared when I got there. The two most important members of my family, my mother and my grandmother, both have their associate degrees but, unfortunately, sharing their college experience with me didn’t prepare me for mine.

I remember being in the second grade and my grandmother made me promise her that I would go through school and earn a master’s degree. I had no clue what a master’s degree was, but I promised her. I loved school and, more than anything, I wanted to make my family proud. At the time, however, I didn’t know that I was agreeing to the struggles of all-nighters, parking tickets and student loan debt. Although we talked about going to college, we never talked about what came with college.

Although I had limited resources, my parents and counselors insisted I go to college and they supported me in numerous ways. Application fee waivers were a major resource my counselors shared with me and, through their effort, I did not have to pay any fees for my college applications – a huge burden lifted off my shoulders, as it sometimes costs as much as $40 just to apply.

I had a lot of college options to choose from. However, most were options I couldn’t afford and “applying for more scholarships,” as my counselors told me, was harder than it seemed. With acceptance letters but little financial support, I turned to community college.

Although lame to my peers who were going away to school, community college was in my comfort zone. This was a place that most of the members in my village had attended so they could offer me the support I needed during my transition. Plus, I could afford it. My family knew they wanted me to go farther than an associate degree, but since they never navigated a four-year university system, they couldn’t prepare me for it.

When I transferred from Macomb Community College to Wayne State University, I experienced difficulties that I had to figure out on my own. These struggles may have set me back a little but learning to navigate the challenges just made me stronger.

I am not a first-generation college student by the typical definition. But I will be the first in my family to receive a degree from a four-year university. And, one day, I’ll be the first to receive my master’s degree.

Readers: My guess is that you’ve reached your success and know what it takes to be a four-year degree student. I encourage you to reflect on the people in your village who helped you achieve your goals and consider reaching back and mentoring a student. With your experience, you can help them understand the details of college. You can teach them that college is about managing and adjusting. Maybe you’ll be able to help them achieve their own graduation dreams, with as few bumps in the road as possible.

Afrkah Cooper is a Detroit Drives Degrees intern.

$450,000 Kresge Foundation Grant will Support Programs to Improve College Readiness, Access and Success

Last week, the Detroit Regional Chamber received a $450,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation to launch a comprehensive plan and campaign to increase postsecondary education attainment in Southeast Michigan.

The three-year grant supports the Chamber’s Forward Detroit strategy to create and sustain an educated, employed and healthy workforce in the 11-county Detroit region. Increasing the number of adults with postsecondary degrees is a goal of Detroit Drives Degrees, a Forward Detroit initiative.

In a joint release, Kresge Foundation President and CEO Rip Rapson said, “We want to help Detroit fulfill its workforce needs using its own homegrown talent. Detroiters are hungry for the opportunity to get to work, and this initiative will help ensure they’re equipped with the skills, education and credentials required to do just that. We know a postsecondary education is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to move into the economic mainstream, and we’re proud to partner with the Chamber to help more Detroiters and people from across the region get that education.”

The Chamber will work with the Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council, led by Co-chairs Daniel Little, chancellor of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and Richard Rassel, chairman of Butzel Long, to designate regionwide improvement goals on key attainment metrics. The plan will address each stage of the talent development pipeline including: college readiness, college access, college success and transition to the workforce.

The Chamber thanks The Kresge Foundation for its confidence and support in Forward Detroit’s mission. This grant is a big step in helping the Chamber achieve its goal of increasing the number of individuals with postsecondary degrees from 43 to 60 percent by 2025.

For more information on Forward Detroit, contact Marnita Harris at mharris@detroitchamber.com or 313.596.0310. To view a full list of investors and past Investor Exclusive content, visit our Investor Resources page.

Improving Talent Attraction and Retention

By:  Sarah Craft

Detroit Drives Degrees (D3) has three focus areas: Allowing regional residents improved access to a postsecondary opportunity, improving success within those programs, and retaining this talent once they’ve completed their certification, as well as attract new talent to the region. When we say “talent”, we’re talking about people with any sort of postsecondary credential, including a professional certification, and degrees including associate, bachelors and beyond.

Detroit Young Professional Mixer

We’re working with incredible partners throughout the region to reach our goal of increasing the number of people with postsecondary degrees to 60 percent by 2025. Detroit Young Professionals (DYP) is one of those partners. DYP is dedicated to strengthening the next generation of regional leaders by providing professional development, civic engagement and networking opportunities. Professional organizations like this do an incredible job getting local people connected to opportunities, as well as providing an effective welcoming mat to area newcomers.

D3’s talent working group is doing research to better identify strengths, challenges and opportunities in regionwide talent attraction and retention. We’ll be promoting a broader talent survey in the next week or two, but we’ve also been looking at national models, research and facilitating one-on-one and focus group discussions to better understand talent needs.

DYP serves on our working group, and we recently attended one of their networking events. With more than 200 people present, we collected useful narratives and perspectives on individuals’ experiences related to talent retention and attraction.

Why Here imageThe biggest takeaway was that region’s opportunity for making an impact and the spirit of our people is what seems to matter most. Whatever possible improvements to talent retention and attraction we come up with will be sure to focus on people, equity and relationship building.

Here are highlights from questions we asked at DYP:

Why do you live in the region?

  • Family
  • To be part of positive changes
  • The spirit of Detroiters
  • Deep roots and pride
  • Career
  • It’s a cool place to live

What are your community’s greatest assets?Best Assets

  • People
  • Activities
  • Walkable communities

How can people get connected to your community?

  • Spend time (and money) at local
    businesses
  • Get involved with a local organization
  • Get out and about to talk to neighbors, attend networking events or joining a recreational sports league
  • Through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social sites like Meetup

Unfortunately, many people weren’t sure how to encourage others to get connected to their community, especially when people lived in smaller suburban communities like Romulus or Roseville.

For residents, new to the region or to those who left for a while and recently returned, we asked:

What made your transition to the region easy?

  • Having a friend, colleague, family member or neighbor as a guide
  • Being curious and open to new experiences
  • Finding a community to be involved in, like the music scene, volunteer opportunity, or an interest-based networking group
  • Looking through social media to find out about events

What made your transition hard?

  • Finding new friends
  • Finding a place to live
  • Outside perceptions of the region, especially related to safety
  • Adjusting to the quality of life, like not having regional transit or the lack of walkable communities

What could have made your transition better?

An easier way to:

  • Make friends and meet new people
  • Find things to do, based on interests or personal recommendations
  • Get information about the region, like where to live based on interests and lifestyle

Stay tuned for our upcoming talent survey and opportunities to get involved in our work. For questions, comments, or ideas, reach out to scraft@detroitchamber.com.

Business and Education Leaders: College Access Programs Are Launchpad for Region’s Economic Prosperity

Continued progress on raising educational attainment levels and driving economic development in the region requires enhanced investment in and support for quality higher education access programs. That was a key message outlined by David Dodson during a keynote address at the Chamber’s Talent Outlook: Detroit Drives Degrees breakfast in March.

The event brought nearly 200 attendees together to hear from leaders from the higher education, business, government, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors on what is needed to maintain Southeast Michigan’s economic momentum.

Praising the work of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees, an initiative under Forward Detroit, Dodson challenged the business community in attendance to focus on creating bigger and better launching pad programs in Detroit that encourage more young people to get a postsecondary education. The payoff, Dodson said, will be more graduates choosing to remain in the state, and a robust talent pipeline that will put Michigan at the top of the list among national and international investors.

Drawing from his personal journey, Dodson shared how mobility outcomes can drastically change with a postsecondary credential. His philosophy centered around the belief that a person’s socioeconomic status early in life should not determine where they end up later and education makes all the difference.

The pathway to upward economic mobility is a three-step process, according to Dodson. First, one must complete foundational education. Secondly, obtain a postsecondary credential. Lastly, enter and advance in the workplace. Educational experience, a support network, work exposure, work experience, professional development and a professional network are all building blocks that must be developed and cultivated to achieve success.

The event also featured a panel that shared insight on how to strengthen the Detroit region’s homegrown talent pipeline (pictured). Dodson was joined by Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest; William Huffaker, global director of talent acquisition for General Motors Co.; and moderated by Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network.

The discussion centered on the concept that talent, not capital, is Detroit’s most important asset.

“Detroit children are at the bottom of student achievement,” Arellano said. “A Boston fourth-grade student, educationally, is three years ahead of that of a Detroit student. The schools can’t do it alone. We all need to become advocates, pushing for urgency, excellence and equity.”

“The talent pipeline picture really isn’t pretty,” Huffaker added. “At General Motors, we hire someone with a STEM background every 26 seconds. Our community has changed so much over the last five years than in the last 50 years. As a community, we need to not only consume talent, but produce talent.”

Huffaker also suggested the creation of a more robust mentor program. “Everyone knows that they should have a mentor, but not everyone knows how to use a mentor,” he said.

For more information on Detroit Drives Degrees, contact Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent, at ghandel@detroitchamber.com.

For more information on Forward Detroit, contact Marnita Hamilton at mhamilton@detroitchamber.com or 313.596.0310. To view a full list of investors and past Investor Exclusive content, visit our Investor Resources page.