2015-12-10 / Community

Owen-Gage provides students path to success, Bulldog Bucks

By John Bonke
Staff Writer • 810-452-2668 • jbonke@mihomepaper.com

OWENDALE — A group of Owendale-Gagetown High School students recently toured both Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University, and paused for a group photo. 
Courtesy photo OWENDALE — A group of Owendale-Gagetown High School students recently toured both Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University, and paused for a group photo. Courtesy photo OWENDALE — Local students at Owendale-Gagetown High School are benefitting from a statewide initiative by being introduced to various forms of post-secondary education.

The Michigan College Access Network, the leader in the state’s college access movement, is helping local students through AdviseMI, a program which seeks to increase Michigan students pursuing postsecondary education by placing recent college graduates as advisers in communities across Michigan.

Post-secondary education is a prerequisite to success in a knowledge-based economy and everyone must pursue and complete a post-secondary credential or degree beyond high school. As the economy shifts, the attainment of post-secondary credentials beyond high school, including professional/ technical certificates and academic degrees, becomes a necessity. Advocates for post-secondary and continuing education also declare that it is for everyone and it is a public good. And, post-secondary educational opportunity and attainment are critical to a just and equitable society, strong economy as well as healthy communities.

Students at Owendale-Gagetown Community Schools will have an advisor available to them to help them as they search out what it is that they will do after they don their mortarboard, tassle and gown for high school graduation.

Shanice Chandler, with college experience, will be at the high school to help the secondary students with posthigh school plans. Chandler attended Wayne County Community College and graduated from Central Michigan University.

Chandler and the staff and administration at Owen-Gage are working to create a post-high school continuing education and college-going culture.

At Owen-Gage, Chandler will focus on helping students with their decision-making for post-secondary education and set up college visits and tours. She will also coordinate activities including conducting College Application Week and a FAFSA Night as well as a time for Bulldog alumni to speak to seniors.

Owen-Gage’s Student Coordinator Kaye Swiastyn, as well as Superintendent Terri Falkenberg, will also be involved in the program. Falkenberg said the program provides a great opportunity to extend resources to the seniors and their families that might not otherwise be possible due to time constraints and lack of additional support staff.

The basic goal at Owen-Gage is to raise career readiness at an early age. For now, the program focuses on high school juniors and seniors. Eventually, activities will reach out to younger students.

This year, each senior will meet with Chandler. The students can arrange other times via email or contacting Swiastyn or talking to Chandler when she’s at the school. Chandler will assist students with college-related information such as applications and scholarships and financial information.

As an incentive to participation in college-going activities, Chandler has started a program in which the students complete certain tasks to earn “Bulldog Bucks” and be able to exchange their earnings for prizes. Participation includes class activities, attendance and participation for events put on for Michigan College Access Network’s Triad of Initiatives, and participation in activities outside of school that have to do with college awareness and readiness.

MCAN mobilizes state and local leaders to increase college readiness, participation, and completion in Michigan. MCAN is committed to coordinating various statewide initiatives, such as Michigan College Application Week, Michigan College Cash Campaign and Michigan College Decision Day, that high schools can implement in their buildings at little or no cost. MCAN’s overarching mission to improve the college-going rate in Michigan. By the year 2025, the organization aims to boost the number of Michigan residents with post-secondary degrees or certificates to 60 percent. Michigan recently experienced a modest increase in its college attainment rate from 37.4 percent to 38.4 percent; however Michigan’s rate lags behind the national average of 40 percent.

Since 2010, MCAN has partnered with the College Advising Corps to establish college advising programs at University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Currently, U of M and MSU College Advising Corps collectively hire 42 college advisers who serve 52 high schools and 36,000 students (59 percent of whom qualify for free-and-reduced lunch). In Michigan, the student-to-counselor ratio exceeds 700:1 and high schools have inadequate capacity to provide one-to-one college advising. High school students need support navigating the complex process of college admissions and financial aid.

MCAN works to increase college readiness, participation, and completion rates, particularly among low-income students, first-generation college going students, and students of color. To do this, MCAN supports the creation, expansion, and sustainability of high-quality, community-based college access strategic alliances called Local College Access Networks. The Local College Access Networks are encouraged to utilize MCAN’s programs and statewide initiatives within their communities to improve local college-going rates.

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