LANSING, Mich. — Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) held its 10th annual conference in Lansing this week, including an acknowledgement of 13 outstanding postsecondary education practitioners and advocates from across the state at an awards dinner Tuesday night. The theme of this year’s conference was “Michigan’s Recovery: Equity, Education, and Economy” and explored how we can emerge from the pandemic with a greater focus on achieving educational equity and crafting an economy that gives everyone a chance to prosper. This is the seventh year MCAN has presented awards as part of the conference.

“The College Access Impact Awards honor the individuals and organizations who have made extraordinary efforts to improve postsecondary attainment in Michigan, especially among low income students, first-generation college-going students and students of color,” said Ryan Fewins-Bliss, MCAN executive director. “The award winners play a crucial role in helping us reach Sixty by 30 through their dedicated efforts to improve college readiness, participation and completion within their communities and across the state. By working to build inclusive college-going cultures, these award winners are helping to create a brighter economic future for Michigan’s students.”

Since these awards began in 2015, 77 people and organizations have been recognized by MCAN. The 2021 College Access Impact Award honorees are:

The Flagship Award recognizes those who develop sustainable local college access networks. With a talented coordinator and strong leadership team, BEST Benzie County has prioritized the Collective Impact framework as the primary strategy to move community indicators, including college attainment, in their region.

THE OMBUDSMAN AWARD: Jayme Green, Angela Magbag, Alazia Mitchell and Leah Warner
The Ombudsman Award recognizes people whose passion for college access helped them persevere through challenges while engaged in their year of service as an AmeriCorps member through a college advising or coaching program in Michigan.

  • Jayme Green is a first-year College Completion Corps coach serving at Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College. Jayme worked collaboratively with two other tribal colleges to launch an annual FAFSA challenge competition, which resulted in record number of FAFSA completions at Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College and an increase in Pell grant disbursement of 116% compared to 2020.
  • Angela Magbag served in the Michigan State University College Advising Corps for two terms, first as an adviser at Galesburg-Augusta High School and then at Waverly High School. In Angela’s first year of service, students reached a 66% FAFSA completion rate, with 86% completing a college application.
  • Alazia Mitchell is a second-year Michigan College Advising Corps adviser serving at Ypsilanti Community High School. Last year, Alazia helped 77% of the senior class apply to at least one college and 56% of the class submit the FAFSA.
  • Leah Warner served in AdviseMI for two terms as an adviser at Maple Valley High School and Relevant Academy in Eaton County. Despite not having the ability to meet with students in-person due to COVID-19, Leah’s students had a 71% college application rate and a 69% FAFSA completion rate.

THE PROMISE KEEPER AWARD: Dr. Lori Tubbergen Clark and Joyce Seals
The 13 Promise Zones that comprise the Michigan Promise Zones Association were created through bipartisan legislation, first enacted in 2009. In recognition of their extraordinary contribution to community-based programs that are using Promise Scholarships to expand educational opportunity and promote economic development, the Michigan Promise Zones Association presented the Promise Keeper Award to Dr. Lori Tubbergen Clark, governing board chairperson of Newaygo County Area Promise, and Joyce Seals, governing board chairperson of Saginaw Promise.

THE MARINA AWARD: The Bridge Alternative High School, Brighton
The Marina Award recognizes a school that has advanced a college-going culture and/or tackled systems-level change within the school by engaging all stakeholders in creating a sense of urgency around the postsecondary planning process. The Bridge Alternative High School’s staff team has embraced systemic change and demonstrated exemplary work as an alternative school committed to college access.

THE FLEET AWARD: Midnight Golf Program, Detroit
The Fleet Award recognizes an individual or organization that has significantly contributed to the college access field outside the walls of K-12 institutions. For 20 years, the Midnight Golf Program has been supporting Detroit students from their senior year through college completion. During that time, they have become a national model for college access and success and supported more than 3,000 students through successful college completion.

THE COMPASS AWARD: Rep. Ben Frederick and Rep. Scott VanSingel
The Compass Award recognizes those who advocate for or support advocacy focused on increasing Michigan’s postsecondary attainment rate.

  • Rep. Frederick (House District 85) currently serves as the House Majority Floor Leader and has been a long-time advocate for talent development in Michigan. He was the co-sponsor of Michigan Reconnect legislation and co-sponsor of school counselor training legislation.
  • Rep. VanSingel (House District 100) has been a partner in prioritizing the state’s Sixty by 30 goal and increasing college access, success, and attainment in Michigan. He has served as chair of the Higher Education and Community College Appropriations Subcommittee and currently serves on the School Aid and Department of Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

THE CHIEF MATE AWARD: Susy Talentino, Sault Ste. Marie
The Chief Mate Award recognizes a school counselor or school counseling program making significant strides in advancing the college readiness and enrollment supports and services to students. As a school counselor at Sault Area High School & Career Center, Susy Talentino has led teaching and advising staff, taken on the challenge of summer melt and critically applied an equity lens to meeting the needs of all students.

THE BEACON AWARD: The Michigan Department of Treasury, Lansing
The Beacon Award recognizes those strengthening success through partnerships. Through collaborative work around the state’s FAFSA priority deadline and Dash for Cash incentive, the Michigan Department of Treasury has been an engaged partner, embracing opportunities to pivot and meet new challenges.

To learn more about MCAN’s College Access Impact Awards, visit micollegeaccess.org/awards.