10th Birthday Grantees Check-in: Detroit Drives Degrees
In August 2020, MCAN awarded $10,000 grants to ten organizations in the ten days leading up to MCAN’s 10th birthday. These 10th Birthday Grants provided $100,000 in funding to community organizations across Michigan whose services aligned with MCAN’s mission of education equity for low-income students, first-generation college-going students, and students of color. As MCAN's 11th birthday approaches, last year's grantees are sharing how the funding has helped them serve their communities, as well as their organizations’ overall successes in the past year.
In this blog post, Christi Taylor from Detroit Drives Degrees shared how its 10th Birthday Grant supported the expansion of their summer melt programming and the launch of a summer bridge program for high school graduates pursing postsecondary education in Detroit.
The Detroit Drives Degrees team was excited and surprised to learn that we had received a $10,000 grant in celebration of MCAN’s 10th birthday. The timing of this surprise funding couldn’t have been better – we were just about to start another school year that would be anything but typical. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were looking at alarming projections about college enrollment and facing a year full of uncertainty as students tried to navigate online learning, postsecondary planning during a pandemic, and the general sense of anxiety and loss that we were all feeling. We knew we had to take drastic steps to address some of these issues and support Detroit’s students as they planned for their futures. The MCAN grant helped us to increase our capacity and develop some innovative and impactful programs that we hope to sustain for years to come.
Detroit Drives Degrees is working to help Michigan meet its Sixty by 30 postsecondary attainment goal and to reduce the racial equity gap by half in that same timeframe. We knew we’d encounter challenges along the way, but no one could have anticipated the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic or the massive barriers it would create for students. One consequence of this was the sharp decline in postsecondary enrollment in high school graduates from the class of 2020. This major disruption in the education pipeline would have a huge impact on employers that were already struggling to find talent. We also knew that this enrollment decline would disproportionately affect low-income students and students of color, diminishing their future economic opportunities.
To avoid a similar enrollment crisis for the class of 2021, we knew we needed to take bold action and target our supports to the students who needed it most. We built on our summer melt programming from prior years and developed an initiative to empower the people who make the greatest impact on students – counselors and other school and district staff. We were able to give $5,000 grants to 11 high schools and community organizations across the Detroit region committed to addressing summer melt. These grantees hired counselors to work over the summer months, checking in with students and supporting them through the key summer milestones in the college-going process. Our process put equity front and center, and we directed funds to schools with high free-and-reduced lunch rates or high percentages of Black and Latinx students.
For students in the city of Detroit, we took this program a step further and partnered with Detroit College Access Network to launch a comprehensive summer bridge program as an extension of our summer melt work. Through this program, students from Detroit high schools have the opportunity to take a free college course at one of our partner institutions – Henry Ford College, Oakland University, or Wayne State University. They also participate in a comprehensive summer curriculum with workshops focused on self-efficacy and advocacy, career exposure, and social and emotional development. These students have access to coaches to help address any issues that come up over the summer on a one-on-one basis, and also peer discussions where they can talk and problem-solve with other students.
In their pilot year, we’ve already seen what a difference both our summer melt grant program and our summer bridge program have made for our region’s students. We’ve also seen where we have some opportunity for growth and development and are compiling best practices and lessons learned to take us into the next program year. Providing summer support is a key strategy in our Detroit Regional Talent Compact, and we’ll continue to expand and refine these programs.
We’re grateful to Michigan College Access Network for its continued partnership and support of our work, and for the surprise grant that allowed us to take our summer programming to the next level. We’re looking forward to the next opportunity to work together in support of our shared Sixty by 30 goal.