Two years ago, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Social Work and was faced with deciding my next steps. As I sat to reflect on what direction I wanted to point myself, I felt a strong desire to go back to my rural roots and return home to serve withAdviseMI. My first year as a College Adviser offered me the opportunity to work in a local community while building a strong knowledge of advising students in their path to postsecondary attainment. I am now in my second year of service, and I am back in my hometown walking familiar halls as the school’s first College Adviser.  

As College Advisers, we hit the ground running every year. Many schools do not start until after Labor Day, giving us just three weeks to plan one of our biggest events of the year, Michigan College Month. 

This is an exciting time for high school seniors as they plan their futures. We plan events and meet with students to talk about college applications, college affordability, the SAT, their future career paths, and their educational journey. October is really the kick-off that helps to set the tone for the year. 

As a hometown College Adviser, I felt I had home-field advantage and it made a major difference in my planning process. I already knew I had support from staff and the community and had an idea of who I could lean on as college access champions. While some days I still wish there were three more of me, having community members volunteer has been an asset in planning that has allowed me to expand my efforts. Whether it’s assisting with an event or chaperoning a field trip, the volunteerism of community members is priceless in engaging students. There are also times when I need to offer something to motivate students to attend in the first place, which typically comes in the form of food and prizes. Serving in a rural community means it can be challenging to find resources for incentives. However, the community is always there to pitch in when they can, and it only takes an email to get a few trays of brownies. One of the most engaging pieces to Michigan College Month for me is long-term career planning. This is where every student feels they can participate, even if they are not sure which route is the best fit for them. This requires support from community members who can talk to students about their college and career experiences, as well as opportunities to job shadow. I am in a great position to be able to spark these connections as a hometown College Adviser.

Of course, there were things that I worried about as I returned to the community in a position they have never worked with before. I have had to learn to shift from having a voice in the school as a former student to participating as a young professional. I also find myself spending more time looking for the new college and career access resources and learning of all of the exciting things that are happening in the area. I had to realize that, just like the students I work with now, I didn’t always pay attention to all that my community had to offer when I was a student. This proves to be especially prevalent with my students and Michigan College Month activities. I find myself working harder to advertise and incentivize to make sure that the students I work with are paying attention and don’t wonder why they didn’t know about resources later on.  

While it is still just the start of the year, I am excited to be back in my hometown and to see how I can serve students who are facing some of the same challenges myself and other community members faced in our own postsecondary planning. Michigan College Month has proved to me that myself and our students have a community dedicated to the success of graduates after high school, and I am excited to continue supporting these connections within my community. 

Jacquelynn Deneau is a second-year adviser who serves at Addison High School.