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My year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Michigan College Access Network is coming to a close, and as I reflect on the past 12 months, it is hard to believe how quickly the time passed and how much MCAN accomplished in such a short time. I didn’t expect the year we’ve had, but it has been an adventure and experience for which I am forever grateful.

 When I joined the MCAN team as a VISTA, I was coming out of a four-year career in the classroom with little experience in higher education. I was also in the last year of my master’s degree in philanthropy and nonprofit leadership at Grand Valley State University. I wasn’t ready to leave education behind, but knew I wanted to gain more experience working at a nonprofit organization. After I interviewed with MCAN staff members Jamie Jacobs, Melissa Steward and Vicky Wright, it became clear that this organization ticked all the boxes on my professional wish list, and I eagerly accepted my VISTA role.

I have felt like a true member of the team at MCAN, and I have had the unique opportunity to serve the organization in a variety of ways. 

Working directly with MCAN’s High School Innovation program, I was able to support the College Bound Michigan initiative, including working on the Governor’s FAFSA Challenge and helping schools plan alternative Decision Day events when COVID-19 closed school doors. I helped recruit host sites for our AdviseMI program. I worked closely with Strategic Engagement in launching our Meeting the Challenge Webinar Series, including behind-the-scenes technical support for the over 1,000 members of our network. I spent much of my service year with our Community Mobilization team in developing and launching the Impact Map, a massive educational data project that I am so proud to have contributed. To me, these projects represent the spirit of an AmeriCorps member, and especially a VISTA, working to build capacity and be a catalyst for change. In all of these ways, I’ve contributed to moving the needle on college access in Michigan and have helped make Michigan a better place.

Many of our supporters and partners have received an email from me encouraging sign-up for College Bound Michigan, heard my voice on the Meeting the Challenge Webinars, or connected with me about breakout sessions at the conference. I’ve gotten to know many of you through a variety of ways, and I’m grateful for your dedication to improving education in Michigan and ensuring we reach Sixty by 30. As I end my year at MCAN, I am grateful to MCAN Executive Director Ryan Fewins-Bliss and the rest of the MCAN team for an amazing year and a wealth of opportunities. I know that the skills and connections I’ve built here will serve me well in my future endeavors.