Launching a Career through Service
Kyle Manley is a recruiter and academic advisor for the College of Innovation and Technology at the University of Michigan-Flint. He served as an AdviseMI college adviser from 2015-2017 at Port Huron High School.
As I approached my college graduation, I was eager to wrap up that chapter and enter into “adult” life — but I truly had no idea what I would do next. I was walking away with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Michigan-Flint, with experience in sociology, so my options seemed somewhat clear. I could either go into a master’s degree program to continue my studies in psychology, or I could directly enter into the workforce. The idea of jumping right back into college didn’t feel like the right move for me. On the other hand, I was very nervous about transitioning into the workforce, as I did not know how to leverage my professional skills. My resume at the time included extensive peer-to-peer mentoring, some light political experience with student government, student activism, and a talent for talking to people. Being a first-generation college student, I had no idea how valuable or marketable these skills were.
A few weeks before my graduation, a supervisor who worked closely with MCAN recommended that I check out a new program being launched around peer-to-peer college advising called AdviseMI. This caught my attention, as I had proposed a similar idea for peer-to-peer advising between high school and college students to a Michigan statewide collegiate assembly. As I researched the position, I found that the requirements mirrored all of the skills that I had accumulated as an undergraduate student. I mustered up the courage to apply, seconding guessing myself each step of the way, and landed an interviewed with a service site. I became one of the first advisers hired for the program, joining the inaugural class of AdviseMI.
The summer before my first service cycle started, I joined 39 other recent college graduates to form the first cohort of AdviseMI college advisers. This cohort met for summer training at Michigan State University. During the training process, I vividly remember the MCAN team explaining that the training would be extensive and far-reaching, covering topics from college applications to financial aid to support services. After roughly 180 hours of college access training, we had vastly increased our individual and collective knowledge of resources in Michigan and across the country. We emerged as college access experts, ready to serve in the locations that were assigned to.
At my site, I was the first African-American male adviser, which came with both challenges and benefits. The experiences that I brought through the door helped me connect a group of students who had not previously thought of college as a possibility for themselves. Throughout my two years of service, I heavily relied on my social capital, near-peer relationships, and growing expertise to provide innovative programming and engage in crucial conversations. During my service years, I helped build a strong college readiness pipeline by offering workshops, improving scholarship databases for easier student access to funding opportunities, and increasing FAFSA completion rates.
The most challenging aspects of the work was constantly addressing false narratives of higher education. The community offered a sea of resources, but college attainment and high school graduation rates were still low. This led to the creation of several external partnerships in programming, like a College Rush senior college application drive and a cross-town high school collaborative for out-of-state college tours. During my time as a college adviser, students and families shared stories powerful stories that still fuel my passion to support college access and attainment to this day.
My training from MCAN and AdviseMI, combined with the experiences at my service site, built up skills and knowledge that I continuously draw from to this day. While I never reflected on it until recently, a commitment to service has always been at the core of my being. As the child of two former United States Marines, I learned from their experiences, and their lessons emphasized the value of giving to others and planting where you are watered. AdviseMI allowed me to the opportunity refine many of my personal strengths and supported the development of my professional skills, directly contributing to my ability to be an asset in all of my post-AdviseMI positions. This program holds a special place in my heart. For new college graduates looking to make a difference after graduation, I would wholeheartedly recommend participating in AdviseMI. You will not be disappointed with your decision. I never have been.