During my time as an adviser with AdviseMI, I have been serving at two schools: Maple Valley Jr./Sr. High School and Relevant Academy of Eaton County. One school is a traditional high school and the other is a non-traditional high school. While I have learned a great deal at both sites, serving at a non-traditional school has created a lasting impact on me personally, and in my work as an adviser.

On my first day at Relevant Academy of Eaton County I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect. I knew this wasn’t like my traditional high school and that it would have its own hurdles to overcome, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy serving the academy’s students. The students at Relevant Academy are some of the most incredible students I have come to know. They come from many different backgrounds, and each brings an important contribution to the table. I had to quickly understand that my own ideas and expectations of their lives turned out to be wrong. I had to understand that not every student lives in a stable home. I had to understand that some students have supportive parents, but many do not. This school, in some cases, is the only consistent part of their life.

While I understand that every school and every district is different, I grew to learn that every student is also different. You have to leave your stereotypes at the door. You have to start each conversation with a clean slate and be willing to listen and truly hear them. Once you create that bond, your belief in them turns into them believing in themselves. I walk into Relevant Academy every day with a blank slate and an open mind for each of my students. I understand that a four-year institution might not always be the best choice, but also that it might be a great choice!

Most of the students are looking to pursue a certificate or associate degree at the local community college. With that being said, some of them plan on transferring to a four-year institution to complete their bachelor’s degree. A majority of the students will work during enrollment in school and already do great with online learning. Community college is a great first step.

I am doing everything I can to help my students follow through on their goals. I have been learning more and more about skilled-trade certificate programs because those types of degrees are more exciting for some of the students at Relevant Academy.

 I want to make sure every student knows that I believe in them, as do their mentors (teachers), and every staff member at the academy. I also make myself available to help any student who has already graduated this school year. Relevant Academy remains a resource for students whether they are currently enrolled in the school, or graduates out in the real world.