I’m a former teacher and school administrator, Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Michigan State Representative, and now a proud member of my local LCAN, the Genesee County College Access Network. As a new member, I recently had the privilege to participate in the Maritime Academy training provided by the Michigan College Access Network.

I had already attended a few meetings of my local LCAN before officially coming on board, making it refreshing to confirm that we are on the right track for making real change when it comes to getting our students to college. As a new organization, we’re continuing the process of getting fully up to speed. We have just finished our asset map (although this is a fluid document) and we are looking at where the barriers to education lie in our county. 

I am thankful to have the opportunity to work together with other like-minded leaders to find solutions. I am also grateful that in Genesee County our Intermediate School District is our anchor, so many of the organizational systems are already set.

It was interesting listening to the other groups talk about what they are finding as a result of their research into the same major questions we face throughout the state: How do we get students to sign up for college in the first place? How do we keep them there once they show up in the fall?

What I found most interesting from listening to the others in the group is that many of us are identifying the same underlying issues creating serious barriers to pursuing higher education: FAFSA completion. As a State Representative, I can take that information and work on legislation to help overcome this persistent concern. We know that in states like Tennessee, where free college is offered the first two years following high school, FAFSA completion skyrockets. This not only gets to the heart of MCAN’s mission, but results in a more educated citizenry. In Michigan, this proposed legislation is called the “MI Opportunity Initiative.” This will allow eligible high school students who receive a B average grade or higher to have their community college tuition covered if they complete the FAFSA.

I am working hard to get bipartisan support for this initiative; and in the meantime, I’m working within my GCAN to make sure all stakeholders are represented and heard. I appreciate the training I received at Maritime Academy and look forward to continued growth and support of all Michigan students.

State Representative Sheryl Y. Kennedy serves District 48 and is a member of the Genesee County College Access Network and attended Advanced Maritime Academy. 

Local College Access Networks (LCANs)

 are community-based college access alliances supported by a team of community and education leaders representing K-12, higher education, the nonprofit sector, government, business and philanthropy. These networks are committed to building a college-going culture and dramatically increasing college readiness, participation and completion rates within their community. Each year, individuals working in an LCAN attend Maritime Academy, where they undergo a rigorous, three-day comprehensive training in order to strengthen their college access strategy.