Published: May 13, 2015

MSU grads help high school seniors chart a path to success

By: Melissa Delekta Media Communications melissa.delekta@cabs.msu.eduContact(s): Penny Davis Media Communications office: (517) 355-5158

If Jenny O’Neal and Ruben Watson decide that you are the right fit to join the Michigan State University College Advising Corps do not expect to hear the words, “you’re hired.” Instead you’ll hear you have been, “selected to serve.” It is with this mentality that O’Neal and Watson, the program coordinators, set out to select the best candidates to partner with underserved Michigan high schools.

Beginning in 2012, the corps is a unique partnership between Michigan State University, AmeriCorps, National College Advising Corps, Michigan College Access Network, and community partners. It places recent MSU graduates as full-time college advisers in Michigan’s underserved high schools. Once placed in the high schools, advisers will have the goal of meeting with every high school senior in order to put together a post secondary education plan.

“We consider any plan after high school a success if a student comes out with a degree or credential,” O’Neal said. “Whether that be attending a 4- year or 2- year college, trade school, or enlisting in the military.”

MSUCAC is working toward the same goal as President Obama’s, which is that the nation should once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. They are working to have at least 60 percent of the Michigan population holders of either a degree or certification by the year 2025.

Laura Klinger served as an adviser for two years at Capac and Yale High Schools, both in St. Clair County. After her graduation from Michigan State she did not want to be a part of the “brain drain” from Michigan. She found the corps to be the perfect way to stay in Michigan while fulfilling her passion for helping all students have an equal chance at education. This ties in perfectly with the mission of the corps, which is, “every student deserves the opportunity to enter and complete higher education.”

“When I compared what my friends were doing in their entry level positions I realized how much responsibility I was given,” Klinger said. “I probably would not have been able to find that in another position right out of college.”

The corps is becoming such a success that it is only able to serve a portion of the schools that have requested advisers. When the program does look to expand to a new school it prioritizes schools where at least 50 percent of the students qualify for a free or reduced lunch rate. It also looks to cluster advisers close to a school where an adviser is already serving.

While Michigan State is willing to support the growth of the program O’Neal and Watson want to make sure that it remains at a capacity that they can maintain the quality.

“If we are going to grow we are going to do it well and with success,” Watson said.