Eight years ago, the Foundation coordinated local stakeholders, including educators, employers, non-profit agencies, and other community partners, to address the educational issues that are an intrinsic part of living in a poor, rural county. Graduation rates are low. Young adults do not pursue post-secondary education, including college or certification. Employers cannot find qualified applicants for open positions and unemployment rates are high.
Out of their discussions, the Oceana College Access Network (OCAN) was formed to help alleviate poverty, improve our local workforce, and build a vibrant economy. OCAN is working to ensure all students, including adult learners, are prepared for and have access to post-secondary education and training. OCAN is building a culture of learning, lowering systemic barriers, and increasing family engagement. It also has coordinated a set of college access and mentoring services for students, particularly those who come from low-income families and/or those who are first in their families to pursue a college degree or valuable credential.
The Foundation acts as the fiscal partner and provides important leadership capabilities. OCAN is also supported by the state-wide Michigan College Access Network with grants and resources.
The OCAN Coordinator leads the work of the action teams. These teams are comprised of on-the-ground service providers who bring programs such as Students in the Workplace, the College & Career Fair, College Application Day & FAFSA workshops, and campus visits to Oceana students. The OCAN budget also helps to support the College Advisor serving Hart & Shelby schools and the AmeriCorps VISTA member developing additional mentoring opportunities.
The College & Career Compass Mentor Program connects high school juniors with working professionals from area businesses for an 8-week program. Mentors meet with small groups of students for 40-minute sessions focusing on goal setting and college and career planning. Additionally, this program includes a speaking series where these mentors are speaking to groups of sophomores about soft skills such as communication and problem-solving skills. Another new effort of OCAN focuses on compiling a database of area businesses who self-profile their interests and capacity to engage with area students to educate both the current and future workforce.
Currently, only 25% of working-aged adults in Oceana County hold an associate’s degree or higher (compared to 45% in the state). Considering over 64% of West Michigan jobs will require a degree or credential by 2025, it is imperative to equip all students with the resources and mindset to pursue and complete higher education after high school. Current statistics reveal that while 97% of Oceana’s high school graduates fill out at least one college application, only 66% enroll and only 33% actually complete a program or acquire a degree. This is a long-term effort and we continue to observe progress on all tracked metrics. To view the Oceana CAN! dashboard and learn more about this initiative, visit www.oceanacan.org.
You can help build a culture of college & career readiness and success by making an online gift here.
Read early. Read often.
Together with community partners, we initiated Read early. Read often. to better prepare our children for success in learning and in life.Learn More
Oceana Employer Resource Network
A network of local employers came together to grapple with issues like turnover, productivity, training and employee retention.Learn More
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