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AmeriCorp Members Bring New Programs to Oceana

<September 2, 2016> With 30% of Oceana children under 18 living in poverty and only one in five of our high school students successfully completing a college degree or technical credential, local partners are looking for new ways to challenge community culture. To help confront Oceana’s education challenges and overcome poverty barriers, the Community Foundation for Oceana County is partnering with CEDAM (Community Economic Development Association of Michigan) as a host site for a new AmeriCorps position in Oceana County. Hannah Kostal, of Hart (photo, left), was hired in August to fill this position.

Kostal will provide program support for the Foundation and the Oceana CAN! (College Access Network).  She will lead the creation and implementation of a new early childhood literacy program, based on the successful “Read Early, Read Often” program that was started in Muskegon. Kostal will also assist in designing a college-positive mentoring program for our high school youth, as well as first-year college freshman, as a new program for the Oceana CAN!.

“I enjoy working with children and young people and am excited about the opportunity to create programs that will assist them in growing as unique individuals” enthused Kostal. She is working towards finishing her second degree from West Shore Community College in Liberal Arts & Sciences. Her first degree is in Baking & Pastry Arts from Baker College, where she also served as a mentor in Baker’s first year college mentorship program. She is creative and passionate about reading, drawing, theatre, and self-expression as a form of art.

Further staff expansion at Shelby and Hart High Schools will support students in the complex navigation towards college and provide much needed support to the counseling staff.  These two schools were selected by Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) to receive an AmeriCorps College Advisor through the AdviseMI program. Caroline Cousineau, of Gregory, MI, (photo, right) will split her time between the two high schools to best serve our rural area.

“We look forward to collaborating with her as she takes an active role in helping students identify their interests and skills, explore career possibilities, and prepare a path for themselves through a higher education program that will give them the credentials they will need to be successful in the job market,” said Alyssa Merten, Oceana CAN! program coordinator.

Cousineau is a 23 year-old recent Ferris State Alumni with a degree in Public Relations. She enjoys waterskiing and has competed at a collegiate level. She also has a passion for all forms of art including painting and woodworking. “I am very excited for the role I will play throughout this school year at Hart and Shelby. I was a student that took a few side steps before finding out what I wanted to do in college. I started out a four year university (Ferris) studying pre-med, then decided to attend a community college to purse a certification and EMT license. After that, I studied business at the same community college and transferred back to Ferris to finish my degree in public relations. I want to help students see how many different career options are out there, besides the ones they know about. My hope is to equip students here to be successful,” explained Cousineau.

“The Foundation is excited about having these two young women on board to increase higher education preparedness and enhance the dialogue that surrounds post-secondary learning. We hope that our community will embrace all that these new AmeriCorps members have to offer, and with the warm enthusiasm that is so common in our community,” said Tammy Carey, Foundation executive director.

Anyone interested in helping Kostal with the Read Early, Read Often program or serving as a student mentor, is encouraged to give her a call at the Foundation office at 231-861-8335.