College network reaches out to students

Haley Gustafson | Daily Press From left, fifth-graders Nathan Young, Kostya Olson, and Austin Solis check out grasshoppers under a microscope during a biology demonstration during Fifth Grade Friday at Bay College in Escanaba Friday afternoon. Throughout the event, fifth graders from Holy Name Catholic School and James T. Jones Elementary toured the college, took part in demonstrations, and learned about career readiness. Fifth Grade Friday is a partnership between the Delta County College Access Network and Bay College.

ESCANABA –The Delta County College Access Network (DCCAN) has been providing college and career readiness programs for middle, junior and senior high students in the area since 2013.

DCCAN is a local branch of the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), which also promotes college and career exploration especially for low-income students, first generation college students, and minorities around the state. The overall goal of MCAN is to raise the current percentage rate of students seeking higher education, which sits at 44 percent.

According to Kathy Becker, director of DCCAN, MCAN’s goal is to raise that 44 percent to 60 percent by the year 2025. By 2018, 60 percent of jobs will require some type of credentials, added Becker.

Becker explained DCCAN is grant and donation funded by many local organizations, including the Community Foundation for Delta County, Hannahville 2 percent grant, Walmart, Escanaba and Gladstone Kiwanis, Bark River Lions Club, Sackerson Foundation, and Weyerhaeuser grant.

This funding allows DCCAN to provide grants to local high schools. One such grant, the Reach Higher Grant Support, gives Escanaba and Gladstone High Schools, and Nah Tah Wash PSA money to continue to provide college and career readiness resources.

“We try to fill the gap with programs and services to reach students to help give them direction,” she said. “DCCAN is a collective impact initiative focusing on collaboration and aligning the current and future efforts of K-12, higher education, workforce investment, community organizations, and business to provide residents with the tools necessary to succeed in school, in college, and in life.”

Becker also works with other school officials, such as Superintendent of the Delta Schoolcraft Intermediate School District (DSISD) Doug Leisenring, who is also the chairperson of the DCCAN executive team, Cathy Knight DSISD counselor, and counselors at Bark River Harris Gladstone, Nah Tah Wash PSA, and Escanaba schools.

Additionally, DCCAN helps host many programs with fifth graders in Delta County including Fifth Grade Friday at Bay College’s campus in Escanaba. Becker said over 500 students attend the program throughout the year, allowing them to learn and “plant the seed” to make goals, create a positive mind-set, and to let them know college or any kind of higher education is attainable. Becker coordinates with Jessica LaMarch, who is the director of admissions at Bay College in Escanaba.

“The goal is too get kids on campus,” said Becker.

While at Bay, Becker explained the fifth graders are involved with various activities such as campus tours and interactive seminars. The seminars, Becker noted, are five 20 minute sessions in areas such as nursing, communications, business, psychology, and more.

New this year to the DCCAN program is Career Exploration Day with all DSISD eighth graders where students spend half of the day at Bay College and the other portion at the DSISD. These activities are hands-on and interactive, noted Becker, adding starting to plan for higher education in eighth grade is vital because it is one step closer to high school where courses and grades could affect where the student heads next.

Not only do students tour the local college, but there are also opportunities to tour college’s around Michigan such as Northern Michigan University, Lake Superior State University, Central Michigan University, and others.

DCCAN also provides job shadowing opportunities with places in Escanaba and Gladstone with sophomore through senior students. Becker recently worked with AP biology students from Escanaba High School allowing them to see health related fields, educational fields, forestry, law enforcement, science, veterinary science, mortuary science, engineering, and many more.

“The goal is to open and close doors,” said Becker, adding when the students job shadow it gives them an opportunity to see if it is the career they really want.

“It’s a good experience,” Becker said.

On top of job shadowing, DCCAN, along with the area high schools, set up mock interviews for students so they can get a feel for the process. The students also learn how to properly write a resume, which is important when trying to land a dream job, Becker noted.

When the student is finally ready to chose their next step in education, Becker said DCCAN and the schools provide FASFA nights to help students and their parents see how much financial aid they can be given towards schooling.

Bark River Harris, Gladstone, Escanaba, and Hannahville all have part-time advisors guiding students along the path to success, said Becker, and DCCAN works along side of them.

“Education is costly but we know it is essential. So let’s direct our students so they’re using time and resources wisely,” said Becker.

Anyone interested in getting involved with DCCAN, can email Becker at