MARQUETTE - People throughout Marquette and Alger counties are coming together in an effort to help more young people receive a higher education.
The Great Lakes Center for Youth Development has received an $8,000 planning grant to facilitate development of the Marquette Alger College Access Network.
The grant was awarded by the Michigan College Access Network with funds from the Kresge Foundation and U.S. Department of Education.
Though MACAN is still in its infancy as it undergoes initial planning phases, its current partners include Marquette, Gwinn, Munising and Burt Township schools, Marquette Alger Regional Educational Services Agency, Northern Michigan University, Big Brothers Big Sisters, YMCA, Lake Superior Community Partnership, Michigan Works!, Wattsson and Wattsson Jewelers and the Marquette County Community Foundation.
"We're assessing the need in Marquette and Alger counties in order to come up with a plan. The hope is to coordinate services around young people accessing and succeeding in post-secondary education," said GLCYD Youth Development Associate Linda Remsburg. "Not necessarily a four-year degree, though that would be part of it. But also, other significant kinds of training after high school."
According to GLYCD, 35.6 percent of Michigan's 25- to 64-year-olds hold at least an associate's degree, ranking Michigan 33rd among all states. The national average is 37.9 percent.
Remsburg said the network could include things such as mentoring, tutoring, scholarship and career guidance.
"We're assessing the needs, looking at what already is happening in Marquette and Alger counties and determining where we could strengthen things, coming up with goals and objectives and determining what we want this to look like and how it will be organized," Remsburg said. "The overall goal is to have an educated workforce that will help economic development of the Upper Peninsula and keep our young people here in the U.P."
The planning stage will mostly likely run through the summer, Remsburg said, adding that MACAN will be able to apply for funding in the spring to help implement the network for the next year.
So far, MACAN has sent out an email to many local businesses and organizations, asking them to fill out a simple assessment, which will hopefully provide information on what measures are currently being taken to help young people enter and graduate from college.
"We've sent out an email ... so we can get a good handle on what all is going on out there and who is doing it," Remsburg said, adding that if people are doing things "to create this college-going culture" and haven't received an assessment survey they should contact her at email@example.com to provide information on their program or even become a part of the network.
MCAN originally worked on its own form networks around the state, trying to increase Michigan's post-secondary educational attainment rate to 60 percent by 2025. However, it recently began handing out grants as a form of support for local college access networks.
"(Forming a college access network) is something that we've been wanting to do, but it's also relatively new, this idea of the local college access network," Remsburg said.
For now, the network is not quite ready to begin doing the work it will take to help more young people get into and graduate from college, but Remsburg said she's looking forward to the day when it can start.
"There are young people out there that are having a hard time navigating getting into college and being successful once they get there," she said. "The GLYCD has a real focus on so-called, 'vulnerable' or 'under-served youth.' We hope with this offer that we'll be able to reach those kids that need extra support."
Remsburg said she wanted to encourage anyone interested in being involved with MACAN to contact her.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.