SDSU launches program supporting school counselors in Michigan

by Jayne Yutig, Staff Writer

San Diego State launched the School Counselor Fellows Program in partnership with the Michigan College Access Network.

This first in the nation program will provide Michigan school counselors with mentorship and training aimed at increasing postsecondary college enrollment. This partnership with SDSU will also focus on how counselors can support students in the face of increasing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

MCAN said in a press release, “Fellows will investigate how the pandemic, mental health and wellness, and equity driven practices influence college and career readiness and postsecondary planning. They will develop action-oriented plans to increase practices that best support students as they navigate their postsecondary path in an erratic and changing environment.”

Rakiba Mitchell is a school counselor, educator, and one of thirteen fellows from Michigan that will partner with SDSU in the two-year long program. During her fellowship she plans on gaining resources that she can deploy at home in Detroit, MI to support a community that has endured crippling effects from the pandemic. 

“My students also do not have access to quality technology or health care — both of which are essential,” Mitchell said. “COVID devastated my city, ravaged my community and it is not finished.”

Mitchell’s new normal is virtually serving 450 high school students as her school’s only school counselor. A normal day of the week would be daunting for some counselors. However, Mitchell’s goal during the fellowship is to leave her comfort zone behind. She sees the program as an opportunity to engage and have the necessary and truthful conversations with other educators in her field.

“I believe that our responsibility is not about our personal comfort, it is to push past it and grow. Our students will not benefit from counselors who are ‘comfortable’,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell continued, “San Diego State gives me the opportunity to resolve my discomforts so that I can walk away an even better counselor.” 

The School Counselor Fellows Program’s inaugural year begins as prospective and enrolled students nationwide are coping with surviving through the health, technological and economic implications of COVID-19. 

MCAN’s goals for the landmark program are aligned with the education goals for the state of Michigan being led by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: attain 60 percent of residents with a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2030.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that national college Fall 2020 enrollment is down 6% compared with the highest level of enrollment of 21 million students in 2010.

Despite the nationwide statistics, the partnership with SDSU begins during a time when the university is reporting it’s highest enrollment numbers in twelve years. 

MCAN Executive Director Ryan Fewins-Bliss described the new fellowship as being a future model for similar programs nationally.

“School counselors are key building leaders within their district and their community as they guide the postsecondary decision-making of their students,” Fewins-Bliss said in a statement. “We’re excited to lift up their work and empower them to help build the college access field for themselves and their peers through our partnership with the Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment.”

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