Tag Archives: Aquinas College

School News Network: College Access Network help makes higher ed a reality for Godwin students

Godwin Heights students celebrate being accepted into colleges.

By Erin Albanese

School News Network


Senior D’Nyszha Brand was accepted into six colleges: Baker College, Ferris State University, Wayne State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Aquinas College and Western Michigan University.


She’s decided to attend GRCC for her associate degree before transferring to a university, maybe Ferris, to major in business and minor in psychology. “It’s the cheapest way to go and I will save more money,” she said.


D’Nyszha said she probably wouldn’t have applied to so many colleges, or realized how to meet her postsecondary goals, if it weren’t for the Michigan College Access Network representative who helped her. Jeremy Bissett had an office at Godwin Heights for 20 hours a week until mid-spring, helping students apply, submit and complete all the other paperwork to get into college.


“It was very helpful because I would go to my mom and ask her what to do and she would say, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know,'” said D’Nyszha, who will be the first person in her family to go to college.


Bissett reminded her often about deadlines and what was required. “He helped me in so many ways. Not only did he help me with my (college) stuff, he taught me different life skills,” she said. Without him, she added, “I probably would have only applied to GRCC, honestly.”


From left, seniors Josiah Lozada and Maurie Vinson, MCAN adviser Jeremy Bissett, and seniors Mya Jordan and Mamie Hai celebrate college acceptance.

Accepted, Again and Again


At Godwin Heights, students recently gathered in the hallway wearing #accepted T-shirts to celebrate their “yes” notifications. A total of 111 of the 137 seniors, or 81 percent, were accepted at 27 colleges.


That’s a great start for students at Godwin Heights, where more than 80 percent come from financially disadvantaged families and 59 percent of seniors this year could be first-generation college-goers.


Godwin Heights received an Innovative Program Grant from MCAN to fund a dedicated college adviser, Bissett. It’s just one way the network supports Michigan schools in helping students access college.


“We are super proud of Godwin’s results,” said Sarah Anthony, MCAN deputy director for partnerships and advocacy. “We knew being in that community would be serving low-income, first-generation college students and students of color.”


The goal of Lansing-based MCAN is to increase the percentage of Michigan residents with degrees or postsecondary certificates to 60 percent by the year 2025. According to 2014 Census figures, 39.3 percent of Michigan’s 5.2 million working-age adults (ages 25-64) hold a two- or four-year college degree, an increase from the previous year’s rate of 38.4 percent. This is the sixth year in a row that Michigan’s degree attainment rate has increased.


College acceptance letters hang in the hallway of Godwin Heights High School.

But there’s work to be done. According to data from MCAN, out of every 100 ninth-graders in Michigan, 73 graduate from high school on time; 45 enroll into postsecondary education within 12 months of graduation; 32 persist from their first to their second year; and 18 graduate with a degree within six years.


According to Mischooldata.org, within six months of graduation, 55.8 percent of 2016 Godwin Heights grads were enrolled in a two- or four-year college or university.


Building a College-Prep Culture


Bissett spent much of his time meeting with students, ensuring they were on track with the application process and walking them through applications for financial aid.


“The biggest benefit I see with the MCAN partnership has been the one-on-one time,” said counselor Tish Stevenson. “An adult sitting down one-on-one is immensely important.”


Bissett said he was just a piece of the puzzle. At Godwin Heights, there’s a multi-pronged effort to prepare students. It includes college visits; work to improve literacy across all content areas; and preparing students for the workforce or college by developing communication and collaboration skills. Staff provides many opportunities to meet college representatives right at school.


“It’s putting that option in their purview,” said counselor Kristi Bonilla. “We get them in tangible contact with people and places.”


“I think they are establishing a culture there that is college prep, and are getting more students wanting to be engaged in that,” Bissett said. “They are doing great work.”


After being added to the state’s Priority Schools list in 2012, Godwin Heights also put many measures in place to boost achievement. In 2016, the high school received a five-year School Improvement Grant, approved by the Michigan Department of Education, that will include allocations of $750,000 a year for the first three years and $500,000 a year for the final two.


The work is paying off. The school was removed this year from the state’s Priority Schools list, and has climbed from a 0 percentile rank in 2012-2013 to a 27th percentile rank in 2015-2016.


Said high school data coach Kristin Haga, “We are moving in the right direction.”


Check out School News Network for more stories about students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan.

Diocese of Grand Rapids selects former Rogers Department Store official to position

A former Rogers Department Store official was recently named the new chief financial officer  for the Diocese of Grand Rapids.


Bishop David J. Walkowiak, bishop of Grand Rapids, has announced that Michael Lown will be taking over the role on Jan. 9.


Lown will be responsible for the broad range management of the diocese’s financial activities, human resources, information technology, investments, insurance, property, and legal matters. He will also work closely with parishes, schools, and related foundations.


“I am pleased to bring Michael on board,” said Bishop Walkowiak. “His previous experiences and commitment to the Catholic Church and community service make him an ideal candidate for this position.”


Before joining the diocese, Lown served as the corporate controller for The Motorcycle Company LLC in Grand Rapids. His previous experiences include accounting and finance positions with DP Fox LLC / FMG Holdings LLC and Rogers Department Store in the Greater Grand Rapids area.


In addition, Lown continues to volunteer many hours to Catholic organizations in the diocese, currently serving as treasurer on the Aquinas College Board of Trustees and as chair of the school board at Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School. He is a parishioner at Saint Thomas the Apostle in Grand Rapids.


Lown earned a bachelor’s degree from Aquinas College and is a certified public accountant (CPA) in the State of Michigan.

Circle Theatre hosts the Jellicle Ball as “CATS” opens its season

Those famous "CATS" are getting ready for the Jellicle Ball set to come to Circle Theatre this month.
Those famous “CATS” are getting ready for the Jellicle Ball set to come to Circle Theatre this month.

Circle Theatre will open its Main Stage season with a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “CATS” starting on Thursday, May 5 at 7:30 p.m.at the Aquinas College’s Performing Arts Center, 1607 Robinson Rd. SE.

Under the direction of Todd Avery, the 2016 Audience Choice Musical will take audience members on a visually breathtaking journey filled with heartfelt song, dance and impressive acrobatics paired with stunning makeup and elaborate costuming. “CATS” tells the story of the annual gathering of Jellicle cats at which one time, one special cat is selected to ascend to the Heaviside layer.  A true musical theatre phenomenon, “CATS” is one of the longest-running musicals in both West End and Broadway history.

“This season is particularly exciting because we are truly offering something for everyone and we’re also the first community theater in Grand Rapids to put on a production of ‘CATS’,” says Lynne Brown-Tepper, Managing Director of Circle Theatre. “The talent of both the performers and the production staff this season is one of the best I’ve seen in all of my 16 years at Circle.”

Audience members looking to delve even further into the “CATS” experience can “Meet the Cats” at a special meet-and-greet session with members of the cast following performances on May 7, 15 and 20. “Meet the Cats” tickets are $5 and include a mix and mingle for “paw-tographs” and a special photo op with select felines on the stage. Tickets are limited and can be purchase at the box office or online.

“Circle Theatre feels like home to so many people and we want to extend that to our audiences through our performances,” said Director Todd Avery. “You’ll see powerful acrobatics, plenty of awe-inspiring makeup and costuming choices and some incredibly talented vocalists fully embodying their feline character.  Audiences won’t want to miss any of it.”

2016 celebrates Circle’s 64th year of producing plays and musicals for West Michigan audiences. Other Main Stage productions this season include comedic farce “Perfect Wedding,” musical comedy “First Date” heartfelt comedic play “Over the River and Through the Woods,” jukebox spoof comedy musical “Rock of Ages.” Circle Theatre attendees can also look forward to the Magic Circle family production of classic tale “Charlotte’s Web.” Circle’s unique and diverse Summer Concert Series performances include “Any Way You Want It: Arena Rock Anthems,” “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough: The Music of Michael Jackson,” “Made in the Mitten: Michigan Music Greats” and “Classic to Cosmopolitan: Nashville Past & Present.” All performances will be held at Aquinas College Performing Arts Center.

“CATS” shows are May 6 and 7, 11-14, 18-21 at 7:30 p.m. and May 15 at 5 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the box office at 616-456-6656 or visit Circle’s website www.circletheatre.org.

Calling All Colors Looking for Volunteers

Caling All ColorsAre you passionate about promoting racial equity? This is your chance to make a difference in the life of a student!

Calling All Colors has an urgent need for volunteers to facilitate a small group dialogue at our upcoming middle and high school conferences. It’s fun! It’s easy! It’s rewarding!

Volunteers are provided with all dialogue materials and may be paired with a co-facilitator if preferred. Just 2.5 hours of your time will have a lifetime impact on a middle or high school student.

Invite your friends, family and co-workers to get involved!

Calling All Colors fosters inclusive school communities through a year-long program that features two conferences, creates a safe place to talk about race, and provide tools for increasing positive racial impacts for middle and high school students.

Calling All ColorsVolunteers are needed at the following fall conferences from 9 – 11:30 a.m.:

  • Lakeshore middle school conference – Monday, October 5, Hope College, Holland
  • Lakeshore high school conference – Tuesday, October 6, Hope College, Holland
  • Kent County high school conference – Tuesday, October 20, Aquinas College, Grand Rapids

Volunteers are welcome to assist at one or more conferences.

To better prepare for the small group dialogue, volunteers are encouraged to attend a training session. Alternative training is available if you are unable to attend a training session.

  • Monday, September 28, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., Hope College, Holland
  • Wednesday, October 14, 5;30 – 6:30 p.m., Aquinas College, Grand Rapids

Click here to sign up to volunteer or email program director Sarah Salguera at program@ethnicdiversity.org, or call 616.846.9074.