Hey folks! I’m Matt Sehrsweeney, working for the Wayne County College Access Network (WCCAN) in Taylor, MI just a bit downriver from Detroit. As with everyone else, I’ve stayed busy over the past few months. WCCAN works with all public and charter high schools in Wayne County, meaning that the structure of my relationships with the community is slightly different than that of most other VISTAs. With nearly 50 high schools to serve, most of our work is not direct, on the ground planning, training, and organizing, but rather higher level capacity building, aligning the efforts of a wide array of agents in the world of college access, from leaders in K-12 education to local and national non-profits. My two supervisors and I comprise the only employees of the organization, but our initiatives are guided by a robust leadership team made up of over 30 local college access champions, from superintendents to college presidents to local business owners.
My work week to week is variable, shaped by the immediate needs of the organization and my strengths on given projects (my awesome supervisors allow me significant flexibility in my primary focuses). I’ve worked on newsletters, planning our county-wide events like Manufacturing Day and our regional college fair, managing social media, and maintaining close communication with our county’s MCAN college advisers to facilitate their access to all the college access and success resources and information that our region has to offer. One broad theme in my contribution to forwarding WCCAN’s mission has been organizational sustainability. Early on, I found a strength in grant writing, and have since had ample opportunity to hone my skills and broaden my understanding of the grant process, thus far contributing to four different grants that have cumulatively brought in over $300,000 to the college access network and related workforce development programs. Grants don’t last forever, though, and I have also been working with our sustainability team to design and implement strategies to reach out to our community stakeholders, including K-12 districts, colleges, and businesses, to invite them on board as financially contributing partners. My work thus far with WCCAN has opened my eyes to the complex nature of the structural barriers to securing post-secondary credentials, and the impressive, coordinated work to combat these injustices led by local champions of college access. I’m excited for what’s in store for the rest of the year!