Oceana CAN helps residents further their education for rewarding careers.

February 15, 2022

Oceana CAN Program Coordinator Alyssa Merten

Oceana CAN helps residents further their education for rewarding careers.

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OCEANA COUNTY — Many people who finish high school don’t go onto college or other training. Or, they start a program; life gets in the way; and they have to give it up. Does that sound familiar?

The Oceana College Access Network (Oceana CAN) and the Community Foundation for Oceana County (CFOC) have some good news for you.

Oceana County residents can access many state and federal programs for education, plus some specialized funding sources, to help find a better job or start a path to a rewarding career. “Oceana CAN will help you navigate the resources that are available, as well as give you a hand in preparing your applications,” states an Oceana CAN press release. “But the reason to think about this right now is that there are several special programs available through multiple funding streams to address the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic.”

MiLEAP, the Michigan Learning and Education Advancement Program, is part of a U.S. Department of Education grant, distributed by Michigan Works! West Central, to help job seekers “take the leap” from education and training to high-skill, high-wage careers.

The goal of MiLEAP is to engage individuals who have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, and develop meaningful opportunities for them to connect to the labor market. People who were employed at the beginning of the pandemic but did not have training credentials were potentially the first to be laid off. “Reports show that 64 percent of jobs in west Michigan will require education beyond a high school diploma.”

MiLEAP funds assist job seekers transitioning from short- and mid-term training programs into high-skill, high-wage careers with industry-recognized credentials. Michigan Works! West Central also may be able to provide supportive services for those who qualify to help remove barriers to complete programming, such as help with housing, child care, transportation, technology or food insecurity. Their MiLEAP Navigator will provide guidance, support and assessments throughout their time in the program.

Launched by the State of Michigan a year ago, Michigan Reconnect is a scholarship program that pays for you to attend your in-district community college tuition free. “It’s a little trickier for Oceana County residents as we don’t have an in-district community college — but enrolling still provides a path to drastically reduced tuition.” It is the largest effort in state history to ensure that more than 4.1 million Michiganders who are 25 or older and do not have a college degree will have an opportunity to earn a tuition-free associate degree or skills certificate.

Michigan Reconnect will pay the cost of tuition for eligible adults who want to pursue an associate degree, and skills scholarships for careers in high demand in industries such as manufacturing, construction, information technology, healthcare or business management.

For example, Michigan Reconnect recently held a special seminar for people interested in pursuing a degree or credential in early childhood education, including child care center teaching staff, preschool teachers, family child care providers, group homeowners, center directors, early childhood professionals and administrators. These folks would have the opportunity to meet their personal professional development goals while still working.

The Michigan Equity, Courage, Hope, and Opportunity (MI ECHO) Scholarship is a bit more specialized. This scholarship is only for people who cannot access federal financial aid and who worked on the frontlines at any time during the COVID-19 pandemic. The candidate must be eligible for acceptance into an approved certificate or associate degree program and cannot have previously earned an associate or bachelor’s degree in any country. The funds are intended for individuals who cannot access federal financial aid, such as DACA, Temporary Protected Status immigrants (TPS), Asylum pending, or Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ]).

“And, right here at home in Oceana County, thanks to generous donors who are your neighbors and friends, the Community Foundation for Oceana County offers Adult Student Scholarships to local residents who have been out of high school for at least a year or have a gap in their post-secondary education.” These adults must be attending a community college to be eligible. While these scholarships are not full tuition coverage as the above opportunities may be, scholarships are able to assist in supporting in-district versus out-of-district tuition costs, or a little extra boost to a financial aid package. Apply at www.oceanafoundation.org.

For more information and to apply for any of these programs visit www.oceanacan.org and click on the link for “Adults to College” or contact the Community Foundation for Oceana County office by emailing danielle@oceanafoundation.org or calling (231) 869-3377.

“We’re happy to be your personal guide to taking advantage of these great opportunities.”

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