Pathways to Potential puts services in Michigan schools to help students succeed

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Every student in Michigan has the potential to achieve their dreams, but sometimes barriers outside the classroom stand in the way, leading to problems with attendance, health, safety, self-sufficiency and overall education. Pathways to Potential is a State of Michigan program designed to provide students and their families with the help they need to eliminate those barriers so students can succeed.

It used to be that if a family needed assistance from the State of Michigan, they would have to go to a state office to get it. That left too many problems unsolved, especially when help was needed most. In 2012, Governor Snyder created the Pathways program to bring services directly to families. It’s a people-centric approach that puts case workers—who are called success coaches-- directly into schools in order to give students a convenient, comfortable environment to get the help that they need.

For example, a student might be chronically absent from school, but the cause of that truancy might not be easy to see. Another student might always be distracted in the classroom, unable to focus on their work. With success coaches in the schools, they can find the root cause of those problems and work to solve them.

“When they come to see me, they have an open door,” said Ingrid McGowan, a success coach at East English Preparatory Academy in Detroit. “This is much more inviting than going to some government office.”

Finding employment, affordable day care, tutoring services or any other essential can be difficult for some families, so success coaches work one-on-one with students and families to connect them to a network of services.

Gearramia Coffey, a student leader at East English Preparatory Academy in Detroit, said that when some students go home from school, they face a new set of challenges. And that’s where success coaches like McGowan can play a supportive role.

“I’m helping any student, any family here at East English School,” McGowan said. “I may help someone with a foreclosure, an eviction notice, transportation, bus tickets—whatever they need to succeed.”

“It’s not just another staff member, it’s not just another social worker who comes in and just does their job,” Coffey said.  “Our entire lives have been turned around because of what Ms. McGowan has done for me.”

Pathways to Potential is exactly the type of program that Governor Snyder spoke about in his State of the State address when he charted a new goal in the reinvention of Michigan’s government – changing the way our state delivers services so that all Michiganders have the opportunity to succeed and be part of the the River of Opportunity.

For the past 50 or 60 years, we’ve tried to solve problems by creating new programs. Each program focuses on a segment of someone’s life without looking at the root of a person’s problem and understanding what’s holding them back from success.  As a result, people are maintained in a status quo, outside of the River of Opportunity.

The River of Opportunity will reorganize the way government does business from a people point of view – to focus on the person and solve their problems.

Pathways is only one example of how the River of Opportunity will fundamentally change the way state governments works for the people.  In a second term, Governor Snyder is committed to helping every Michigander return to be part of the River of Opportunity.

"The River of Opportunity is about creating opportunities for success, not facilitating dependency," Governor Snyder said during his 2015 State of the State address. "Our mission? To help people succeed, not build government programs that spend."