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Lessons from Professionals - The Benefits of Community College to University

We work with Michigan’s youth to inspire them to achieve their fullest potential in education and employment. Part of this work is to expose our young people to different options. Postsecondary education decisions aren’t always easy to make especially when youth aren’t exposed to all possible options. Rising tuition cost and record low university enrollment add to the questions and considerations youth face when making this decision. To help our youth understand one possible path, in May, a panel of professionals came together to share their educational journeys which all began at community college before transferring to a university.

Panelists Kevin Stotts, President of Talent 2025 and Youth Solutions board member, Jeremy Barnes-Smith, Mobile Software Engineer, and Marina Naddaf, Assistant Director, Coaching and Outreach with University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, all emphasized the personal attention they received at community college, which helped them mature and prepare for their transfer to a university. The small class sizes enabled all of the panelists to receive personal attention and the extra support needed as they began their postsecondary journey. As university tuition costs continue to rise, community college offers an affordable and flexible option. Jeremy Barnes-Smith was able to work full time while putting himself through Macomb Community College.

Marina Naddaf is the daughter of an immigrant, and a first-generation college student. She felt there was a stigma when she went to a community college and her friends went to a university. But ultimately it was the right decision for her and it better prepared her when she transferred to Michigan State University.

Kevin Stotts shared “I always recommend going to a community college first. If I were to do it all over again I would do exactly the same thing.”

The panelists also emphasized that there is no one right plan for everyone. Understanding the next steps to take toward the next desired goal helps determine that plan. We are grateful to the panelists for sharing their stories with our youth and giving them a look at a possible next step in their journey toward education and employment success.

This panel discussion, along with all other partner engagement recordings, are available on our website. Thanks to Ryan Fewins-Bliss, Executive Director of the Michigan College Access Network, who co-moderated this event with Elizabeth Bernhard, Partnership Engagement Manager with Youth Solutions. If you would like to partner with Youth Solutions, please visit our website for more information.


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