Farewell For Now: Reflections on a Year-Long NCAN Internship

August 31, 2017

By Courtney Argenti, Graduate Policy Intern

In my first-ever NCAN blog, I wrote that after my first week here I was “inspired by the ambition and passion within the National College Access Network.” Now, one year later, I am writing my last blog as NCAN’s graduate policy intern and am leaving with that same inspiration. Before I start (briefly) reminiscing on what I have learned working at NCAN, I must say, “thank you,” to each of you – NCAN staff, members, students, and other college access professionals – for the work that you do. You are the true inspiration.

Working at NCAN has been an exciting and professionally maturing experience. This – for one – is because NCAN staff and leaders of NCAN member organizations are the greatest colleagues in the college access field (no, I am not biased). In collaborating with NCAN staff, leaders of NCAN member organizations, and students, I have learned how to keep underserved students at the forefront of every policy conversation. This, I think, is one of the most valuable tools in our work. Why? Because it is the first step of sustainable change.  

My experience here began – as Carrie Warick, director of policy and advocacy, put it – with a “test by fire” at the 2016 NCAN National Conference in Detroit. I jumped right in at the conference and learned from the workshop sessions and from individuals while networking with the more than 1,000 attendees. Shortly after we returned to D.C., I began covering high school Free Application for Federal Student Aid completion rates in the new era of “Early FAFSA” – the college access field’s term for the shift in the FAFSA’s application cycle opening from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1.

Being a part of the push to #FixFAFSA has been one of the most exciting and beneficial parts of my experience here. It has been motivating to see so many organizations across regions and states collaborate to improve student outcomes. Take Utah for example, where the Utah System of Higher Education and others across the state worked hard over the past year to significantly improve high school FAFSA completion rates. Or, Florida College Access Network, which – alongside others – pushed for the change to make Federal Student Aid FAFSA completion data more accurate by including 19-year-olds in the high school count. If you are still not impressed, look to California where already-high FAFSA completion rates continued to rise this season and NCAN members like Southern California College Access Network, UNITE-LA and the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, and the California Student Aid Commission mitigated post-presidential election fear surrounding the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

There are hundreds of other individuals and organizations who do tremendous work like this each and every day. As I move on from this internship position to finish my last year of my master's program focused on education policy, I am grateful and humbled to have worked with you to promote change from the top and at the grassroots.

So, thank you again and farewell for now!

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