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Goodbye, Onjila!

Farewell from our Deputy Director, Onjila Odeneal

When I embarked on this journey 4 years ago, I never imagined the road would lead me here. I left higher ed to focus on college access and success strategy in a more intentional way as many of the barriers that students faced in higher ed could truly be mitigated by the appropriate systems, structures, support, and knowledge in the secondary arena.

It was important for me to plant seeds and make an impact at home first! So I am forever grateful to Dr. Ashley Johnson for bringing me aboard and allowing me to serve my hometown through her leadership. While I crossed many paths prior to my time at DCAN in higher ed, it has been such a great experience to be in a position to support you all in affecting change for our students and the city of Detroit. As a first-gen, only gen, minority, low-income student from the inner city of Detroit, I not only have the lived experiences of our traumas, challenges, and triumphs but have been afforded the opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless through DCAN in spaces where decisions are made. With the transparency and commitment of colleagues, partners, funders, and professionals, the time you've allowed me to learn from you, understand your needs, advocate for you but most importantly to earn your trust... I want to say thank you! You all have and will continue to push me to be a better professional and advocate in this fight for not only the needs of our youth and families but also the needs of the village that surrounds them (YOU!).

While it is with a heavy heart that I depart from my role as Deputy Director at DCAN, I will continue to surge forward in this work through educational policy, as the Director of Policy and Advocacy (Michigan) for The Institute of College Access and Success (TICAS). So this is not a goodbye but a see you later! It has been a rewarding experience being a part of the growth at DCAN and the DCAN team. Cyekeia Lee is going to do amazing things in leading the organization forward given our many conversations and her commitment to this work! I hope to see you all again and will ensure that my new contact information is shared once available.

I know these past few years have been a struggle, especially through the pandemic but we at DCAN and the children and families in Detroit are forever indebted to your presence and continued support for what students need! Keep your heads high and your hearts at peace as the tides will soon calm for the push forward as a community! Many blessings, Onjila

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