Release Date: 
Wednesday, April 1, 2020

HFC student speaks at Advocacy Training and Hill Day in Washington, D.C.

HFC student William Mercer (left) and Dr. Ashley Johnson (right), Executive Director of DCAN, presented at the NCAN Advocacy Training and Hill Day last month in Washington, D.C.
HFC student William Mercer (left) and Dr. Ashley Johnson (right), Executive Director of DCAN, presented at the NCAN Advocacy Training and Hill Day last month in Washington, D.C.

William Mercer, a first-generation college student attending HFC, spoke at the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) Advocacy Training and Hill Day March 2-3 in Washington, D.C.

This member-only training provided a tremendous professional development opportunity for students from all over the nation to learn from policy experts, meet fellow NCAN members, and prepare for congressional meetings.

Advocating for policies to promote college success

Mercer and Dr. Ashley Johnson, Executive Director of Detroit College Access Network (DCAN) advocated for policies to promote college access and success for students. They also had an opportunity to meet with representatives from the offices of Michigan's two U.S. senators, Debbie Stabenow, Gary Peters, and with Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence.

Mercer described to Michigan policy leaders what it was like to ride up to eight buses a day to go to HFC or go to work. A single ride could take up to 2 hours from the east side of Detroit to HFC in Dearborn. He also relied upon the Hawks’ Nest, the College’s on-campus food pantry, to assist with meals.

Excelling as a full-time student working two jobs

“While working one job wasn’t enough to keep me afloat with bills outside of school, I decided to take advantage of the work study program by becoming a mentor on campus. I worked two jobs, 56 hours a week, and still maintained decent grades in five classes,” said Mercer.

Despite these hardships, Mercer, an alumnus of University Prep Science and Math High School in Detroit, is scheduled to graduate at the end of the current semester, earning an associate degree in accounting.

Mercer also asked policymakers to consider increasing the Pell Grant, as well as wages for the work study program. Mercer's work-study job paid minimum wage for 16 hours per week.

“Also, I want to point the focus on the K-12 system as it relates to college readiness,” he said. “I believe we should have more programs that teach students early in high school -- not just 11-12th grade -- about FAFSA, the differences between a community college and a university, and just basic college knowledge.”