10 Things Young People Should Know How to do

Even though many high school seniors are extremely excited to be moving on to college and being away from home and their parents for the first time in their lives, there's a few things they need be aware of or skills they should know before they leave the nest. Here's my list of things that I wish I would've known before I went to college that helped me throughout my college years and even as an adult.
  1. Wash, dry and iron clothes
  2. Cook basic meals – spaghetti, grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers
  3. Organize and keep safe personal information – get a safe!!!
  4. Keep track of all logins – personal emails, school emails, bank account info., FAFSA log ins etc.
  5. Handle financial accounts – checking, savings, CD’s. Know how to write a check, don’t bounce checks
  6. Write thank you notes
  7. Put together a resume and cover letter
  8. Put gas in the car, change a tire, general car maintenance (or at least know when you need to take it in for repair…don’t ignore any “check engine” lights or weird noises)
  9. Make doctors appointments without relying on mom to make the appointment for you
  10. Ask for help 


Lupe - ICAN Hiawatha & Davenport Centers

Apprenticeships - an alternative to four more years.



Do you learn best by working in the field?
Do you prefer hands on training vs studying a book?
Does the concept “earn while you learn” appeal to you?
Does the thought of student debt make you sick to your stomach?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, consider an apprenticeship.  An apprenticeship can prepare you for the career of choice by gaining real world experience in the field. You will get first-hand knowledge of how the industry works by observing and assisting experienced professionals.  After you complete your training program you are off on your own.  And the best part…you will be earning $$$$, typically 50 to 60 percent of your eventual wages, from the get go. 

Sounds too good to be true right?  Keep in mind, companies and businesses will invest a good deal of time and money into the individuals they choose for these programs.  You must interview for an apprenticeship just like you would for a job.  This is not like an internship where you are exploring career interests for a good fit.  People choose to start out as an apprentice because they intend to stay in that career field for a long time.  So, early research for job compatibility is essential.  You need to enter into an apprenticeship program with the expectation of working for that company or organization.  In some cases a company may have the apprentice under contract for a specified period of time after the training program is complete.  And YES, you still may be required to study and take tests.  To be in compliance with current industry standards, a trainee may need to be certified in their field.   This of course varies from job to job so don’t throw out those number two pencils just yet. Understanding the requirements of a profession is just another reason why prior career research is important.

Most apprenticeships available now are for workers in the skilled trade industries such as electricians, carpenters, HVAC techs, plumbers, and pipe fitters.  However, the apprenticeship model can be applied to many different career fields and new opportunities are popping up every day. These may include information technology, healthcare, transportation, and advanced manufacturing. Get started by going online to company websites for apprenticeship openings.  They will list the application process, job expectations, compensation, and other requirements.  Go to www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov for more information on The Iowa Registered Apprenticeship system.  Also try https://www.indeed.com/q-Apprenticeship-l-Iowa-jobs.html for a listing of open apprenticeships in Iowa.




Jessica - ICAN Ankeny Center

First Year of College - A Freshman's Experience

The following is an interview with Abby Mulholland. Abby has just completed her freshman year at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. Let’s take a closer look at how Abby’s freshman year has gone.

Shea: What is your major? How did you choose it?

Abby: Currently, I am working towards my associate science degree at Kirkwood. I chose this degree because I plan on majoring in Biology to become a doctor.

Shea: What was the best thing about your first year of college?

Abby: When I first came to Kirkwood I joined a group called Student Ambassadors which has led me to the best experience for my first year of college. In this group I have met a majority of the people I now call my close friends. Our main role as Student Ambassadors is to reach out to motivated students to come join us at Kirkwood, the college we call home. Outside of our campus visits, the group participates in many social events such as movie nights, hockey games, and forming a student section at all of our athletic events. By getting involved with such an amazing group, I have had an amazing freshman year.

Shea: The worst?

Abby: The worst thing about my freshman year was realizing I was ACTUALLY going to have to sit down and study for my classes. My high-school experience was very laid back and came easily to me, so when I got my first test score back I realized I was going to buckle down. From many hours spent in the library I found what study mechanisms work best for me.

Shea: Was the transition difficult academically? What was the biggest difference between high school classes and college classes?

Abby: The transition was smooth once I learned how to manage my time. In order to be successful in college you will need to spend a lot of time going over the material taught in the lectures. Kirkwood also offers many great places to study and get help with anything you could be struggling with! The biggest difference between high school and college classes was the amount of time spent learning. In high school, teachers will pass out work sheets to make sure the students are grasping the overall message, but in college the professors expect you to do these types of things outside of class.

Shea: How important is attendance in college?

Abby: I am a firm believer that there is a positive correlation between a high grade and good attendance. With each lecture comes a new chapter, and unless you are willing to try to teach yourself a full chapter without the guidance of your professor explaining it to you, I would highly recommend attending class. Also, professors are more likely to bump a grade or write a letter of recommendation for a student they see in class every lecture.

Shea: Did you work on-campus your freshman year?

Abby: I personally did not work on campus. I worked at an after-school program through one of the surrounding elementary schools. A lot of my friends worked on campus at the recreational center and the admissions office.

Shea: How do you manage your time?

Abby: I kept a planner with me at all times. I always wrote down exactly what I would be doing for every hour of the day. Although this may seem like a lot of work, it kept me on track with homework and allowed me extra time to work out or hangout with friends.

Shea: Did you know your roommate before you got to college? How has your roommate
situation worked out?

Abby: I currently live in a four bedroom apartment. I came out to Kirkwood with two friends from back home and then another girl was assigned to the apartment with us. We all hit it off right away. They are now the closet friends I have. It was very easy to live with the girls because everyone cleaned up after themselves and when a problem did arise we talked it out maturely.

Shea: If you could go back and change anything about your freshman year of college, would you?

Abby: I wouldn’t change a thing about my freshman year. I loved the experience and the people I met. Any mistake I made was simply a learning experience! Nothing will ever be completely perfect, and that is what makes the journey so memorable.


Shea - ICAN Hiawatha Center

John Maxwell: Five Levels of Leadership



One of the most influential books that I have ever read is a book by leadership guru John Maxwell: Developing the Leader Within You.  Developing your leadership abilities is vital in becoming successful and in helping your organization grow and achieve its goals.  I highly recommend this book to you.

Maxwell makes it clear that leadership is influence. “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk,” says Maxwell.  As a result, Maxwell has developed his Five Levels of Leadership.

1.       Position – Rights: people follow you because they have to.  This is the lowest level of leadership and the least productive level.  You are not a leader but a boss.  When people follow you because they have to, they will only do what is required but little extra.  A good leader has to take steps to get quickly to the second level. 

2.      Permission – Building relationships: people follow you because they want to.  At this level developing good relationships with the people you lead will move the organization forward because people will give more effort being led by someone they like and trust.  It is based on the leader developing relationships, and then the leader develops influence.

3.      Production – Production: people follow because of what you have done for the organization.  When you have a positive impact on the organization and help it to succeed, people will follow you because everyone benefits.

4.      People Development – Reproduction: people follow because of what you have done for them.  One function of leadership is helping your people find the niche where they fit in best in the organization and also help them to grow.  You help them to develop as a person and as a worker.  As you as a leader help them to succeed in their job, they are more willing to follow you.

5.      Personhood – Respect:  people follow you because of who you are and the respect that they have for you.  They like what you represent and as a result your leadership has more influence and people follow you.  At this level, you are able to develop other leaders.

This is just a quick overview.  Get the book!  I promise you it will change your view of leadership and you will be well on your way to growing as a leader.



Steve - ICAN Council Bluffs Center




Some tips for the procrastinators…



I know that as your senior year winds down, a whole new set of stressors begin to emerge. Whether its prom, grades, summer plans, fall plans, it can get kind of overwhelming.  I would like to offer a couple of tips/suggestions for those seniors who might have put off their decision to go to college until now. 

First of all, it’s not too late!  Would it have been more beneficial to have started this process a little bit earlier?  Sure, it would have.  But things happen.  Maybe your other plans fell through or you just weren’t sure what you were going to do until now.  If you really want to go to college this next fall, it can still happen.  And, if it doesn’t happen this fall, there is always the following semester or even the following year.

How am I going to pay for college?

This is a major consideration as college can be expensive.  You should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible to apply for federal and state grants, and to be considered for student loans.  Most high school seniors will need to use their parent’s information including 2015 tax returns.

Where should I go to college?

I am guessing that you have had this thought in the back of your head for a while as you have been talking to friends and listening to them discuss their plans.  A lot of things can come into play when making this decision: Are you going to live at home and attend a nearby school?  How much can you afford?  What major are you going to choose?  Are you looking at a 2 year or 4 year degree? 

Your choices will be somewhat limited because you procrastinated, however you should visit the college you are considering.  Go online to the college’s website or call to schedule a visit to check out the college and get your questions answered.  Once you have made a decision, apply for admission.

What’s next?

After doing the things I mentioned above, don’t forget to follow up.  You will get information back from the Department of Education about your FAFSA and also from the college you applied to.  Be sure to pay attention to anything you receive and soon you will be signing up for orientation and registering for classes.

Please do not procrastinate when it comes to signing up for classes!  Sign up for the earliest orientation you can, so that you have more options when it comes to classes.

ICAN is here to help.  We can walk you through the process and help you with all of these things.  We can advise you as to what you should be doing, what questions you should be asking yourself and the colleges, and guide you as follow through.  If you have already started this process, or are too overwhelmed to start, call us for an appointment or schedule online at www.icansucceed.org/apt.  We can guide you through all of this!



John - ICAN Waterloo Center





Thank you Mom! - a tribute to moms for Mother's Day



Thank you Mom!

Mother’s Day is coming up on May 14th. It got me thinking about how thankful I am for my mother’s love and help over the years. Narrowing it down, how helpful she was in getting me through college.

First of all, my mother was the one that took care of the finances in our family. She taught me the importance of paying bills and paying them on time. In college, when I got a bill for anything, I tried to pay it RIGHT AWAY. I did not completely understand why at the time, but I knew that was important. That trait taught to me by my mom, has helped me to this day in to having good credit. There are many of my friends who didn’t have that ingrained in them and their credit still is recovering because of what they did in college. THANK YOU MOM! 

My mother also filled out the FAFSA form for me each year. You need that form to apply for financial aid. It is funny now to think after almost 19 years at ICAN (and the thousands of FAFSAs I have helped families fill out) that I didn’t have a clue in college on how to fill out the FAFSA form.   Without her help, it wouldn’t have gotten done. THANK YOU MOM!  

One of the biggest sacrifices my mother made was going back to working full-time again to help me with my college expenses. She had quit working and become a stay at home mom not long after I was born. My parents used the money that my mom earned to pay for my living expenses (room & board) so that I did not have to borrow money. When I got out of college, my amount of student loan debt was only half if not less of what it could have been because of the sacrifice that she made. THANK YOU MOM!    

Lastly, my mother has always given me her unconditional love. She was always there for me even when I made dumb choices in college that caused problems. She would tell me that they were dumb choices but she helped me find solutions to resolve them. Not in the “Helicopter Parent” way but more in the “I will always be there for you no matter what” way. THANK YOU MOM! 

I hear from some parents in this job that say their parents didn’t help them pay for college so their kids are going to pay for school on their own. I am glad that I didn’t have parents (neither went to college) that thought that way. They considered it their duty as parents to help me through school.   As I see it, the only way I can pay them back is by doing the same for my kids.  

To all the Mothers out there, I hope you have a Blessed and Happy Mother’s Day! To my mother, Robbin,   I Love You and Thank You for all you have done for me! 

PS -  Dad, you will get your appreciation next month.  :)


Erick - ICAN Ankeny Center