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Leading the Way to College Readiness


After 33 years of being on the academic side of teaching, Lisa Palanca has taken her experience and know-how a step further to help students get ready for college.

A teacher at heart, she created Palanca Leadership, a new, non-profit business in town addressing life skills.

“Palanca Leadership has been in my wheelhouse for about five years,” Palanca said. “It started out as a seed of an idea to empower students to own their successes and failures.”

It was in the classroom with fifth grade students that she noticed a slow shift in learning. While it became clear that electronic devices kept information and connections at a students’ fingertips, they also created a deficit in interpersonal skills.

“Their sense of self-confidence seemed to be marred by devices that were doing the interpersonal work for them. Deadlines, confidence, effort, communication skills, and willingness to do the work, were becoming more and more of an obstacle,” said Palanca.

Palanca remembers fondly the hands-on leadership skills she learned at the Van Buren Youth Camp jointly sponsored by Western Michigan University and the University of Michigan as a student herself. The experience fueled the creation phase of Palanca Leadership.

A participant in a Palanca Leadership workshop builds a life skills tool kit. The seven steps that assist in problem-solving, are a Blueprint, Generator, Power Strip, Guarantee, Transport, Mentor, and Finish Line. Each one provides a frame of reference to individuals while allowing their tool kit to remain unique.

Once the student understands how the steps progress, they will be able to solve problems and set goals using the tool kit. The volunteer mentor board made up of teachers, business people, and life coaches will become part of the mentor process as the students’ progress through the tool kit program.

“The final piece is that students will be expected to use communication skills by serving at least five hours of community service,” said Palanca.

They will receive a certificate of completion for college and job applications.

Palanca has test-driven the program with several groups, including the YMCA Achievers. She is prepared to adjust it for any audience - from older elementary students to adults. It will be officially launched at a fundraiser on Thursday, Nov. 5, at 4 p.m. at Arcadia Ales in Kalamazoo.

So, with two grown daughters thriving in two different states and careers, why is Kalamazoo the best place to launch this program?

“We have incredible gifts here, including The Kalamazoo Promise,” said Palanca. “We have an obligation to prepare students for their future on all levels to succeed.”

Check out Palanca Leadership on Facebook or visit its blog.

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