Meet the CSO: Tona Ambrose
August 29, 2017
Tona Ambrose is the Project Coordinator and Charter to College Connections at the Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office.
Tona has been a part of the GVSU Charter Schools Office team for the past 10 years and has seen many exciting things grow and change in that time. When Tona joined the GVSU CSO, Grand Valley authorized only 30 charter schools across the state, less than half of the current number of GVSU-authorized public school academies.
Tona has received two master’s degrees from GVSU – one in educational technology and the other in higher education leadership. She is a self-described “life-long learner” who says she never wants to stop being a student.
Tona thoroughly enjoys engaging with students and teachers in our schools through the campus visit program and summer enrichment camp, creating college readiness initiatives, and providing leadership training to current GVSU undergrads. She feels that one of the best aspects of her job is helping connect middle school and high school students to undergraduate GVSU students who work with the GVSU CSO. It is especially when those undergrads previously attended a GVSU charter school!
Tona is passionate about college access and career readiness, and she strongly believes that many students are college eligible but not always college ready. She is an advocate for connecting students, school leaders and parents to resources that will best prepare students. She is working now to develop professional learning communities for middle/high school counselors to discuss best practices for supporting students through the challenges of being ready for college.
When Tona is not collaborating with our schools and students on charter to college connections, she enjoys attending sporting events of all kinds, visiting other college campuses across the United States and abroad, and hanging out with her husband and two children. Tona loves living in Michigan, however, she hails from Illinois and is a huge University of Illinois fan – Go Illini!
How did you become interested in education?
I always wanted to be a teacher, but I went to college to pursue athletic training and physical therapy. At the time, that was considered a top-10 new and upcoming career. I loved sports and thought it would be awesome. It wasn’t. So now I am passionate about helping students figure out who they are, what their interests are, and what they might like to do.
What is one aspect of college life/adulthood that young students need help understanding when they arrive on campus?
Being prepared. Doing everything possible to get prepared and then utilizing the resources that are typically so abundant on college campuses. And possibly even finding a mentor. There is a lot to be said about mentorship.
What book would you recommend for educators?
One would definitely be “The Other Wes Moore” by Wes Moore. We used that book two years ago at the Academic Success Institute. It’s really eye-opening, especially when you work with students who are from urban areas like many of the kids that we serve in our charter schools.
Who is/was your favorite teacher?
There was a couple in high school, Mr. and Mrs. Gifford. She taught typing – still to this day, the most beneficial class I’ve ever taken. Mr. Gifford was very encouraging when I was applying to the [University of Illinois]. I also had a fantastic rhetoric teacher at University of Illinois. She was very instrumental to me when it came to all my writing later on. And Dr. D.J. Mitchell, who was at GVSU. I loved his vibe. He has a real gift at looking at all things education diversely, holistically, and gets you to think in those ways.
Do you have a “charter-to-college moment” that stands out to you?
Last year, a girl camp named Shelby came to the Summer Enrichment Camp. She had never heard of GVSU and was scared to death to come to the west side of Michigan for a whole week, but her mom made her go. Now Shelby is at Grand Valley in the honors college program. I went and met up with her and her family when she was here for orientation, and she hugged me and thanked me and said the camp changed her life.