MPS students develop leadership, college connections at Diversity Scholars’ Get Motivated! Get Ready! nights at College Access Centers

With Diversity Scholars

Partnership focuses on matching students with colleges, developing leadership

MILWAUKEE – Last month, on October 8th and 15th, students from 11 different MPS high schools converged at the MPS TEAM UP College Access Centers to prepare themselves for peer community leadership roles in the District’s high schools.  These Get Motivated! Get Ready! events are co-sponsored by the MPS TEAM UP College Access Centers and Diversity Scholars, a non-profit organization whose mission is to prepare first-generation, low-income, and minority students for college and to match those students with the two- and four-year post-secondary institutions that best fit their college and career interests.

The next Diversity Scholars Night is scheduled for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on November 19th at the College Access Center-North, 2730 W. Fond du Lac Avenue, Milwaukee 53210.  Student athletes will attend this session to learn about college eligibility requirements and prepare for the college application process.

Diversity Scholars is partnering with MPS to support all of the District’s college readiness initiatives. The Diversity Scholars program mobilizes student leadership by developing peer communities in the high schools. It offers students the opportunity to develop online profiles, research postsecondary options, and communicate with students using

At the Get Motivated! Get Ready! events in October, Diversity Scholars National Organizer Chris Clarke worked alongside the centers’ site coordinators to guide students through web-based tools for creating and sending their online profiles to the colleges and universities that matched their interests. Student also completed web-based career exploration activities to identify the connections between their career ambitions and educational plans. For both sessions all the available seats at the centers were filled.

“We’re extremely pleased to be working with Diversity Scholars,” said Kate Cunningham, site coordinator at the MPS TEAM UP College Access Center-South. “Our collaborative training was very successful—the students were engaged and enthusiastic about using and sharing with their peers the online tools they learned how to navigate. I can see that this partnership means that we are not only helping individual students to get to college, we are mobilizing teams of student leaders who will take what they are learning and use it to assist and inspire their peers to reach for a better future through education.”

Chris Clarke believes the peer community organizing strategy is successful because the students are being challenged to be leaders. “We are asking these students to show their skills and capabilities to their schools, their teachers, and their community. When they are given the right tools and the right opportunities to focus on college, they are motivated to step up, and they are ready to help others along the way,” said Clarke.

Local Peer Community Organizers who work in the high schools during regular school hours were also on hand at the events, to make sure students understood the support they would have when they brought what they were learning back to their schools. The Peer Community Organizers also work as youth advisors through the Running Rebels Community Organization’s Violence Free Zone programs at the high schools. They were recruited to work with Diversity Scholars during pilot Get Motivated! Get Ready! sessions at schools last spring. The Peer Community Organizers are now committed to helping with all of the District’s TEAM UP: College Success Starts Now initiatives.

“This is a community effort in the true sense of the word,” said Cunningham.

Student Leader Tykel Spears, a junior at Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School, agreed. He attended both sessions at the centers, first to learn how to use the tools, and then to work with a group of students from Pulaski High School, James Madison Academic Campus, and Washington High School of Information Technology. “When I explain how the websites work, the other students and my teachers are interested and want to know the steps to get involved. I am working with my peers at the same time I am helping myself – two birds knocked out with one stone.”

During the sessions Spears completed an online profile that allowed him to explore and communicate with colleges that offered programs in his two main areas of interest: Fire Science and Accounting. He plans to qualify as a firefighter after he graduates and continue on to pursue a professional career as a tax accountant. “The best thing is I can help my community and can get my name out there right now, by getting other students going and sending out my profile.”

The Diversity Scholars program is available to all first-generation, low-income and/or minority students in Milwaukee. The MPS TEAM UP College Access Centers are open Monday-Friday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.  The College Access Center-North is located at 2730 W. Fond du Lac Avenue. The College Access Center-South is located at 3333 South 27th Street.

Milwaukee Public Schools is Wisconsin’s largest school district, serving nearly 80,000 students in more than 160 schools across the city. U.S. News and World Report named MPS’ Rufus King International School and Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School the two best high schools in the state and among the 200 best in the country in 2012. In the past year, Milwaukee Public Schools posted a growing graduation rate 17 points higher than the rate for 2000.