UW-Madison: PEOPLE high school students celebrate completing pre-college program

Contact: Valeria Davis, (608) 890-3079, [email protected]

MADISON – One of the most successful long-term diversity pipelines to higher education in the nation, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s PEOPLE program, will again increase the number of college-ready students applying to the state’s flagship campus.

Another 141 Wisconsin PEOPLE scholars are ready to apply for admission at UW-Madison later this month.

The annual Recognition Banquet will be at noon Friday, Aug. 3 at the Marriott West in Middleton, featuring keynote speaker Amy Kerwin, chief educational opportunities officer for Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation.

The program will showcase the talents, accomplishments and educational dreams of the students, who have just completed their final summer of year-round training for college – including ACT testing and six weeks living in University Housing.

For many, the senior high school year ahead is the culmination of up to seven years of planning and preparation for getting into college and earning a scholarship.

Wisconsin has a tradition developing leaders “and in today’s global economy that can only happen by embracing and nurturing all of our young people,” says Damon Williams, UW-Madison vice provost and chief diversity officer, who heads the division that houses the PEOPLE program.

Williams adds: “The PEOPLE program is foundational to our ability to accomplish this goal and strengthen our workforce across the state. We are proud of the PEOPLE team and all of the educators, community partners, parents, and stakeholders who have gotten us to this point. As we celebrate the rising class of 2012 I know we are looking at the next generation of leaders, innovators, and change agents in our community.”

Nearly 80 percent of students in PEOPLE – which stands for Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence – have better than a 3.0 grade-point average. Among participants completing the program, 100 percent have graduated from high school.

Additionally, 96 percent of these graduates continue their educations beyond high school with 70 percent attending UW System campuses; 53 percent choose UW-Madison and 17 percent other UW campuses. The remaining 30 percent enroll at other state or national colleges, universities or technical colleges.

The PEOPLE program’s academic support and skills enhancement approach is resulting in clear gains. More than 70 percent of its college scholars complete undergraduate degrees at UW-Madison, far exceeding the national college graduation rate for minority students of around 40 percent.

“The PEOPLE program is the Wisconsin Idea in action,” says director Jacqueline DeWalt. “These students are all Wisconsin residents who are benefitting from the tangible and intangible resources of our flagship university, which was built by scholars just like these – with talent, intelligence, imagination, heart and a love for learning.”

This year, the program is celebrating the addition of several new partnerships that provided summer workshops and learning internships for high school juniors as their final step in exploring possible college majors and careers.

The newest partners include the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Growing Power of Milwaukee, which provided training in urban agriculture; the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in cooperation with the surgery department of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health which provided surgical training internships.

The program now has partnerships and has college-scholar graduates from all of the university’s schools and colleges.

PEOPLE students who complete high school and successfully gain admission to UW-Madison are bridged into the university through a pre-freshman-year summer program designed to earn initial college credits and further accelerate their college success. Students who enroll at UW-Madison receive a four-year tuition scholarship along with college advising and leadership support through completion of their undergraduate degree, including going on to graduate school or entry into the workforce.

PEOPLE program first enrolled 66 Milwaukee high-school students in 1999 and 92 Madison middle-school students in 2000. Since then, more than 1,300 students per year have either spent middle-school years being encouraged to attend college through the middle-school summer program, or have had academic support and mentorship on preparing for and succeeding in college.

That has led to more than 600 enrolling in UW-Madison as undergraduates and dozens choosing to stay for graduate school.

Completing the PEOPLE program doesn’t guarantee admission to UW-Madison, says DeWalt, but it does provide a pipeline for previously untapped talent pools.

“The PEOPLE program invests in their potential as students and future leaders who may never have considered studying at UW-Madison because they weren’t pursued, encouraged or offered a scholarship to make it a possible option,” DeWalt says. “These are excellent students who may be the first in their family to attend college, and/or who may have been lured away from Wisconsin by other colleges and universities.”

This success is changing how UW-Madison looks to recruiters in search of candidates to work in an increasingly diverse world and those seeking to diversify their own workforce.

National corporations supporting the PEOPLE program include AT&T, American Family Insurance Group, Kohl’s Department Stores, CUNA Insurance Group, Target, John Deere Foundation, Rockwell Automation, Proctor & Gamble and British Petroleum Company, along with many Wisconsin state agencies.

These companies are excited about the growing number of diverse college graduates across an expanding selection of professional disciplines, DeWalt says.