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Marquette University assistant professor discusses new digital ecosystem and support transition hub for students

Gabriel Velez

Transitioning from high school to higher education or from higher education to the job market is a pivotal time in a young person’s life. It can present challenges, especially for students of color. The Black and Latino/a Ecosystem and Support Transition Hub, also known as BLEST Hub at Marquette University, is working to support young people during these moments.

Recently, they released a digital ecosystem map to help show what organizations and resources exist for young Black and Latino people in Milwaukee.

Gabriel Velez is an assistant professor in the department for educational policy and leadership in the college of education at Marquette University. Velez explains that The Transition Hub currently operates as a touch point for non-profits, activists, and government organizations to share and connect with others.

"We're moving away from being so restricted by the pandemic, we're looking to do more sort of day-to-day touch-points, and more work with youth themselves," Velez says.

According to Velez, centering youth perspectives means giving young people an authentic space to share. To date, students from Marquette, UW-Milwaukee, and MATC have lead focus groups primarily drawing on their own experience — transitioning from college to the work field.

Velez says, "Rather than it (BLEST Hub) being something that was driven just by our questions, and by our kind of pre-thinking going in — it really created authentic conversations, where the young people at least described feeling comfortable sharing. And [participants] really fed off of these facilitators who were students like themselves."

Velez explains why this ecosystem is so important for young students of color. He says, "[The ecosystem] is being just a connector, being a catalyst, and being a place that can really link folks together. And [it also] breaks down the barriers and the silos that sometimes create hurdles for the work being done, the good work being done in Milwaukee that’s being done by these various organizations."

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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