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Milwaukee's Leading Men Fellowship is helping young men of color teach in MPS classrooms

Leading Men Fellow reading to students
Literacy Lab
Leading Men Fellow reading to students.

Leading Men Fellows are young men of color who have recently graduated from high school and are looking to start a career in education.

In their year-long fellowship with the Literacy Lab, they provide literacy support to pre-kindergarten students while receiving coaching, professional development and valuable experience.

Bernard Rahming, program director of the Leading Men Fellowship, says it's important because having men of color in elementary classrooms can greatly improve the college graduation rates among Black and brown students.

"Having that mirror in front of the classroom in that school setting is really important and it's also missing. I think K-12 across the country nationwide, I think 2% of teachers are Black males. But if you look at early childhood and specifically in Milwaukee, 99% of teachers in Milwaukee are women. And so there are really a lot of women, there are very few men of color in early childhood, but also education in general," says Rahming.

Fellow reading to MPS students
Leading Men Fellowship
Fellow reading to MPS students.

Leading Men Fellows work in various schools in Milwaukee, like Starms Discovery School, Milwaukee Academy of Science and Malaika Early Learning Center.

Rahming says that for that first year, fellows work with students on early literacy skills like reading, writing and identifying letters and names.

The fellows are taught how to introduce vocabulary to the students they teach and how to engage them with rhyming songs.

"Of course, our pre-kindergarten students are definitely benefiting for that. You know for that male role model, but they're also getting really direct, great direct early literacy services, right — so it's like reading a book a small group and the fellows are, you know, trained on just on how to read a book," says Rahming.

At the same time, fellows are supported throughout the year with some personal development.

"We do host a session, it's called a professional learning group. It's like a weekly series where we're gonna work on personal professional development skills. We'll cover topics like college and career guidance and we'll go to, you know, UWM and MATC and have sessions on campus, you know, meet different advisors, admissions, do resume workshops," explains Rahming.

Fellow teaching math to MPS student
Leading Men Fellowship
Fellow teaching math to MPS student.

Rahming says programs for the fellows cover life skills, as well.

"We'll also cover topics like financial literacy, health care, and I always joke about calling like adult 101 — those topics that I wish I knew come out of high school, but you learn through trial and error for the next 20 years of your life," he says.

Rahming adds that he’s seen interest in the fellowship increase each year since it was founded five years ago in Milwaukee. He says there were ten fellows the first couple of years and this year there were 15.

Next year, he’s aiming for 20.

Rahamig shares that the organization is looking for candidates who have recently graduated high school, have a clean record and can show their effort to commit.

"The last thing is really just like a desire to serve or you want to get back to your community or interest in working with kids. So some type of just motivation we look for, like why do you wanna become a fellow and we try to just pull out those young men that are really interested for some reason it could be different. It could look differently for each young man. We're trying to feel why do you wanna join the fellowship? And are you committed to staying with us for the year," he says.

Rahming says he’s looking for more institutions involved in offering fellows a year to find their purpose.

He also welcomes experts in financial literacy and health care to provide a session or two for the Leading Men Fellows.

Rahming says it’s been great to have partners hire fellows before they’re even done with the program.

Support for the Eric Von Broadcast Fellowship is provided, in part, by Chris Abele.

Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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