A relatively new Milwaukee college completion charity working to bolster the number of low-income students of color earning college degrees will more than double the number of young people it serves this year.
All-In Milwaukee provides for its students what many wealthy and middle-class collegegoers take for granted: financial support, help navigating unfamiliar systems, and connections to secure job placement after graduation.
The program’s goal is to chip away at some of the grim higher education statistics that plague Milwaukee. Just 13% of black residents and 11% of Latino residents have bachelors’ degrees, compared to about 40% of white Milwaukeeans. Research shows that a college degree greatly increases a person’s ability to improve their economic circumstances.
“I saw after graduation, a lot of my friends didn’t go to college,” said Tania Hernandez-Galvin, one of the students in the first class of All-In Milwaukee scholars. “That’s when I was like, ‘Oh, this is very real.’ I feel like a lot of them do want to [go to college,] but they get discouraged because they just hear certain things or they feel like no one believes in them or they’re not worth anyone’s time.”
Hernandez-Galvin goes to Alverno College, along with two other All-In Milwaukee scholarship recipients, Maisheng Thor and Fatima Navarro. The students say the tuition scholarships provided by All-In Milwaukee have given them peace of mind. But Navarro says the most helpful part of the program is the counseling provided by mentors and program director Tiffany Tardy.
“When I first started, I didn’t feel like I belonged,” Navarro said. “It was just a different switch from high school to college … I would text Tiffany almost every night and she would help me to understand how I was feeling, and she provided feedback that helped me feel more like I belonged.”
All-In Milwaukee’s first class of 40 scholarship recipients are finishing up freshman year at partner schools, like Alverno, UW-Madison, UWM, and Marquette. If they meet certain academic standards, the students will continue to receive All-In Milwaukee’s services through graduation.
A $1 million gift from philanthropists Keith Mardak and Mary Vandenberg to All-In Milwaukee and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee will assist the program in supporting an additional 65 low-income college students in the upcoming school year.
But student Tania Hernandez-Galvin says programs like All-In Milwaukee can't reach everyone.
"Higher education has to step up," she said. "It's not only external scholarships that should be providing support. I feel like the high schools and colleges should be educating students about the opportunities they have, because there are a lot, they're just very hidden."
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