High school scholars in UW-Madison’s PEOPLE program (Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence) and incoming PEOPLE college freshmen from across Wisconsin were recognized for their accomplishments at the program’s annual recognition banquet Friday, Aug. 2, at the Exhibition Hall D of the Alliant Energy Center.
The class of 136 PEOPLE scholars and 90 incoming first-year students are part of the long-term diversity program designed to increase the number of college-ready students applying to the state’s flagship campus. One of the most successful long-term diversity pipelines to higher education in the nation, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's PEOPLE program continues to increase the number of college-ready students.
“Given our 14-year track record of success, we have no doubt that our PEOPLE pre-college and college scholars are on a path — a pipeline — to becoming local, national, and international leaders,” said PEOPLE Executive Director Jacqueline DeWalt in her welcoming remarks.
The program showcased the talents, accomplishments, and educational dreams of high school seniors, who have just completed their final summer of year-round training for college — including ACT testing and participating in internships with departments across the UW-Madison campus and throughout the community along with six weeks living in University Housing.
Throughout the event students gave reflections on their time in the PEOPLE program and how it helped shaped who they are. Those students included Sarina Lucas of Ashland High School, Marlise Gonzalez of Lakeland Union High School in Minoqua; Brett Stratton of Madison West High School, Katrina Bell of Harborside Academy High School in Kenosha; Jackgle Vang of Riverside University High School in Milwaukee; Ana Jimenez of Madison West High School; Khaleah Monger of Madison La Follette High School; Ra Quan Cunnigan of Madison Memorial High School; Belinda Gutierrez of Waukesha South High School; John Yang of Verona Area High School.
In the chancellor address, Darrell Bazzell, vice chancellor for finance and administration at UW-Madison, told the students that there will be people along the way that will help assist them in their success. “This is all about striving for that academic excellence and leadership,” Bazzell said. “I say that knowing that as I look around the room here that our future community, our state and national leaders are in our midst. They are right here in our audience. Remember, that part of your responsibility is to give back to others. I wish you all great success in your endeavors as you continue your journey.”
The annual Recognition Banquet also featured speeches by Milwaukee Public School Superintendent Gregory Thornton and Madison Metropolitan Public School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
“Our message is clear: We are not going to let kids fail. The PEOPLE program has been a nationwide leader in what we can do in America for America’s youth,” Thornton said. “I want to thank all of you today for not letting any of these young people slip through the cracks; not letting those predictors actually determine these kids’ outcomes.”
“These kids have learned over the last several years that they belong,” he continued. “They had to claim their rightful place in this society. As we continue to go through this journey, our kids are learning that they can do anything. So many times we run into people and into teachers — yes, teachers! — that say, ‘You are not college material.’ They told me that I wasn’t college material, but like many of us, we continue to beat the odds. It’s with great pleasure that I stand here today as the superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, the 30th largest school district in America with 10,000 employees. It’s because somebody believed in me; believed in us.”
Thornton said that it’s one thing for everybody else to believe in you, but you have to believe in yourself. “You have to make a decision between what you need and what you want because there will be some hard decisions for you to make in the future,” he said. “When I was coming along, I wanted a big, fancy car and nice clothes. That’s what I wanted; that’s not what I needed. I needed to be focused. I needed to stay focused and to stay committed.”
The program also showcased the largest incoming group of PEOPLE College Scholars who are completing a bridge-to-college program, which allows them to earn college credit going into their college freshman year. Of the 144 students who completed the rigorous pre-college program last summer, they represent a portion of the 96 high school students who were accepted to UW-Madison. Completion of the highly competitive pre-college segment of the program qualifies these students for a tuition scholarship to attend, but does not guarantee admission into UW-Madison.
For more information about the PEOPLE program, visit www.peopleprogram.wisc.edu.