Getting a jump-start on the future

Students who took part in a Talent Search writing camp, in collaboration with the nearby Woodland Pattern Book Center , got a chance to work with local artists and writers. Here a student (right) goes over a book he created with his instructor (left).

More than 2,300 precollege students are getting a jumpstart on their future at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this summer.

That’s the number of middle school and high school students, adult students and eligible veterans who are taking part in 12 different programs through the TRIO and PreCollege office, according to April Holland, executive director. Many of the programs continue into the school year, serving a total of more than 6,000 students, she adds.

Each program has a slightly different focus, but the overall goals are similar – to get students thinking about their future careers and helping prepare them to continue their education to achieve their goals, says Holland.

“We want them to start thinking about not just going to college, but completing college.”

This summer, the students are fine-tuning their skills in key subjects like mathematics and English; trying out new subjects like anatomy; and learning about career opportunities in fields like health sciences; aeronautics and space science; advertising and marketing; nursing; and engineering.

The TRIO and PreCollege programs receive funding from the federal and state governments, and are designed for students from low income and underrepresented families. Often, students may be the first in their families to have the opportunity to go on to higher education, says Holland.

Helping youngsters and adults

While many of the programs are geared to youngsters, the office also helps adults interested in completing a GED and/or starting college through its Veterans Upward Bound program and its work with UWM’s Educational Opportunity Center .

While some students may eventually enroll at UWM, others may go to MATC, to different colleges and universities, or to other vocational programs, says Holland.

Programs like Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math and Science, Mini-Courses, Quest and Planning for the Future give the students a chance to take classes in university lecture halls and labs, have access to the UWM Libraries and Student Union, and get to meet faculty, staff and college students.

Students taking part in a Talent Search writing camp, in collaboration with the nearby Woodland Pattern Book Center , got a chance to work with local artists and writers.

Says Holland: “They can come here to see what life is really like on a college campus and immerse themselves in a new environment. They have weekly events and activities that encompass field trips to various sites in Milwaukee and surrounding areas, as well as out-of-state college visits and tours.”

In fact, she adds, some of the college students the precollege students meet may be graduates of the TRIO and PreCollege programs themselves. “Our alumni are not only getting the word out, but coming back to see what they can do to assist the program. Sometimes, they just stop in to say hello and let us know how they’re doing.”

In addition to former students, the TRIO and Pre- College programs recruit students and inform parents through community organizations, churches, family and siblings of students in the program, and middle school and high school counselors. “The school counselors have been very instrumental,” says Holland. “They all know about TRIO and PreCollege at UWMilwaukee.”

The confidence to succeed

One key to the programs is helping students gain the confidence to succeed academically, she adds. Future Success, for example, prepares recent eighth-grade graduates by giving them an advance experience in the classes they’ll be taking as first-year high school students in the fall. In addition, many students in the precollege program start in sixth grade and continue taking classes, Holland adds.

“A significant number of those who are recruited in middle school at sixth grade continue on into seventh and eighth grade. The high school component is the next step for many of our students who focus on realizing college potential. The success in one initiative builds on other initiatives. We help them identify their strengths and build on their skills.”

In addition to the specific coursework, students and teachers can work on areas that carry over into all studies – problem solving, technology use, analytical skills.

“These are skills that help them with all their subjects.”

While the TRIO/PreCollege classes for the summer are under way, the program is taking applications for the many fall and winter classes that start in September and October.

Contact the office at 414-229-2845 or go to the website at