Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, in partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools and Potawatami Bingo Casino, back in June 2011 launched a new youth initiative designed to provide wrap-around mentoring, leadership and literacy support for targeted Milwaukee youth. The program celebrated its summer program culmination recently at the Milwaukee City Hall Rotunda.
“We are in a crisis,” Ashanti Hamilton, 1st District Alderman, said. “We have record unemployment, record numbers of drop outs and terrifying literacy rates primarily among urban youth.”
The city is facing an unusually tough budget year and many community groups that are charged with providing youth services face budget struggles as well. “The reality is we have a number of organizations out there trying to do the work, but we are going to have less and less money to fund them and more and more need for their services. We have to strategize a more direct path to solutions,” Alderman Hamilton said.
Community groups like the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative, Urban Underground, Inc., Running Rebels and the Center for Youth Engagement are part of the pilot program which provides summer enrichment learning and programming to students and then tracks the students through the upcoming school year, providing additional support.
“This partnership will add to the breadth of our program offerings this summer,” said Superintendent Gregory E. Thornton. “The Be the Change program will help Milwaukee students entering Vincent and Washington High Schools work on their literacy skills as well as their non-academic abilities in leadership and other life-skills. We thank Alderman Hamilton for working with us on behalf our young people.”
The culmination ceremony included remarks from community leaders including, teachers and community organization leaders for the inaugural class of the Be the Change. The ceremony honored 72 young men who completed the five-week program.
“I’m so proud to see how the community came together and offered up their knowledge, passion and commitment to create this opportunity for our students. Recognizing the students’ dedication and work is incredible reward for us all,” Alderman Hamilton said. For five weeks, the students met at Washington High School four days a week to study, work together and be mentored.
“Now the work begins,” Alderman Hamilton said. “The core of the program is to follow these students through their school year and to make ourselves and other resources available to them through continued mentoring and opportunities to stay on track.”
The culmination ceremony included presentations of the work the students did and recognition of the students.