By Karen Stokes
Milwaukee has acquired the unfortunate statistic of being the worst place for African Americans to raise their children and due to those statistics young educated people are leaving Milwaukee, but a group of community and national educators and leaders are looking to make a change.
“There are issues and challenges in our communities that can actually present opportunities,” said Roger Onick, president of Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators.
A panel group discussed the topic “Enhancing the Pipeline & Partnership between Regional Milwaukee K-16 Educational Institutions, Corporations and Historically Black Colleges and Universities” Wednesday morning at The Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel. Panel speakers included Onick, Senator Lena Taylor, Dr Patricia McManus, City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner, Gerard Randall, Executive Director of the Milwaukee Partnership Academy and keynote speaker Dr. Cassandra Herring, president and CEO, Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity (BranchEd).
Dr Herring left her position as the dean of the School of Education and Human Development at Hampton University and founded BranchEd.
BranchEd leads and supports a national network of Educator Preparation Programs at Minority Serving Institutions (MIS) to achieve sustainable programmatic transformation leading to improved outcome for candidates and by extension all of there PK-12 students.
“A year and a half ago I got mad I left a paycheck, tenure and took a leap of faith,” said Herring. “We have a problem in America and we can’t deny it. We also have a solution and that’s our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and other MSIs.”
Herring shared statistics:
51 percent of American public school children are of color; only 20 percent of the teachers represent the same groups; 40 percent of children of color do not have a single teacher of color.
Research has demonstrated that the diversity of the teaching force matters for student achievement. Students of color earn higher test grades, have higher graduation rates, have better attendance when they have teachers that look like them.
“We can combat prejudice by exposing children preK-3 to a diversity of teachers,” Herring said. “It combats prejudice and negative stereotypes.”
Herring added that people are starting to notice BranchEd’s message about HBCUs and MISs. These institutions tend to prioritize social justice issues, value cultural diversity and work to expand opportunities and agency for students and communities of color.
“The HBCU has an essential role to play to help our country with our issues to solve our diversity problems,” said Herring.
Health Commissioner, Dr. McManus, a Milwaukee native said, “People need to realize that education is a part of health. U.S. doesn’t look at health globally.”
McManus continued, “There is a need for more people of color in Milwaukee to be engaged in health fields.”
Senator Taylor discussed 1890 scholarships. These scholarships are for students attending HBCUs where students majoring in agriculture are awarded tuition, room and board, book fees, a computer, software and a printer while in school and internships, jobs after graduation.
“Anybody ever been to a restaurant, that’s agriculture business. Nutritionists, dietitians, and arborists are all “ag” businesses,” said Taylor. “We need to put trees in our community, there are oxygen issues. Agriculture plays a role in our community.”
“When I’m talking with parents around the city, they counsel their children to get out of Milwaukee. We want to have a strong, vibrant middle class in Milwaukee,” said Onick. “Milwaukee needs bright intelligent African American people. We want parents to encourage their children to stay in Milwaukee.”
“We want you to imagine the possibilities. Explore the opportunities that are in your own backyard,” Onick said.