By Kathy Quirk
Milwaukee Public Schools high school students are getting a taste of college and earning credits through the M3 Early College pilot program.
M3 (pronounced M-cubed) is a multifaceted collaboration among the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee Area Technical College and MPS, which collectively serve more than 130,000 students. M3 features a variety of programs and initiatives designed to help achieve many goals, including boosting student achievement and ensuring that students have the necessary resources to advance to college and into the workforce.
The M3 Early College pilot program debuted in the spring 2019 semester with more than 30 MPS students. They attend English and mathematics courses at MATC as well as an educational psychology course at UWM that focuses on the foundations for academic success.
Students who complete the dual enrollment program will earn 10 college credits, including four MATC math credits, three MATC English language arts credits and three UWM educational psychology credits. The credits also count toward their high school degrees.
Izzabella Zupet is a senior at Ronald Reagan International Baccalaureate High School. Prior to learning about the program, she hadn’t really thought about college, so the program became a doorway to a new opportunity. “This has helped me believe that college is possible for me,” Zupet says. “I can make a better future for myself.”
Inspiring such belief in students was one of the key drivers behind the program, according to Vicki Bott, a manager in UWM’s Office of Dual Enrollment. Many of the enrollees would be the first from their families to attend college. “If they can see themselves as college material, see themselves in college,” Bott says, “that’s a real positive.”
Julian Hall, a senior at Ronald Reagan International Baccalaureate High School, learned about the program from his guidance counselor. Although it meant adjusting his schedule away from a more familiar routine at Reagan, he felt the benefits were worth it.
“I was all for it, even though I’d have to leave school and not be there with my friends,” Hall says. “But I had to focus on my future. Getting 10 credits, I would love that.”
All three M3 institutions are contributing time and resources to the M3 Early College pilot program. MPS provides lunches and pays for the classes. MATC provides bus passes for all the students. UWM adjusted one of its educational psychology courses – originally designed for first-year college students – so that it could be tailored to high school students.
“We feel this is an ideal time to offer this course as the students are preparing for their transition into college,” says Jacqueline Nguyen, a UWM associate professor of educational psychology who co-teaches the Pathways to Success in College course with graduate assistant Travis Love.
The course covers everything from how to interact with instructors to note-taking, academic writing and study skills. It also covers social and emotional skills, such as managing stress and relationships. And during one recent session, students learned about undergraduate research opportunities available to them should they attend UWM. “The students are doing well in class,” Love says. “They’re really engaged.”
Bott says program organizers hope to expand the program to include 100 students during the next school year and offer it in both the spring and fall semesters.