Summer programs like Lead Generation are giving students in Milwaukee, Marquette, and other cities the tools to explore career options and pursue higher education, especially for students of color.
A seven-week summer camp based in Milwaukee, Lead Generation brings students to campuses and exposes them to hands-on career experiences, letting them discover their passions.
“They can see themselves more in that particular career when they have the hands-on experience, as opposed to just lecturing and paperwork,” said Gregory Ware, an administrator with the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) Institutional Effectiveness Division.
Recently, the camp visited the MTC campus in Mequon, where students had the opportunity to study subjects from landscape horticulture to automotive technology mechanics.
The program is run by MKE Fellows, a mentorship and professional development program for African American male college students, and the majority of campers are students of color, most of which come from low-income families. During the duration of the program, students earn an hourly wage, work to improve their ACT scores, learn financial literacy skills, and explore career possibilities.
A number of these students will be the first in the family to attend college, and some, like Milwaukee High School of the Arts senior Jamila Hill, have questions about higher education (e.g how to apply for scholarships) that their families struggle answering.
“I don’t know who to ask questions,” said Hill. “Everyone could say that they’re there for me, but no one’s really going through the experiences that I’m going through. So it’s really like I’m all alone.”
Hill said that Lead Generation helped her answer some of her questions, hone her skills, and set realistic goals. She plans to study biomedical sciences or biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and eventually become a dentist or orthodontist.
Other student initiatives, like the MKE Commercial Real Estate Summer High School Immersion Program, focus on more specific career paths. During this seven-day program, high school students of color learn how to get into the commercial real estate industry and develop generational wealth. The program seeks to encourage more people of color to enter the real estate industry through exposure and in-person instruction, an effort to address housing disparities in Milwaukee while inviting students to be part of the solution.
“Often times, a lot of different career paths, it just doesn’t feel accessible if you’re a person of color. It doesn’t feel like anybody created a place for you to be a part of this,” said Andy Hunt, Vieth Director for the Center for Real Estate at Marquette University.
Recent US Census Bureau data shows that Black people across the country make up less than 6 percent of all real estate professionals. Seventy-five percent are white. Redfin, a real estate brokerage company, estimates that Milwaukee homes in Black neighborhoods are undervalued by at least $40,000.