July 17, 2015
“Many PEOPLE program students are the first in their families to potentially attend college. The guidance and support the program offers to students makes college a real possibility for them.” – Gail Ford
Eighty diverse, intelligent, and unique students from the Pre-College Enrichment Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE), were offered admission to the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a full-tuition scholarship for the upcoming school year.
PEOPLE focuses on the enrollment and retention of students of color and those from low income households by assisting them in their transition.
Program participants Miriam Burgos Febus and Brandon Alvares Carera will travel to Washington D.C to meet First Lady Michelle Obama in a summit for students from underrepresented backgrounds who beat the odds. Febus and Carera are just two of the many successful scholars since the program began in 1999.
“The mission of [PEOPLE] is to help students successfully make each transition in the educational pipeline: elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, high school to college, and college to degree completion,” Gail Ford, Interim Assistant Director-Pre-College said.
Ford began working with the program as the middle school coordinator in December, 2010. She explained higher education became possible for her because her sister shared resources acquired through a pre-college program at the same institution she earned her degree. “I work for PEOPLE because a pre-college program worked indirectly for me, I understand first-hand, the impact these programs have on participants and families,” Ford said.
Each summer hundreds of PEOPLE middle and high school students flood the UW-Madison campus to partake in Math, Science, Writing, and ACT Prep courses. High school students move on campus for three to six weeks from all over the state. Rising seniors participate in an internship experience.
“The PEOPLE program actively affords students in the Madison community the tools and resources to be successful in higher education at the UW. It exposes them in a very organic way to the opportunities available here on campus,” Shawn Harris, First Year Seminar Instructor, said.
Harris attended UW as an undergraduate. He learned of the program through high school friends who participated. He has worked with the program since his freshman year in 2010.
“I applied for a position as a residential counselor for the program’s summer session where I met some amazing peers and some of the brightest students Wisconsin had to offer,” he said.
Harris’ summer counseling job led to his current position as a college instructor for the program. He explained the program helps mitigate high costs, an issue which factors into many students’ decisions when pursuing higher education.
“The most rewarding thing would have to be the fact that I made it to UW Madison and am getting my education mostly paid for with full tuition taken care of for four years,” Rodney Lambright, Third Year College Scholar, said.
Lambright began the program after his freshman year of high school. He served as residential counselor after his freshman year and now interacts with incoming freshmen in a bridge program as a counselor during this summer.
“The reason why I got involved with the PEOPLE program was to give back to the program because it provided me with so much. I just wanted to give that experience back to some students as well,” he said.
Lambright, like many scholars, returned to work for the program as instructors, tutors, mentors, and counselors. He describes PEOPLE Scholars as both hardworking and inspiring.
“Many PEOPLE students are the first in their families to potentially attend college, the guidance and support the program offers to students makes college a real possibility for them,” Ford said. “The work we do in PEOPLE has the potential to change not only the lives of our Wisconsin students, but the trajectory of their entire families for generations, all because of a college education.”
College scholars like sophomore Sebastian Kelnhofer-Maldonado have benefited greatly from the program.
“Not only have I felt more comfortable when another PEOPLE Scholar is around, but also that’s the first connection I use when making a study group for the class we share,” he said.
Kelnhofer-Maldonado explains entering the university with resources, mentors, and a network of other PEOPLE Scholars helped make his freshman year better.
“I think the greatest success stories are those that reflect an instillation of hope in students,” Harris said. “Not all of the middle and high school will be admitted into UW. But, if during their time with the program they can say, ‘I am worthy of a quality education and I am willing to work hard for one,’ then I think that’s a success.”