Madison PEOPLE Prep Program: A Town and Gown Collaboration
Winning Hearts & Minds
By Jonathan Gramling
Part 2 of 2
Editor’s Note: In the first part of this story, Vicki Handy was incorrectly named as a staff person at Great Lakes. The person
quoted was Libby Gerds.
It’s a pretty active crowd on Saturday morning, February 5, at Gordon Commons on the UW-Madison campus. Several
busloads of students have come in from the Northport and Packers Apartment complexes for their spring visit to campus as
a part of the PEOPLE Prep program. During the course of the morning, the students will learn about careers by making stops
at booths featuring information about campus colleges and schools and student organizations before they have an old
fashion pep rally focusing on education with Bucky Badger. By the end of the morning, the students are cheering for more
For the past six years, the PEOPLE Prep Program has been operated at the Northport and Packers community learning
centers, which are managed by Housing Ministries of Wisconsin. And now, through a grant from Great Lakes Higher
Education Guaranty Corp., the PEOPLE Prep model will be replicated at the Green Tree/Teutonia Apartment complex in
Milwaukee, al;so managed by Housing Ministries, with Cardinal Stritch University as the college partner. Madison’s PEOPLE
Program will be providing technical assistance.
Cardinal Stritch is located 3-4 miles from Green Tree/Teuronia and so this will be a vehicle for Cardinal Stritch to further
develop its pre-collegiate programming and have an impact in their own backyard.
“We have two primary goals that we are seeking to achieve, said Cardinal Stritch’s Tonya Mantilla. “We want to work with
our 25 young people, to help them achieve some academic gains in literacy and math. Second, we help them aspire to and
dream about going to college. We would love to see them at Stritch. But we know that there are wonderful educational
opportunities not only in Milwaukee, but also within the state. Anything that we can do to cultivate their interest in any
university or college within our community would be ideal. We would love to have them at Stritch, of course, but really we are
looking at how we can nurture their interest in other institutions as well.”
Just like Northport and Packers, Green Tree/Teutonia is a learning community as well as a subsidized housing
complex. Many of the people who work in the complex and staff the programs are residents. With the partnership with
Cardinal Stritch, it will allow Green Tree/Teutonia to kick their youth programming up to a higher level.
“This is a great opportunity for us to expand in a way that I didn’t think was possible,” said Vidcki Davidson w2ho has
been the program manager at Green Tree/Teutonia for the past 12 years. “The PEOPLE Prep program is the exact type of
program that we needed in Milwaukee to help the children focus and get centered on college education at such an early age.
Some of them probably aren’t certain what they want to be when they grow up, but we want to make sure they are college-
educated persons. The PEOPLE program is absolutely excellent. I am so impressed with the staff, with the children, with the
level of work that has gone into it and how happy the children are to be here and the fact that they are all focused on learning
how important learning is. That is something that we forget in our day-to-day lives as we get older. We are every day learners
and we don’t want children to forget how important it is. I see that these children are on top of things. Absolutely!”
Jacqueline DeWalt, the director of the Madison PEOPLE Program, is enthusiastic about the expansion of the PEOPLE
Prep concept to Milwaukee. In partnership with Carmen Porco and Housing Ministries, it reinforces the development of the
housing complex as a learning center for all ages.
“It is important that these centers are also educational institutions,” DeWalt emphasized. “They are educational leaders.
They are true partners in the educational process. The other key thing too is that going into the places where the students
live, you’re also in the places where the parents live. In folding them into all of the processes, decisions and activities that we
are doing and really holding up parents as leaders and us being support systems to them. And then, there is also the
connection with the schools too. It is truly that tri-partnership that we have throughout the PEOPLE program, except the
community and the parents are really taking primacy and then schools and our program are support systems.”
What is starting out as a small replication project could help Milwaukee’s higher education institutions develop long-
term educational support systems for low-income communities, which will benefit the entire community as the students
matriculate to higher education. And that is the Wisconsin Idea, the PEOPLE Program way.
(L-R photos) Carmen Porco (seated) with PEOPLE Prep students from Packers Apartments; Bucky Badger with PEOPLE Prep students; Gail Ford (l-r),
Libby Gerds, Tonya Mantilla, Vicki Davidson, Vicki Handy, Maria Bundy, Jacqueline DeWalt