PEOPLE Moving Up
By Valeria Davis
Now one of the most successful long-term diversity pipelines to higher education in the nation, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's PEOPLE (Pre-
College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence) program will again increase the number of college-ready students applying to the
state's flagship campus.
Celebrating their arrival at the threshold of college will be 138 high school seniors along with 87 UW-Madison freshmen from the program on Friday,
July 29 at the Madison Marriott West in Middleton at noon. This year's keynote speaker will be Ada Deer, a UW-Madison emerita faculty member and
Native American rights activist.
This year's class of rising high-school juniors — students from Madison, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha and Wisconsin's tribal nations —
who have the grades, test scores and personal development skills to successfully compete with the larger international pool of applicants and earn
admission to UW-Madison — is the largest yet. This year 104 PEOPLE students were offered admission to UW-Madison and 87 accepted.
Additionally, 95 percent of these graduates continue their educations beyond high school with 70 percent attending UW System campuses; 53
percent choose UW-Madison and 17 percent other UW campuses. The remaining 30 percent enroll at other state or national colleges, universities or
PEOPLE high schools scholars far out-perform state statistics for minority and economically-challenged student achievement with a 100 percent
high school graduation rate. This is compared to a 70.2 percent four-year graduation for minority students across Wisconsin and a 57.6 percent four-
year graduation rate for minority students across all Milwaukee Public Schools in 2009-2010.
Completing the PEOPLE preparation program doesn't guarantee admission to UW-Madison, says the program's executive director Jacqueline
DeWalt, who adds that "our students are intelligent and driven to succeed by nature."
The PEOPLE program's longitudinal academic support and skills enhancement approach is resulting in clear gains. More than 76 percent of its
college scholars complete undergraduate degrees at UW-Madison, far exceeding the national college graduation rate for minority students of around
"The PEOPLE program invests in their potential as students and future leaders who may never have considered studying at UW-Madison because
they weren't pursued, encouraged or offered a scholarship to make it a possible option," DeWalt says. "These are excellent students who may be
the first in their family to attend college, financially challenged, or lured away from Wisconsin by other colleges and universities."
PEOPLE college scholars are now demonstrating that fact by branching into more demanding disciplines and degree areas, DeWalt adds. "We are
diversifying this entire campus with graduates from all schools and colleges."
This success is changing how UW-Madison looks to recruiters in search of candidates to work in an increasingly diverse world and those seeking
to diversify their own work force with graduates from the nation's top schools.
"We now also have students who are in graduate programs or graduated from the Wisconsin Law School who started their academic careers in the
PEOPLE program," she says.
National corporations that support the PEOPLE program, including AT&T, American Family Insurance Group, Kohl's Department Stores, CUNA
Insurance Group, Target, John Deere Foundation, Rockwell Automation, Proctor & Gamble and British Petroleum Company, along with many
Wisconsin state agencies. These companies are excited about the growing number of diverse college graduates across an expanding selection of
professional disciplines, DeWalt says.
Since the PEOPLE program first enrolled 66 Milwaukee high-school students in 1999 and 92 Madison middle-school students in 2000, more than
1,300 students per year have either spent middle-school years being encouraged to attend college through the middle-school summer enrichment
program, or have had academic support and mentorship on preparing for and succeeding in college, which has led to 520 enrolling in UW-Madison