Summer program helps Milwaukee students imagine successful futures

Lead Generation, a 7-week program, exposes Milwaukee students to new opportunities

By Leah Treidler

Published: Monday, July 18, 2022, 5:20am

Douglas Winfrey was already considering a career as an auto mechanic. But a visit to Milwaukee Area Technical College’s campus in Mequon made the idea more real for the rising Rufus King High School senior.

"If I'm able to see it and touch it, get the feel of it, understand it from point A to point B — then that's a lot better than looking at paper," he said.

Winfrey visited the campus and got his hands under the hood of a car with 25 other campers from Lead Generation, a new summer program aimed at helping Milwaukee high school students prepare for college and learn about career opportunities.

The point of the day is to exposure students to the schools’ programs, like landscape horticulture and automotive technology mechanics, said Gregory Ware, an administrator with the MATC Institutional Effectiveness Division.

"They can see themselves more in that particular career when they have the hands-on experience, as opposed to just lecturing and paperwork," he said.

Friday was one of many outings for campers at Lead Generation, a seven-week summer camp based in Milwaukee. It’s run by MKE Fellows, a mentorship and professional development program for African American male college students. During those weeks, students earn an hourly wage as they improve their ACT scores, learn financial literacy skills and explore career possibilities.

Most of them, Ware said, haven’t been exposed to many career opportunities in a hands-on way.

The vast majority of campers are students of color, and most come from low-income backgrounds. Many will be the first in their family to attend college, like Jamila Hill, a rising senior at Milwaukee High School of the Arts.

After graduation, Hill plans to study biomedical sciences or biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and eventually become a dentist or orthodontist.

But she said her family can’t offer much guidance on how to apply for scholarships and navigate college. "I don't know who to ask questions. Everyone could say that they’re there for me, but no one's really going through the experiences that I'm going through," she said. "So it's really like I'm all alone." She’s found some answers through Lead Generation. Hill said