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Janesville scholarship program supports education of black and brown teachers

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Posted at 7:02 AM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 08:02:21-04

JANESVILLE  — It appears right now, there are more teaching jobs open than there are people graduating with college degrees in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

It's a problem school districts are facing nationwide. Amid the nationwide teacher shortage, schools in Janesville have a program that is not only helping fill open positions, but also hiring a workforce that is more reflective of the community.

It's called the Janesville Multicultural Teaching Scholarship.

It's a program that offers students of color money to attend college and get a degree in education. The scholarship, which is funded by donations and fundraising in the community, offered Jesse Ramirez $5,000 per year. The scholarship also secures recipients a job in the Janesville School District.

Janesville Multicultural Teaching Scholarship

Ramirez received the scholarship and is now a teacher shaping the lives of young students at Franklin Middle School in Janesville.

"It definitely makes me proud to be doing what I'm doing, knowing that there really wasn't anyone in my family that went to college," said Ramirez.

Ramirez is also a first-generation college graduate and a Mexican-American. When asked how often Ramirez had a Mexican-American teacher while attending K-12 school, he wasn't able to recall any.

"I had great teachers obviously, I became a teacher. But not really that I can recall of Mexican heritage or even Black Americans or anything else," he said.

95% of teachers in the state of Wisconsin are white, according to the Wisconsin Policy Forum. It's part of the reason why Ramirez aims to be a role model for students.

"All you really need is the drive and the desire to make an impact in your community," Ramirez said.

The CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development says programs like these not only help with the teacher shortage, especially in rural and suburban communities, but are critical to the success of students of color.

"Black boys for example - they could be up 39% less likely to drop out of high school if they have a single black teacher. Just one," said Sharif El-Mekki, CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development. "If they have two black teachers, they are up to 32% more likely to go to college."

This means that programs, like the Janesville Multicultural Teaching Scholarship, are seen as something that can help close the graduation gap.

According to Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction, 70.8% of Black students graduate high school in four years. Compare that to 83.7% of Hispanic students and 94.2% of white students.

Graduation rates

It's another reason programs like this scholarship can be so important.

"I think having the support and the mentorship of other teachers that you can look up to and relate to, and with this scholarship - having more teachers of color to students of colors to kind of set them up, to be that guide and that mentor - its huge," said Ramirez.

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