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Milwaukee rapper, art organization team up to mentor city youth

Posted at 6:39 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 15:34:00-04

MILWAUKEE — Stephon Watson, 18, has dreams of starting a clothing line.

“My main thing is I try to work on my brand, Better Days," he said.

Bianca Vines, 17, might want to pursue music.

"Like I sing songs, but I don't sing like (sings the word 'ah'). I rap," she said.

Stephon Watson
Stephon Watson working on printing shirts at Milwaukee OATS.

Given that these two goals are so different, you wouldn't think that they would be working alongside one another. However, the two spend about five days a week working alongside each other. They are developing business, financial literacy, communication skills and so much more as part of a program at Milwaukee OATS, a screen-printing business and art movement.

"One thing we do is we work with high school students and college students to give them an internship, so they can learn workforce development skills," Enrique Murguia, the owner of Milwaukee OATS and the one in charge of this program, said.

Murguia works in conjunction with Employ Milwaukee to give youth who have gone to juvenile detention centers, or have had run-ins with the law, a chance to learn a new skill that will apply to their future career.

"So young people are starting to identify career paths they want to take. Some young people, since they are here, they are like, 'I want to start a clothing brand,'" Murguia said.

People like Stephon.

“You know, I wanted to work, you know, so (Enrique) saw something in me," Stephon said.

Solowke
Milwaukee Solowke poses for photos with two members of the mentorship program at Milwaukee OATS.

But when they aren’t learning a new skill or trade, they get to sit down and talk with people they can relate to. Like Milwaukee Solowke, who has four million views on his songs, but also was just released from a two-year prison stint.

“When I was their age, when I was 17, 18, I ain’t had nobody tell me how to prevent my mistakes and things like that. I really thought I knew it all," Solowke said.

It’s an easy-going, peer-to-peer mentorship program.

“You really rather hear it from your peers versus your grandmother.”

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