A partnership between Concordia and eight Milwaukee schools is helping people obtain their education through a program called Project Invest.
The goal is to help those with an associates degree or those working as a teacher aid in inner-city schools achieve their teaching certification.
"It’s harnessing the talent that’s always committed within the system. These are educational professionals who live and work in the community, who love the school systems of which they're a part of and are eager to continue to grow as professionals having classrooms of their own as license teachers," said Michael Uden, Vice Provost of Student Enrollment and Engagement of Concordia University.
The program states, "Teacher turnover rates in urban schools are statistically higher than in other settings, inner-city students are yearning for highly qualified teachers committed to making a long-term difference in their lives."
According to an Ethnicity and Gender Report by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, in the Milwaukee School District during the 2018-2019 school year, 69% of teachers were Caucasian, 17% were African American and 10% Hispanic. Having teachers and students with similar ethnicity helps increase the trust and success of the children. Of the 30 students participating in Project Invest, 95% are minorities.
"It is so important that children see people that look like them and prove it is obtainable, that going to college is something you can do. It’s something that is not far fetched because I am doing it," said Concordia Student Shantonie Forte.
Forte is proof of the program's success. She is an educational assistant at Milwaukee College Preparatory School and is passionate about inspiring the next generation of future leaders.
"Teaching them they can overcome any situation and to dream past their problems and that a first-class education is their birthright, it is something they are entitled to and they can achieve going to college," said Forte.
Forte said Project Invest was the push and opportunity she was waiting for. Now, she is achieving her dream of having a classroom of her own.
Forte hopes to inspire other mothers and educators to follow their own dreams.
"Just do it, just sign up," she said. "I have the responsibility of teaching my children their demographic does not dictate their future."
CEO of Milwaukee College Preparatory School Robert Rauh said there are 16 educational assistants who are on their way to receiving their education degree thanks to Project Invest. The hope is to hire the educational assistants as teachers once they graduate.
"Keeping great teachers in classrooms is a challenge, but when you have people who are really bought in, who believe in what you are doing and who have been there and seen the success that helps with the retention," said Rauh.
"Participating school districts contribute $1,000 per participant per year to help reduce the cost of tuition. To learn more about Project Invest contact Jennifer Becker at Jennifer.Becker@cuw.edu or 262-243-2093, or click here.