AT&T Wisconsin

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FOR RELEASE: April 16, 2006

Lisa Ray Johnson, 608-262-0855,

Sarah Silva, AT&T Wisconsin, 414-520-3535,


Pipeline partnerships improve college-going odds

Troublesome graduation and enrollment trends for students of color and low-income youth have universities, corporations and K-12 systems forming new partnerships to prepare the next generation of engineers, teachers, computer programmers and journalists.

Perseverance. Courage. Talent. Integrity. Universities and employers alike list these virtues as predictors for success on campus and in the workplace. When academic record and work history are equal, such character traits set applicants apart.

Many young people who possess these qualities, however, often lack the resources necessary to apply, enroll and stay in college. Consequently, they are less apt to qualify for high-paying jobs in professional fields.

Filling the gaps

Reduced federal grants, declining state support, resource and teacher shortages in poor neighborhood schools, and a lack of close relationships with instructors and counselors have all been cited in the research to explain persistent gaps among students of different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Milwaukee Public Schools and the AT&T Foundation, the philanthropic arm of AT&T Inc., are improving the odds that bright, talented students of color and low-income youth successfully transition from high school to college to workplace.

“We place a high priority on supporting efforts that enrich and strengthen diverse communities,” said Paul LaSchiazza, president of AT&T Wisconsin. “UW-Madison’s PEOPLE program is a powerful model providing low-income and minority students with the opportunity to access higher education and lifelong success. Strong support from Governor Doyle, legislators and the UW play a major role in bringing the benefits of this partnership to young people across Wisconsin.”

PEOPLE, which stands for Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence, is the University of Wisconsin’s most successful pipeline initiative to date. Currently, 620 high school students from targeted public school districts participate in the program, which offers a five-year scholarship to those who apply and are accepted under competitive UW admissions requirements.

“Students from diverse backgrounds deepen the campus learning experience for everyone,” said Walter Lane, director of PEOPLE and assistant dean in the School of Education at UW-Madison. “PEOPLE is positively affecting the lives of families all across the state as well as the lives of those who have the good fortune of teaching and mentoring these talented young people.”

Milwaukee Public Schools teacher and parent Kevin Kuschel said the positive effects ripple year-round in schools attended by PEOPLE program students. “A core group of college-bound students changes the dynamic of the whole school. They may not all be going to UW, but the idea is that they are ready to go.”

Encouraging numbers

With an initial grant of $600,000 in 1999 from the AT&T Foundation (formerly the SBC Foundation), UW-Madison set out to improve graduation rates and college eligibility among targeted minority students in 18 Milwaukee high schools.
Working with Milwaukee Public Schools, PEOPLE administrators built a curriculum to maintain college-track academic skills over the summer, introduce majors and careers, prepare students for the ACT and give them a feel for campus life.

Of the 257 students who have completed the program, 99% graduated from high school.  Ninety-three percent of those 255 enrolled in higher education, with 52% enrolling at UW-Madison and 15% enrolled at other UW System schools.

Kelly Kuschel, a senior from ALAS High School, was thrilled to learn he had been accepted as a PEOPLE Scholar into UW-Madison. But perhaps not as thrilled as his mother, Rosy Kuschel, who couldn’t wait for him to get home from school to open the envelope from Madison.

“I was so excited. I have to tell you I opened his mail. I was crying all the way to bring him the good news at his high school. The best part for me as a mom is that he’s only one and a half hours away when I need a hug,” Rosy said.

For his part, Kelly is looking forward to the freedom of being on his own and to more new experiences promised during summers on campus as a PEOPLE high school student. “We got to do a lot of cool stuff in the science lab and our teacher was a leading stem cell researcher. We dissected cow eyes and sheep brains.”

Most encouraging say university officials, is that once they arrive on the UW-Madison campus, PEOPLE Scholars succeed. Their average retention rate is 92% versus 81% for other targeted minorities and 88% for all students.

Lasting friendships made during their formative years in high school provide the glue that keeps PEOPLE students on track. “We all come from different backgrounds, but it [PEOPLE] has shaped us and we share that in common,” Kelly said, of the bonds formed beyond neighborhoods or home school boundaries.

Bonnie Jean Williams, a graduate of Rufus King High School, is a senior majoring in Journalism and African American Studies. She also talks about the power of friendships made away from home that pull you through the college pipeline.

“It’s almost like we all had a commitment to each other that we would complete the program,” Williams said of the demanding hours. And she’s going to need her A-Team for a while longer. Williams recently learned she has been accepted as a Ph.D. candidate in the UW English department.

Business partnership model

The AT&T Foundation has been the largest private supporter of the program under a $1.5 million grant supporting University of Wisconsin System Plan 2008 goals. In 2004, the AT&T Foundation awarded an additional $250,000 to help fund the growing influx of PEOPLE college freshmen moving along the pipeline.

“At AT&T, we are committed to supporting diversity initiatives that also work benefit our communities, and PEOPLE offered a tangible way for us to make that support real,” said Dextra Hadnot, director of external affairs.

About the PEOPLE high school program

PEOPLE offers a three-week residential program for 9th and 10th-graders on the Madison campus that emphasizes math, writing and study skills development. Students often comment how they are “ahead of the class” when school begins.

Three years of science enrichment encourage excitement about the field, provide hands-on inquiry, introduce college-level lab activities and give a capstone knowledge presentation. Research themes range from cloning and the human genome to bioinformatics and nanotechnology.

A six-week residential internship gives juniors exposure to professional fields through placements in hospitals, media companies and area businesses. Others choose to shadow a UW graduate-student applying methods of scientific inquiry and analysis in the humanities and social sciences.

Upon high school graduation and admission to the UW-Madison, students participate in an eight-week bridge program for college credit courses and orientation to university life as an undergraduate. They take rigorous university-level courses, earn credits toward an undergraduate degree, and interact with other students and faculty.

About the AT&T Foundation

The new AT&T Foundation, the philanthropic arm of AT&T Inc., supports programs that build communities and improve access to information technologies, technology training and professional skills development. The new AT&T Foundation will provide more than $60 million in 2006 in charitable contributions, thereby, placing it among the top five largest corporate foundations in the country. The new AT&T Foundation combines more than 40 years and $1.7 billion of philanthropic commitment to communities across the country.
AT&T Inc. is one of the world’s largest telecommunications holding companies and is the largest in the United States. Operating globally under the AT&T brand, AT&T companies are recognized as the leading worldwide providers of IP-based communications services to business and as leading U.S. providers of high-speed DSL Internet, local and long distance voice, and directory publishing and advertising services. AT&T Inc. holds a 60 percent ownership interest in Cingular Wireless, which is the No. 1 U.S. wireless services provider with more than 54 million wireless customers. Additional information about AT&T Inc. and AT&T products and services is available at