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Kenosha Unified School District’s college tour can help close achievement gap, organizer says

Kenosha college toru image

Kenosha News: When Alvin Owens talks about the Spring Break College Tour, which takes mostly African-American Kenosha students on a whirlwind tour of colleges in the South and East Coast, he also isn’t afraid to talk about the elephant in the room: the achievement gap.

It refers to the academic gap that exists in the Kenosha Unified School District between black students and their white counterparts. It is considerable — Owens calls it the biggest in the country — and it bothers him.

“Our academic achievement gap is getting bigger. That is something we cannot accept or tolerate,” he said. “It’s up to us to close the gap.”

When he says “us,” he’s referring to parents and the larger community.

At a recent meeting with parents about the upcoming tour, he and Gary Vargas, student liaison at Bradford High School and an adviser to the African American Male Initiative, goaded parents to stay on top of their children’s academics, telling them they need to be checking school websites, perusing online grades and meeting with guidance counselors and teachers to learn of opportunities for their children.

Read more about the Kenosha Unified School District’s college tour.

Internships, partnerships, schools help fill health-care worker gap

health care workers

Kenosha News: In addition to offering internships, Aurora has formed a partnership with the Kenosha Unified School District as well as Gateway Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside to introduce students to the health care field.

Another large employer, UnitedHealthcare, has taken it a step further. The UnitedHealthcare Foundation has created a $2.3 million matching grant program with Milwaukee Area Technical College to double the size of its registered nursing program over the next three years.

School officials expect to double enrollment by this fall, hire 16 new nursing program instructors, support the recruitment of low-income students and assist with placement services once students graduate.

Some colleges have also expanded their curricula to accommodate more students looking to health-care professions.

Carthage College recently established a four-year nursing program, a first for the school. Frank Hicks, director of the nursing department, said the curriculum would fill a critical need for more nurses.

Gateway has expanded its nursing program to include simulation laboratories and classroom space.

“We’re doing what we can to prepare people for the workforce,” said Gateway’s Anne Wilkinson, interim dean of nursing. “We have a very robust student support system.”

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Kenosha student business designs and manufactures new product


Kenosha News: A manufacturing and marketing company made up of 19 middle school students will bring its product to Harbor Market the next two Saturdays. They hope to show off their business acumen — and make a return for their investors.

The summer program is a cooperative effort of Junior Achievement, Leeward Business Advisors and the Kenosha School of Technology Enhanced Curriculum, or KTEC. Like businesses in the real world, the students had to conceive of a product they could create themselves, raise capital, manufacture it and, come this weekend, bring it to market. Literally.

“The goal is to get youths of Kenosha exposed to what entrepreneurial spirit looks like,” said Michael Polzin, chief executive of Leeward Business Advisors. “And, to generate some understanding on what operating a business looks like. We want them to have that front of mind as they progress through their careers, so they know that they have that ability.”

“This is something that our teachers wouldn’t necessarily have the time or the expertise to teach,” said Kristen Krief, who works in media and community relations for Kenosha Unified School District. “Having Junior Achievement finance it, in partnership with companies like Leeward, gives a real world experience to the kids. And, it’s something we wouldn’t be able to provide on our own.”

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Sun Prairie music teacher is finalist for National Teacher of the Year

gleason.jpg A Sun Prairie band director who was named Wisconsin’s middle school Teacher of the Year in September is now one of four finalists for the overall national honor.

Chris Gleason, 43, an instrumental music teacher and band director at Patrick Marsh Middle School in Sun Prairie, will compete for the 2017 National Teacher of the Year Award with finalists from California, Maryland and Massachusetts.

The Council of Chief State School Officers, which runs the contest, announced the finalists Monday.

“I’m astonished, grateful, humbled,” Gleason said from his classroom.

He said he’s been told he will be flown to Washington, D.C., in March for two days of intense interviewing by the selection committee. The national winner is to be announced in late spring.

If he were to win, Gleason would be only the second Wisconsin teacher in history to do so, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.

The first national winner from Wisconsin was Helen “Missy” Adams, a kindergarten teacher in the Cumberland School District, in 1961.

It has been 50 years since the last Wisconsin finalist. That honor goes to Paul D. Plantico of Green Bay West High School in 1967.

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Initiative connects ex-felons with Beloit students


Beloit Daily News: After spending years behind bars and seeing lives destroyed by the drugs they once sold, the Buchanan men say they are ready to turn their lives around.

That’s part of the reason the Buchanans and other men with a criminal past have joined Community Action’s Fatherhood Initiative. In addition to gaining job and parenting skills in the program, they are performing community service work on Fridays. They visited Hackett and Merrill elementary schools — the two lowest academic performers in the district — to read to children on Dec. 16. The men also intend to give presentations to intermediate and high school students in the School District of Beloit as well as return visits to the elementary schools.

“Our objective is to let the kids know that reading is cool,” said Fatherhood Initiative case manager Michael Bell.