New Milwaukee nonprofit aimed at helping low-income students complete college

Baird Foundation, executives supporting program

Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc.'s headquarters is in the U.S. Bank Center in downtown Milwaukee.

A new nonprofit organization aimed at helping low-income Milwaukee students complete college launched this week with the support of several business executives.

Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc.’s headquarters in the U.S. Bank Center in downtown Milwaukee.

The new organization, All-In Milwaukee, will provide high-achieving students with support to help them navigate financial, academic and social challenges in college. The ultimate goal is to help students graduate and enter the Milwaukee workforce, said All-In Milwaukee executive director Allison Wagner.

National statistics show low-income students struggle to complete college within six years, creating the compound problem of accumulating college debt and no degree to cover that expense. College completion rates among Milwaukee students are particularly low, with just 9 percent of all students earning both a high school diploma and a college degree.

Darren Jackson, retired chief executive officer of Advance Auto Parts and a Marquette University alumnus, announced this week his family will give $1 million to get the program off the ground. He also issued a challenge to the Milwaukee community to match his donation.

“We believe in these high potential, working-class kids; I was one on them,” Jackson said.

Two executives with Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc., along with the Baird Foundation, also pledged to give $250,000 to the program. The donors include the families of Baird chairman Paul Purcell and Mary Ellen Stanek, chief investment officer at Baird Advisors and president of Baird Funds.

All-In Milwaukee is seeking 30 donor partners by January 2019 to support the first cohort of  30 to 40 students in  fall 2019. Eventually, the organization plans to support 50 students per cohort, with a goal of serving 200 in total by 2023.

The program borrows from a model set by Minneapolis-based program Wallin Education Partners, which has provided support to students in the Twin Cities over the last 25 years.

All-In Milwaukee will recruit high school seniors from the Boys & Girls Club, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Carmen Schools of Science and Technology, College Possible, MKE Fellows and the United Community Center. The organization has also secured commitments from Marquette University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Alverno College and Carroll University to maximize financial aid and provide additional services for the students, the organization said.

All-In Milwaukee’s steering committee includes Paul Purcell, Cory Nettles, Jeff Joerres and Mary Kellner. Founding board members include Ricardo Diaz, Willie Hines, Mary Ellen Stanek, Darren Jackson, Patricia Hoben and Allison Wagner.

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