After more than a decade of shaping students in Milwaukee’s central city neighborhoods, Bob Dunn, president and CEO of Our Next Generation, Inc., has retired and turned the nonprofit over to newly appointed leader La Toya Sykes.
Dunn, who joined Our Next Generation in 2003 after 12 years as president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Milwaukee, Inc., officially retired on Oct. 15. While he originally planned to stay onboard at the organization for another year or two, some minor health concerns along with a need for fresh leadership prompted him to reconsider.
“To me, the agency is poised for dramatic growth, and I thought at my age, ‘Can I see that through?’” said Dunn, who is 67.
Our Next Generation emerged out of a group of volunteers who banded together in the 1990s to tutor and mentor youth in the central city. Today, the organization provides a spectrum of programs focused on academic support, career exploration and personal development for students in pre-K through 12th grades.
The nonprofit is headquartered at 3421 W. Lisbon Ave. in Milwaukee and operates two learning centers at Westside Academy at 36th and Brown streets and 32nd and Brown streets. The organization is also in the process of creating a designated teen center two blocks west of its home base.
Additionally, Our Next Generation offers programming at area businesses and schools across Milwaukee, including ManpowerGroup, UW-Milwaukee, MSOE and Saint John’s on the Lake, through its Outbound Learning program.
During Dunn’s leadership, the organization expanded both its reach and its identity, particularly after it acquired the site of its main center about five years ago, Dunn said.
“Since then the identity of Our Next Generation has really increased,” he said, adding that community recognition of the agency is “very positive” and that “the success of our program has been demonstrated.”
In the last 10 years, the high school graduation rate of Our Next Generation students has never dropped below 95 percent and has typically hovered between 97 and 100 percent, according to Dunn.
Along with establishing a permanent home for Our Next Generation and growing community partnerships through the organization’s Outbound Learning program, Dunn said he is particularly proud of the nonprofit’s involvement in the Washington Park Partners.
He’s even prouder of the students who have succeeded through the organization’s programming efforts.
“What I’m proudest of are the kids that have come through our program,” Dunn said. “If we look at statistics and environments they’re coming from and the obstacles they have to overcome, it’s a pretty bleak picture.”
Their accomplishments, in spite of the odds against them, are “a tribute to them,” he said.
His successor, Sykes, comes to the organization with a diversity of experience in education and college access initiatives. Sykes, who spent her childhood in Milwaukee, most recently served as managing partner of Milwaukee consulting firm Dampeer & Canady LLC. She is also board president of Lead2Change, Inc., a Milwaukee-based nonprofit and youth leadership organization.
Her career has also included serving as associate director of College Goal Sunday, a college access program facilitated by the YMCA of the USA, and director of outreach and access awareness for Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates, which helps students navigate the student loan process responsibly.
As Sykes jumped into her new role Monday, she said at the top of her priorities is a focus on continuing to elevate Our Next Generation’s profile and a commitment to ensuring students are aware of all their options.
“I just want to help our kids see the possibilities,” she said. “I want to get them to the next level, and I want to demonstrate to them that that is possible.”