By Princess Safiya Byers Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service Published Nov 06, 2023 at 3:01 PM

Jazzmine Franklin got a text from her property management company encouraging her to apply for scholarships for her children.

So she did.

And three of her children won scholarships from Berrada Properties.

This year, Berrada Properties gave out two $5,000 scholarships, ten $1,000 scholarships and a laptop to every student who applied.

Berrada Properties, owned by Youssef “Joe” Berrada, is one of Milwaukee’s most controversial landlords after filing evictions on 800 of its tenants in January 2022.

In 2021, the state Department of Justice sued Berrada and his companies, alleging that they violated the rights of tenants. Berrada and his companies have denied wrongdoing and the suit is pending.

“The management team and the ownership team are very conscientious people who have warm hearts, and you don’t hear that a lot,” said Archie Blunt, the director of community outreach with Berrada Properties. “And I wouldn’t associate with anything that was less than ... I hope what I can bring here is to show this other side and create more positive impacts.”

Blunt said the scholarships are a response to what the company is seeing in the community.

“We started to look at how can we help this tenant base after seeing all this stuff that’s happening with the kids and violence and them not having anything to do,” Blunt said. “And we decided we have to start protecting our assets, which are the children and the people inside of our buildings. That that was the focal point of starting a program.”

The property management company awarded the scholarships through Edvest 529, an online college savings account. It scheduled times for awardees to meet with a college savings consultant to start an account and to create a plan.

“The goal of Edvest is to remove some of those barriers to college saving,” said Khaleel Ali, a college savings consultant with Edvest. “We make the saving process accessible and flexible for different families.”

Berrada Properties has also partnered with Milwaukee College Prep, a four-campus network of K3-8 schools, to give students exposure to the trades through a five-week paid internship.

It also plans to open a tenant learning center this year, where staff will teach financial literacy and work with residents who want to own homes.

“And I think by doing that, not only are we educating our tenant base, but I just think we’re helping them become better citizens in general,” Blunt said.