By Andrea Waxman Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service Published Jun 23, 2019 at 5:56 PM

Summer is no time to slack.

Especially when it comes to all things college and career.

Four MPS College and Career Centers around the city are open this summer to help students navigate the steps to higher education and jobs.

Ameera Fowler, who just graduated from Rufus King International High School, would like to see more students take advantage of the assistance the centers offer, which includes taking them on college visits.

She said she hadn’t realized how helpful the staff would be until she visited with friends who were regulars there. She wishes she had started using the center’s services earlier.

Fowler worked with planning assistant Ronnicia Walker-Johnson to figure out how to get into college and how to pay for it.

Walker-Johnson "forms a bond with everyone who comes in there," said Fowler, and she relieved Fowler’s stress by reassuring her that they could get through the process in time.

Planning to major in business and minor in fashion and design, Fowler was accepted at MATC, Mount Mary University and the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She’s still waiting to hear about financial aid before making her decision.

MPS opened College and Career Centers at all 20 traditional high schools in 2017. Since then, 17,500 students have been helped in more than 95,000 visits, said Ericca Pollack, MPS college access coordinator.

Samari Price, a Milwaukee Marshall High School 2019 graduate, said the center helped her with mailing transcripts, writing essays, studying for tests and played a big role in the number of schools to which she applied.

"Whenever I needed to talk," the staff "was always there to listen," she said.

Most of the centers’ work is with seniors on post-high school enrollment steps, including helping them with college applications, scholarships and completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, form. The form is required by most colleges and universities when applying for financial aid, she said.

For families that don’t have experience navigating the college and career process, the centers are able to provide one-on-one support, Pollack said.

Helping kids stay on track

Erika Britton, whose twins, Ameera and Taajwar Evans, graduated among the top 10 in the class of 2019 at North Division High School, said their planning assistant was like a big sister with whom they could talk about anything. She had a rapport with the students and was involved throughout their high school years.

Britton works first shift and her husband is busy operating a business, so it was helpful that Planning Assistant Shariah Salahaladyn kept her seniors on track with all their deadlines, Britton said.

Ms S., as the students call her, reviewed the Evans twins’ essays more than once and made sure Britton understood the entire process, she said.

In the fall, the twins will go to UW-Whitewater, where they both plan to major in nursing.

Some students who apply to colleges and are admitted don’t always enroll. The centers can help them resolve whatever roadblocks arise, Pollack said.

"One of the big things that happens is that when our students get their first tuition and fees bill, the shock of what the actual cost is can be a bit overwhelming for families," Pollack said.

More about the centers

The centers can help all entering or continuing high school students write resumes and look for internships and summer jobs.

The flagship center at South Division High School will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays during the summer.

Centers at Rufus King International High School, 1801 W Olive St.; Milwaukee High School of the Arts2300 W. Highland Ave.; and Alexander Hamilton High School6215 W. Warnimont Ave., will be open mornings and some afternoons during the summer. (See website for most up-to-date hours.)

Interested students and families can walk into any of the centers or call South Division at (414) 902-8458.

Andrea Waxman Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Andrea Waxman is a staff reporter at the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. A professional writer, she is completing a graduate certificate in Digital Storytelling at Marquette University's Diederich College of Communication. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor for a community newspaper and taught English and Japanese in several area middle and high schools.

Waxman has lived in Milwaukee since 1981, but spent most of her early years living in Tokyo, where her father was stationed at the American embassy. She returned to Japan in 1986 and again in 1993 when her husband was there as a Fulbright scholar.

In her free time, Waxman enjoys theater, movies, music, ethnic food, cities, travel, reading - especially the news of the day - and all kinds of people. She is interested in working for social justice and contributing to the vitality of the city.