Thirty-two Students Make M-cubed History as First Early College Program Grads

Genaro C. Armas

June 05, 2019

The first class of students to earn college credits while still enrolled in high school through a collaboration between the Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduated Thursday.

The M3 Early College pilot program debuted in the spring 2019 semester, giving students a taste of college classes. They celebrated four months of hard work with a celebration at the new UWM Welcome Center, where they received ceremonial white stoles.

“It’s another big moment in my life,” senior Eric Andrekopoulos said with a smile after posing for pictures with friends. “I feel like I’ve grown ... I exposed myself to a little more and I’ve learned a lot.”

The Early College program is one of a variety of initiatives in M3 (pronounced M-cubed) designed to help achieve many goals, including boosting student achievement, ensuring that students have the necessary resources to advance to college and into the workforce and closing the equity gap in educational attainment.

“Students who complete college-level coursework prior to high school graduation save money on college tuition and experience greater success in college because they are prepared for college-level work,” said MATC’s president, Dr. Vicki Martin. “M-Cubed Early College students had full college privileges at MATC and we are proud to say that these high school students had a higher passing rate for their math course than the average rate for high school graduates.”

“We need to scale this,” UWM Chancellor Mark Mone told students and parents. “We need to open more doors for individuals to education any way we can have the type of impact and achieve success rates and closure in terms of the gaps and pull across those bridges.”

About 160 MPS students have applied for the Early College program for the 2019-2020 school year, when enrollment is expected to at least triple in size. Students who complete the dual enrollment program will earn 10 college credits, including four MATC math credits, three MATC English language arts credits and three UWM educational psychology class. The credits also count toward their high school degrees.

All three M3 institutions are contributing time and resources to the Early College program. MPS provides lunches and pays for the classes. MATC provides bus passes for all the students. UWM adjusted one of its educational psychology courses – originally designed for first-year college students – so that it could be tailored to high school students.

The initial results from the inaugural class are encouraging.

For instance, Early College students completed the Math 200 class with an 87% pass rate, 27 points higher than the average pass rate for high school graduates who take the course at MATC. Completion of Math 200 also meant that students completed the math requirement for 90 percent of the programs offered at MATC. The course is also transferable to four-year institutions.

MPS Superintendent Keith Posley is optimistic that the program’s future.

“The Early College program is important because our young people get an opportunity to get a feel for college and know that, yes we can do this,” Posley said. “Hats off to all our young people for a job well done. Parents, thank you for pushing your young person to achieve excellence.”

James Sokolowski, the M3 Early College Program Director, emceed the event and read the names of graduates before they received their stoles. Delivering parting words from the podium to students were associate professor Jacqueline Nguyen and graduate assistant Travis Love from UWM, along with faculty members Sophie Pappenheim and Dr. Roland Ehlke from MATC.

All students in the initial class plan to attend college or enter the armed services. M3 graduate Joelene Jobe [GCA1] who attended Rufus King High School, plans to become a family doctor but also wants to major in history. She says one of the biggest takeaways for her from the program was the need to be vigilant about managing her time in college.

“It helped me to open up my eyes,” Jobe said. “I have a lot more time (than in high school) but I have to be aware to actually use that time to be productive as well.”

Andrekopoulos plans to join the Marine Corps and wants to become an aviation mechanic. It’s the next step toward his eventual goal of going into aerospace engineering and achieving a dream of building a supersonic aircraft by himself.

He said was nervous about the workload going into the Early College program in January, so much so that he felt “doomed to fail.”

Andrekopoulos proved himself wrong. Mone, Martin and Posley watched proudly as he delivered one of three student speeches at the ceremony.

"I see you're trying to expand" the Early College program, said Andrekopoulos, "and that's a good thing to do especially for upcoming generations."