Largest class of M³ College Connections participants prepared to succeed at the next level

Partnership between MPS, MATC and UWM helps another 89 students get ready for college

Mark Feldmann,

June 21, 2022

MILWAUKEE – For Owen Saiia, the best part of his senior year in high school was going to college.

Saiia, who graduated this spring from Milwaukee Public Schools’ Milwaukee High School of the Arts, took courses at Milwaukee Area Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee through an innovative, nationally-recognized collaboration among the institutions  called M³ (pronounced M-Cubed).

Students in the M³ College Connections program attend college classes and earn college credits while still enrolled in high school. The dual enrollment initiative, heading into its fifth year, saves students money and prepares them for college-level work.

“The instructors gave us a glimpse into what college is like,” said Saiia, who plans to study political science at UWM. “We learned time management and how to use different learning tools. It was an invaluable experience.”

Of this year's 152 participants, 89 — including Saiia — were seniors and were recognized in a special graduation ceremony on Wednesday, June 15, at MATC. College Connections is just one program  of M³, which is designed to help boost student achievement, ensure students have necessary resources to advance to college and into the workforce, and close the equity gap in educational attainment.

“This is a huge accomplishment,” James Sokolowski, MPS’s postsecondary engagement coordinator, told the graduates. “You might not realize how huge until you get to a college campus and you don’t have to take some classes that other students have to take.”

“This is going to give you a huge boost in your college trajectory,” he added.

The program boosted the confidence of Samira Perez, who graduated from MPS’ Riverside University High School. She completed two levels of calculus at MATC and knew she was ready for the next step of her academic career.

“Those classes really prepared me the most,” said Perez, who plans to attend the Milwaukee School of Engineering in the fall. “I feel a lot more prepared for college now.”

M³ College Connections graduates get into college at a higher rate than other students, pass math courses at a higher rate than other high school graduates, and are automatically accepted at MATC and UWM. 

“This program is a win for everyone,” said Mohammad Dakwar, MATC’s vice president of learning.

The College Connections concept was developed in 2015 and officially launched in January 2017. MPS provides lunches and pays for the classes. MATC provides bus passes for all the students and offers math and science courses. UWM provides classes in social studies, psychology and other subjects.

In October 2019, the broader M³ partnership earned national recognition for its work at the University Economic Development Association conference for showing how putting the right people in the right environment benefits the community and economy.

The 2022 College Connections graduating class collectively earned 1,840 college credits, said MPS Superintendent Keith Posley. At an average of $300 per credit, the students saved $552,000 in college tuition, he said. Since the program started in 2019, more than 400 students have earned a total of 5,002 college credits - a cost savings of $1.5 million, Posley added.

The first graduating group had 32 students in June 2019. Today 152 students from 21 MPS schools are enrolled in the program.

“Tell your friends and tell your peers to participate in this wonderful program” Posley said. “When I look out at you, I know the future is bright.”

Graduates attended the June 15 celebration wearing caps and gowns in their high school colors. A slide show of individual students revealed a wide variety of college destinations and study plans, from political science to computer engineering to medicine.

“Don’t allow anyone – even yourself – to put limits on what you can do with your life,” Marc Young, UWM’s executive director of undergraduate admissions said in the keynote address to the graduates. “You are in the best position to shape your future.”

UWM Chancellor Mark Mone urged graduates to stay in the region once they completed their college studies and help make the Milwaukee area workforce stronger, smarter and more diverse. 

“We need you here,” Mone said. “And we want you here.”

For more information about the M³ College Connections, go to

Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 25,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 170 academic programs; and transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.