A Year of Changing Lives

Since August 2022, the Ellen and Joe Checota MATC Scholarship Program has helped students and inspired the community to invest in a shared future

Samantha Albert goes to work fixing a car in the shop

Samantha Albert is one of 372 students who have received assistance from the Checota MATC Scholarship Program

Samantha Albert hasn’t had an easy ride. She has run into roadblocks, taken detours, screeched to sudden stops. But she didn’t quit.

Her father instilled in her a love of cars and all things automotive, but he struggled with addiction and died of a drug overdose when she was a teenager. A year after she graduated from Greenfield High School, she got pregnant and had a son with special needs.

“I stopped my life and had to go in a different direction,” she said. “Once my son got older, I decided that it was my turn to go to school.”

In August 2022, Albert enrolled in MATC’s Automotive Maintenance Technician program and graduated in May 2023 with help from the college’s quality instructors, encouraging advisors and a full ride from the Ellen and Joe Checota MATC Scholarship Program.

“Because of the Checota, I had my child care paid for, which allowed me to stay later for classes, to study and to complete my classwork,” Albert said. “I am so, so grateful for that.”

Launched in August 2022, the scholarship program has wasted no time in transforming lives. Driven by the vision of Ellen and Joe Checota to accelerate entry into the workforce, the scholarship covers the cost of tuition, books, equipment, child care, transportation and food so students pursuing short-term technical diplomas and certificates can earn credentials faster (in up to 18 months).

Ellen and Joe Checota

Ellen and Joe Checota

In less than a year, 372 students (about 85% identifying as people of color) received the scholarship and 191 graduated in the 2022-23 school year. Recipients are entering fields that are in desperate need of skilled workers, such as nursing, automotive, carpentry, electricity and more.

Shortly after enrolling at MATC, Albert was diagnosed with lupus, a disease that attacks the immune system and painfully inflames the skin, joints, heart, lung, kidneys, blood cells and brain.

But Albert wasn't about to let that stop her.

She attended classes at MATC's Oak Creek Campus every weekday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. She also worked part time at a local Target store and was raising her son. Albert learned about the Checota MATC Scholarship Program after she started classes. Now that she has her Automotive Maintenance Technician technical diploma, she plans to further her training.

“I’m trying to get a background in everything automotive so I can decide what I really want to do with it,” she said. “Being in the maintenance technician classes has made me want to work in automotive even more.”

Albert also has shared her story of perseverance with local high school students trying to figure out what to do with their lives and with community members trying to get back on track.

“Growing up, so many people told me that college was just a no. My family didn’t have the resources,” she said. “I didn’t know there was so much help available to attend college, but there is. There’s a lot of help, and a lot of help that is free. The people here want to help you succeed.”

Another scholarship recipient whose life was changed by the Checota scholarship is Nathan Berrios, a Milwaukee native who wants to install, repair and maintain all-important overhead power and utility wires and cables.

“The job certainly isn’t for everyone. But I think for me it will be a very fulfilling field,” said Berrios, who graduated from Milwaukee Public Schools’ Riverside University High School. “You can make really good money and learn a lot. My plan is to get hired on as soon as possible and start a really long career.”

Berrios completed MATC’s Electrical Power Distribution program and, thanks to the Checota MATC Scholarship Program, will start his career with zero college debt.

“It was just phenomenal that I didn’t have to pay for almost anything,” Berrios said. “I didn’t have to break
my back working extra shifts at work to pay for school.”

Berrios’ scholarship became critical after his car was stolen last year. He had enough money in his savings account to buy another car, but not if he had to pay tuition.

“I probably would not have been in school without the scholarship,” he said. “It really helped.”

Inspired philanthropy

The Checotas’ gift not only changed the lives of students like Albert and Berrios, but also inspired the community to give and invest in the next generation of workers.

As of June, more than 250 individuals, foundations and corporations have donated $2.02 million and the Checotas have contributed $4 million (the couple gives $1 million for each $500,000 raised). The first matching gift of $500,000 came from attorneys Julianna Ebert and Frank Daily, and Bader Philanthropies gave $400,000, which is the second-largest matching gift.

Additionally, the Zilber Family Foundation contributed $200,000, the Ralph Evinrude foundation donated
$120,000 and an anonymous donor gifted $100,000. Molson Coors gave $100,000 through its Project Justice initiative. Another $480,000 in donations is needed to reach the program’s full matching potential of $7.5 million.

“We want students to know that if you make the effort, we will continue to support you,” Joe Checota said at the time of the scholarship’s launch. “We’re trying to change lives one life at a time in Milwaukee.”

For more information about the Ellen and Joe Checota MATC Scholarship Program or to donate through the MATC Foundation, visit matc.edu/donate.

Spotlight: More Foundation Scholarships

A Promise Kept

In 2016, the MATC Promise became the first scholarship of its kind in Wisconsin to give free tuition to students coming directly from high school to MATC. Two years later, the college expanded the program to include adults who had started college, but hadn't yet earned a diploma or degree.

Since 2016, MATC has awarded more than $3 million in Promise scholarships and served more than 3,000 students.


  • Total: 667
  • High School: 310
  • Adult: 357

Diversity in most recent cohorts

  • High School: 88% students of color
  • Adult: 78% students of color

Retention - students who stay after each semester

  • High School: 82% overall since inception
  • Adult: 77% since inception
  • College Overall: 60% for part-time students

Advancing Healthier Wisconsin as an MATC Research Partner

The aim of Advancing Healthier Wisconsin (AHW) is to make Wisconsin the healthiest state in the nation.

AHW is Wisconsin's largest health improvement philanthropy and invests more than $17 million annually for biomedical research, community health initiatives and the health workforce needed in the state, said Christina Ellis, program director for the AHW Endowment.

MATC Foundation received an 18-month, $200,000 community partnership grant from the AHW Endowment to create the structure for the new $6 million Froedtert Memorial Hospital Scholarship Fund. The fund was created to provide scholarships for underpriveleged and deserving students over the next 20 years. Ultimately, the scholarship program aims to expedite the process to enter the healthcare workforce.

"There isn't a job in healthcare where people aren't needed," said Jesse Ehrenfeld, M.D. senior associate dean and director of the AHW Endowment. "We can't do it alone. We need partners to help us provide the trained people we need right now."