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PEOPLE summer workshops prepare students to attend UW

June 13, 2014 By Valeria Davis

Photo: students drawing mural

In the glow of their own computer-projected drawings, high school students Yer Lee (wearing glasses) and Mia Yang, participants in the PEOPLE fine arts internship in 2012, create a tape mural on a classroom wall.


Hundreds of Wisconsin middle and high school students hoping to be admitted to the University of Wisconsin–Madison with the help of the PEOPLE program will arrive on campus beginning next week for workshops and immersion into the college experience.

More than 350 middle schoolers from Madison, Dane County and Menominee Indian school districts will participate in 28 Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE) summer workshops over the next three weeks, starting Monday, June 16.

On June 22, more than 500 high school students from Madison, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha and partner tribal districts will arrive on campus for a summer college immersion experience to hone their core subject area skills, prepare for ACT and AP examinations, and gain early exposure to college majors and career options.

Photo: Jacqueline DeWalt

Jacqueline DeWalt

“The price of discipline, sacrifice and academic immersion is well worth the opportunity to win a tuition scholarship to the state’s flagship public campus and one of the best universities not only in the nation, but in the world,” says executive director Jacqueline DeWalt. “The full name of the PEOPLE program — Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence — explains what parents are choosing to add to their school-age children’s experience toolbox long before these pre-Badger scholars thoroughly understand.”

Housed within the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement, PEOPLE is one of the most comprehensive talent-development diversity scholarship pipelines for underrepresented, economically disadvantaged and first-generation students in the nation. Now celebrating its 15th year, PEOPLE will officially welcome its 2014 incoming freshman class at the end of its summer programs on Aug. 1 during its annual recognition banquet.

The campus-based middle school summer workshops are designed to explore professional options ranging from engineering and medicine to law and business. Early exposure to potential college majors and career options is a key goal of the middle school PEOPLE program, says DeWalt, along with providing hands-on experiences and access to valuable campus resources that are not available through their public schools.

PEOPLE rising ninth graders, or students who have just completed middle school, spend their afternoons for three weeks, and all day for two additional weeks, preparing to accelerate their success in high school with sessions in study skills, math and science. And summer is just the beginning: students meet for tutoring and enrichment throughout the school year in core subject areas, including English, history, math, science and world languages, along with building their leadership and community service profile.

“The price of discipline, sacrifice and academic immersion is well worth the opportunity to win a tuition scholarship to the state’s flagship public campus.”

Jacqueline DeWalt

“PEOPLE is deeply committed to educating and improving the life chances of all Wisconsin youth,” Dewalt says. “The exposure and experiences garnered as members of the PEOPLE program have resulted in an ever-increasing pool of well-rounded, highly educated global citizens prepared to thrive and serve as leaders within their Wisconsin communities and throughout the world.”

For those in their final year of summer precollege training — high school juniors — the six-week summer session includes internships with campus and community partners, while learning how to complete the college application process required to be accepted at UW–Madison. Participation in the PEOPLE program is not a guarantee that admission will follow.

There is a misconception that PEOPLE is an entitlement program, which has never been true, DeWalt says. But there are very few pipeline programs in the nation that pair thorough precollege preparation with the opportunity to earn a tuition scholarship to a top university as successfully as the PEOPLE program does, she says.

PEOPLE has seen 95 percent of its students enroll in higher education — 71 percent of whom enter UW–Madison or other UW System campuses. The remaining 29 percent attend other universities and colleges. There is a 96 percent first year retention rate and 70 percent complete their degree at UW–Madison. In May, 52 PEOPLE scholars became proud UW–Madison alumni by earning their undergraduate degrees.