The program provides scholarships and mentorship for the young men, who have demonstrated academic talent.
“No other program like this exists in the country,” said John Daniels Jr., chair of the Greater Milwaukee Committee and founder of the MKE Fellows program. “Milwaukee is setting the pace.”
MKE Fellows board member Blaine Gibson said Milwaukee suffers from a “brain drain,” with a lot of talented people leaving the city. “The idea is to show the students it is possible to live their dreams here in their hometown,” added Gibson, vice president at Robert W. Baird & Co.
The first group of six MKE Fellows to complete college graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta in May. The program launched in 2011.
The Greater Milwaukee Committee expanded the program last summer to offer the fellows paid summer internship opportunities to help them pursue a career in the city.
A dozen workplaces provide internships to the 45 fellows. They include Harley-Davidson, Inc., Johnson Controls Inc., Milwaukee Bucks and Quarles & Brady. Daniels said he hopes to recruit 25 workplaces to offer internships next summer.
MKE Fellows also attend professional development workshops and informational sessions hosted by a variety of businesses. The program is planning to add a community service component next year, Daniels noted.
Beginning in 2014, African-American male students attending any historically black college were eligible for the program. Now the Greater Milwaukee Committee is casting a wider net. Students from colleges such as Marquette, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh and UW-Platteville—are eligible to become MKE Fellows.
Students interested in the fellowship should contact John Daniels at Quarles & Brady and request information about the program.
Milwaukee native Brandon Ramey, a rising junior at UW-Oshkosh, has been a member of the MKE Fellows program since December. “None of the opportunities I’ve had would be possible without the MKE Fellows program,” he said.
Ramey is a marketing intern at Herzing University this summer. He said he’s had the opportunity to network with marketing professionals at Northwestern Mutual. “If I wasn’t a member of the MKE Fellows I wouldn’t have experienced that.”
Karl Tatum, a rising sophomore at Marquette University and a first-year fellow, said the program “enforces the idea of giving back.”
Tatum is interning with Milwaukee Public Schools in the finance department. “Once I leave I will be able to give my knowledge to young men and women,” he said. “I can teach them how to act in professional settings.”
Jeremy Bennett, who is a professional mentor to three MKE Fellows this summer at PNC, said, “I can see the program is changing their outlooks. They understand how beneficial this experience is for their future.”
“I think one of the keys here is to recognize that if we can keep building this momentum, we can create an incredible talent base that has been untapped to date in Milwaukee,” Daniels said.