Home Local News Annual Mann Scholars Celebration will take place tonight at Tenney Park

Annual Mann Scholars Celebration will take place tonight at Tenney Park


“No matter how old you get, our Mann Scholars are always part of the Mann family,” says Maia Pearson, program coordinator for the Mann Educational Opportunity Fund. “And we’re looking forward to Friday when our Mann family will get a little bit bigger. I’m just excited about the Mann Scholars Celebration … to be amongst the joy that is brought to us through families being together and celebrating graduation.”  

Mann Scholars and their families, along with community members, will gather outdoors at Tenney Park tonight on Madison’s near east side tonight to celebrate the achievements of new, current and graduating Mann Scholars at the annual Mann Scholars Celebration. Every spring, the Mann Educational Opportunity Fund hosts a celebration for the graduating scholars where they also introduce new Mann Scholars to the community.

Anecia Washington

The Mann Educational Opportunity Fund is a scholarship that honors Bernard and Kathlyn Mann, long-time African-American residents of Madison whose strong belief in education helped ensure the graduation of their five children from Madison Memorial High School and later from universities.

The 2023 Mann Scholars graduates that will be honored tonight will include:

• Anecia Washington of La Follette High School who will be attending UW-Madison this fall to study psychology

• Haley Johnson of Vel Phillips Memorial High School who will be attending Madison College to study nursing 

Haley Johnson

• Elliott Tuinstra of Madison East High School who will be attending Iowa Central Community College to study Kinesiology & Exercise Sciences

• Nicholas Sanders of Madison East High School who will be attending Madison College to study business administration

Elliott Tuinstra

This will be the first Mann Scholars Celebration as Mann Scholar program coordinator for Pearson, who recently succeeded longtime Mann Scholar program coordinator Amy Wallace.

“I’m looking forward to introducing the new scholars to our current scholars. I think I’m excited to see that but also the different classes  … like an incoming freshman being able to build a relationship with outgoing seniors,” Pearson says. “I think that in itself shows them the potential of what they’re able to accomplish but also what we have to offer to support them.”

The Mann Scholars Program was created to provide mentoring and educational tools to students from the Madison Metropolitan School District who show potential for academic achievement but face significant challenges to reaching their full potential.

“The Mann Scholars students have been working hard this year and they’re still working to this day, you know,” Pearson says. “I think the biggest thing is not just only coursework, but also navigating how to apply for college, how to get funding. Some students are navigating how to connect their academics to athletics, and so it’s a lot more multifaceted than just, ‘I’m going to college.’

“A lot of our families don’t have too much support outside of Mann Scholars,” she adds. 

The three new incoming Mann Scholars, who will be freshmen next year, will be recognized at the event including Jawuan Chester, Stephen Galinski, and Marje Hill

Usually, all 12 middle schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District nominate an outstanding student to be considered to be a Mann Scholar. (This year it was 11 of the 12 middle schools.) For Pearson, it’s very tough to narrow it down every year to the three or four Mann Scholars that they are able to financially support.

“Out of the 11 nominations from the middle schools, we had to narrow it down to three scholars this year. It was very difficult because all of the scholars are well deserving,” Pearson says. “Many of our scholars would be the first person in their families to go to college. A lot of our scholars are navigating helping their families immensely. So it’s the whole balancing of how to do well in school while also taking care of younger siblings or while also supporting their family. So it’s not just saying that these are exceptional students … but these are exceptional students who have real-world situations and need real-world support.”

The Mann Scholars Program provides educational support for students throughout the year, but also a little bit of financial support that sometimes can be crucial.  

“The financial aspect of the scholarship in itself is so important. We’ve had students who needed to have school clothes, like back-to-school clothes and back-to-school shoes. They needed their fees paid for,” Pearson says. “We’ve had students who had fees all the way back to elementary school … not being able to pay for your school fees stops you from getting your diploma,

“We’ve had students who have paid for their traffic safety or a large expense like being able to participate in summer programming. Because obviously summer programming, a lot of them don’t offer scholarships sometimes. So being able to utilize that scholarship to be able to pay for things like summer music academy or dance classes or just a host of other kinds of programming that isn’t necessarily programming that we offer, we can help connect students to their passions and the types of things that they may want to do in their future.”

The special mission of the Mann Educational Opportunity Fund is to provide mentoring support and educational tools primarily, but not exclusively, to students of color from the Madison Metropolitan School District who show potential for academic achievement, but face significant economic and personal challenges in reaching their full potential. 

“We still have a 100 percent graduation rate with Mann Scholars. We’d love to offer this opportunity to all scholars that were nominated, but unfortunately, due to funding, we can only do a very small portion of them,” Pearson says. “We are hoping that more and more people see the importance of this program and want to help out. We have doctors, lawyers, politicians and great people in our community who have gone through the Mann Scholars Program.”

“It’s an important program. And this is our big event,” she adds.


The annual Mann Scholars Celebration will take place tonight, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the Tenney Park Pavilion, located at 402 Thornton Ave.