It will be another fun and emotional night at the at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery Town Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus June 4 as the Mann Scholars Ceremony celebrates 19 years of making a difference in young people’s lives in our community.

Amy Wallace
Amy Wallace

“I think what Mann has demonstrated is what the availability of opportunity can do for a young person and that it really is about opportunity for young people,” Mann Scholars Coordinator Amy Wallace tells Madison365. “The students do all of the hard work. My job – and the job of the extended family of Mann – is to make sure that they are connected to the right places and get the resources that they need.”

Sisters Becky Gobermann and Lori Mann Carey head up the Mann Fund and are present for each Mann Scholars Celebration every spring on the UW-Madison campus. The Mann Educational Opportunity Fund is a scholarship that honors their parents, the late 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 Mann Program’s goal is 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.

Sisters Becky Gobermann (left) and Lori Mann Carey head up the Mann Fund
Sisters Becky Gobermann (left) and Lori Mann Carey head up the Mann Fund

“To me, Mann is an example of lifting up and highlighting the amazing things that young people are already doing,” Wallace says. “Through well-thought-out planning with young people from the time they enter high school, to have a goal of what they want to do after high school makes a huge difference. It’s a conversation that starts from the moment they hit the door freshman year and create a plan and a vision for them of how they can get from point A to point B. We support them to make that dream a reality.”

Mann Scholars are picked every year based on their academic promise, their motivation, their financial need, and the willingness of their families to encourage participation in enrichment activities. They are primarily, but not exclusively, students of color.

Each Mann Scholar receives $1,000 per year each year during high school, mentoring support, and assistance in planning high school and post-secondary studies. During their high school years, these young people will receive whatever financial, mentoring, and academic support they need to succeed. The scholarship funds help pay for extracurricular and school expenses during high school, and the program also provides academic mentoring.

Wallace says that they currently have 47 past Mann Scholars who have graduated high school and went on to do some wonderful things. Four more will be added to that at the annual Mann Scholars Celebration this Friday night. The graduating high school seniors this year are:

◆ Alisha Campbell – Memorial High School (Planning on attending Madison College)
◆ Alayvia Jackson – East High School (Planning on attending UW-Milwaukee)
◆ Blake Washington – West High School (Planning on attending UW-Milwaukee)
◆ Francine White – Memorial High School (Planning on attending Prairie View A&M)

Mann Scholars (l-r) Blake Washington, Alayvia Jackson. Alisha Campbell, and Francine White
Mann Scholars (l-r) Blake Washington, Alayvia Jackson. Alisha Campbell, and Francine White

The Mann Family has also added four more college graduates this spring
◆Audera Cox – Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from UW-Platteville
◆ Marshaun Hall – Bachelor’s degree from Howard University
Brittany McNeil
Brittany McNeil

◆ Kierra Junifer – Associates from UW-Baraboo moving on to UW-River Falls
◆ Brittany McNeil – Bachelor’s degree in Audiology from University of Minnesota-Mankato

Hall will be a speaker at the Mann Scholars Celebration event on Friday as new freshman Mann Scholars will also be announced and introduced.

“The event is many ranges of emotions for the students and for us, but it is always a happy celebration,” Wallace says. “There will be an Open House from 5:30-6 p.m. followed by the program which we try to keep to an hour.”

Many people think that the Mann Scholars Program is part of a school budget, but it is a privately funded program that relies upon the generosity of individuals and foundations throughout the Madison area to stay afloat. “We would love to be able to continue to sustain the program,” Wallace says, “and then, hopefully, to moderately grow it in the future.

“It’s an important program,” Wallace adds. “I really think the program is about highlighting the entirety of hard work that is already going on for young people and about how making a few really intentional connections really makes a difference.”