In a huge move that will expand the high school Escalera Program to Madison La Follette High School starting in fall 2019, the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation has announced a $300,000 commitment to Centro Hispano of Dane County.

“At Centro, we believe in what our kids can do and our programming is meant to provide the floor, the foundation, to support their own initiative and drive,” Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menendez Coller tells Madison365. “[Centro Hispano programs like] Juventud and Escalera are critical to the work because they support kids through an important transition from middle school to high school, with a critical equitable lens. We are so proud of the commitment from and partnership with the Rennebohm Foundation and the Madison Metropolitan School District.”

Centro’s Escalera Program is an afterschool program currently offered at Madison East and West High School that has a track record of success – 100 percent of students enrolled in the program in the past five years have graduated from high school with a plan for higher education. The program is slated to open a new site at La Follette High School starting this fall.

“This is an important time in the history of Centro and an important time for our families living in the Sennett/La Follette District area. It lacks logic that although the Latino community has been growing significantly in our city, and county, Centro’s high school afterschool program has not been able to grow with it,” Nina Gehan, director of development and communications for Centro Hispano of Dane County, tells Madison365. “This makes this 3-year investment from the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation even more meaningful at this time – for our youth, and for our families – and we are excited to see the impact it will have.”

Centro Hispano of Dane County is preparing to expand youth programming to a new site within the Madison Metropolitan School District with an investment of $300,000 over 3 years from the Oscar Rennebohn Foundation – a first in the organization’s history.

Students in Centro’s Escalera Program

“Part of what makes Centro’s Escalera Program so strong is that it provides wrap-around services not only to students but to their families – supporting parent meetings in the schools and culturally relevant leadership development programming that increase family involvement in their students’ education,” MMSD Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham tells Madison365. “As well, the nine-week summer internship program offers our students the valuable opportunity of gaining experience working in local businesses.”

This investment will also help youth and their families, specifically during the 8th to 9th-grade transition by strengthening parent wrap-around supports at Sennett Middle School. The expansion will ensure a smoother transition from Sennett Middle School to La Follette High School for Latino students who represent the largest demographic group of color at both schools.