“The importance of the Mann Scholars program is overwhelming ― it’s almost impossible to measure. We have a graduation rate of 98 percent for nearly 20 years,” Mark Richardson, Mann Board Co-Chair, tells Madison365. “The projected earning potential between kids who graduate versus those who don’t is well documented. The importance of these Mann Scholars within their families and communities is almost impossible to measure.”

Richardson will provide the introductions at the annual Mann Scholars Celebration this Friday, June 1, 5:30 p.m. at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery Town Center on the UW-Madison campus. This annual celebration is usually a very happy event and sometimes very emotional as Mann Scholars past and present talk about their struggles and the tremendous impact the program has made to help them reach their goals. The Mann Scholars Program provides important 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.

Cynthia Green, executive director of Pathways and Secondary Programs for MMSD, will also speak at this year’s Mann Scholars Celebration which will honor the senior class of 2018 Mann Scholars including Flodejhia Burnett of Madison East High School, Taleaha Carter of Madison La Follette High School, Janeicia Pettaway of Madison West High School, and Aaliyah Whitfield of Madison La Follette High School.

Mann Scholars Program Coordinator Amy Wallace with Mann Educational Opportunity Fund Board Chair Mark Richardson

“We are celebrating 21 years as a program,” Amy Wallace, Mann Program Coordinator, tells Madison365. “We will be adding four fantastic graduates to the 55 who have already graduated from high school. Through all of these years, we’ve maintained a 98 percent high school graduation rate.”

The Mann Scholars program is a partnership between the Madison Metropolitan School District, the Madison Community Foundation and the Mann Educational Opportunity Fund.

“We will be adding five new students to the Mann Program this year which will be announced at the Mann Scholars Celebration on Friday,” Wallace says. “We will have 16 students total in the program next year in the four high schools.”

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. The Mann Scholars Program ― which emerged from the Mann Educational Opportunity Fund ― has grown quite a bit since its humble beginnings 21 years ago.

“The Mann Education Fund has quietly designed and developed a program over the past 20 years that get results like no other. As one of few pre-college programs, it aims to tackle challenges for certain kids and families early on,” Richardson says. “We always look to make our scholars and their families aware of services that already exist, and advocate on their behalf. The advocacy piece has grown significantly over the years. With our 20-year track-record of success, we now have a bigger story to tell. We recently created sponsorship opportunities for companies that want to support our work, but maybe weren’t sure how to.”

Sisters Becky Gobermann (left) and Lori Mann Carey, who head up the Mann Fund, are present for the Mann Scholars Celebration held every spring on the UW-Madison campus.

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 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 keeps close tabs on all of the Mann Scholars throughout the year and even after they graduate. “In the alumni department, Marshaun Hall has been accepted to attend Morehouse Medical School in the fall. Ziyad Sultan graduated from UW-Madison with a Bachelor’s degree in neurobiology,” Wallaces says. “Audera Cox graduated from the University of Texas-Houston with a master’s degree in social work. Viet Hoang was ordained to the priesthood on May 26.”

The late Bernard and Kathlyn Mann

The Mann Scholars Program honors the late Bernard and Kathlyn Mann, long-time Madison African-American parents and strong advocates for high-quality and equitable educational opportunities for all students enrolled in MMSD. Daughters Becky Gobermann and Lori Mann Carey, who head up the Mann Fund, are present for the annual Mann Scholars Celebration held every spring on the UW-Madison campus.

Mann Scholar graduates become part of the larger “Mann” family. Many of those family members come back to attend the Annual Mann Scholars Celebration. Sultan, for example, will deliver “Mann Scholar Alumni Reflections” at Friday’s event. He is a 2014 La Follette High School graduate and a 2018 UW-Madison graduate in neurobiology.

Mann Scholar Ziyad Sultan earned a bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology from University of Wisconsin-Madison earlier this month.

“Easily my favorite part of the Mann Scholars Celebration is seeing and hearing the alumni come back and drop some wisdom on the incoming and graduating classes,” Richardson says. “These are young adults that walked in the same shoes as our scholars not so long ago. Their success, their words, and their actions provide great models for the next generation of Mann Scholars. That is a game-changer!”

The annual Mann Scholars Celebration will be held this Friday, June 1, 5:30 p.m., at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery Town Center on the UW-Madison campus. The event is free and open to the public.