Over two decades of Mann Scholars students, past and present, make up the giant Mann Scholars Family. And that family is about to get a little bigger on Friday, June 4, 6 p.m., at the John Wall Pavilion of Tenney Park on Madison’s east side, as the Mann Scholars Annual Celebration celebrates high school graduates of the program and introduces new freshmen Mann Scholars.
“To me, this is really going to be all about family. The Mann Scholars Celebration is a nice family event,” Mann Scholars Program Coordinator Amy Wallace tells Madison365. “I think it will be a nice celebration of what we do at the Mann Scholars Program and for the extended Mann Family.
“The Mann Scholars Program is really lucky to be able to shine a light on these young people in our community who are doing really great work,” she adds. “These are lifelong relationships that we form with every Mann Scholar. We’re not done after four years.”
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. Every spring they host a celebration for the graduating scholars where they also introduce new Mann Scholars. The pandemic canceled last year’s celebration, but Mann Scholar staff and board members went to ever graduating Mann Scholar’s house to celebrate outdoors.
Friday’s event will feature a welcome from Madison Community Foundation’s Development Director Angela Davis. The Mann Scholars Program is carried out by the Mann Educational Opportunity Fund Board of Directors in partnership with the MMSD and the Madison Community Foundation.
At the event, Wallace will introduce the senior class of Mann Scholars that includes Calise Howard and Ke’Sean Homesly of La Follette High School, Travona Jordan of STEM Academy and Memorial High School and Tyrone Stevenson of West High School.
“We are going to have a recognition of the current Mann Scholars freshman class, too, because they never got an event [due to the COVID-19 pandemic],” Wallace says. “So, we will be recognizing the current four freshmen Mann Scholars and the three new incoming scholars that we recently chose this year.”
Each Mann Scholar receives $1,000 per year during high school. They also receive mentoring support and assistance in planning high school and post-secondary studies. The scholarship funds help pay for extracurricular and school expenses during high school, and the program also provides academic mentoring. The Mann Scholars work year-round with Wallace and Mann Program Coordinator Pahoua Thao.
At the Mann Scholars Celebration, Becky Mann will officially introduce the 2020 Freshman Mann Scholars that includes Rodney Gavins Jr. of Madison West High School, Greg Smith Jr. and Danielle Watson of Madison East High School, and Azahria Washington of Madison Memorial High School. Thao will make the announcement of the three new 2021 Mann Scholars.
“Francine White, who graduated in December from Prairie View A&M will be the alumni speaker and she will deliver her Alumni Reflections,” Wallace says.
There will be delicious food by Melly Mel’s catering, the grandmother of a former scholar.
“We were able to do this event a little bigger because Summit [Credit Union] gave us a sponsorship. We are very grateful to them,” Wallace says. “They were supposed to sponsor last year’s event but we had to roll it over into this year.”
The Mann Scholars Program selected their first two Scholars in 1997 to honor the late Bernard and Kathlyn Mann, long-time Madison residents and strong advocates for high-quality and equitable educational opportunities for all students enrolled in the Madison Metropolitan School District. The Mann Scholars has been traditionally led by sisters Becky Gobermann and Lori Mann-Carey, who passed away in November of 2020.
There will be a special remembrance for Mann-Carey at Friday’s annual event, who is very beloved and has been in the mind and hearts of Mann Scholars, staff, and board. For many years, Mann-Carey had been the co-chair of the Mann Educational Opportunity Fund’s board of directors.
“We are going to recognize this year’s Mann Scholars graduates in honor of Lori,” Wallace says. “I think we will like to do that every year but particularly this year we will honor the graduates in recognition of Lori’s work with the program over many, many years. Lori was so important to the program.”
Wallace has been with the Mann Scholars program for 22 years, starting way back in 1999 as a volunteer.
“The original dream with the Mann Scholars Program was to bring equity to education. It’s been a real honor to be a part of that and to continue in that tradition of bringing a variety of people together to support youth in Madison,” Wallace says. “It’s important that we continue to highlight students that always aren’t seen.
“We tend to recognize a really small group of students and there are a lot of students out there doing really good work,” she adds. “Mann, to me, is an example of that. There are a lot more stars in the skies than we see.”
The annual Mann Scholars Celebration will celebrate Mann Scholars past and present on Friday, June 4, 6 p.m., at the John Wall Pavilion of Tenney Park. Event registration is by invitation only. To register, click here.