“To the Mann Scholar Family, thank you for the support for these last four years. You have made my experiences in high school so much taking the financial burden off my family; supporting me through all of the good and bad times,” said ReAnna Martin, 2019 Mann Scholars graduate, from Madison La Follette High School. “This program has helped to prepare me to become an adult. I promise to make a mark in this world to fulfill the dreams of Kathryn and Bernard Mann.”
ReAnna was one of the senior class of 2019 Mann Scholars honored at the Annual Mann Scholar Celebration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on June 7.
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 Mann Program was created in their name with the goal 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.
“This program is the best-kept secret in town,” Mann Scholars Board co-chair Mark Richardson told the audience at the Annual Mann Scholars Celebration as he introduced Angela Davis, development director of the Madison Community Foundation, who gave the welcome at the event. “We’re really proud of that, but we’re going to make it a little less of a secret as we move forward.”
Richardson acknowledged the Mann Scholars partners – Madison Metropolitan School District, Christy Presbyterian Chuch, and Madison Community Foundation.
Davis told the students and the crowd that her own mother and father didn’t go to college.
“My mom became pregnant at 15, but she was determined to get her high school diploma. Let’s keep it real. It was my mom’s mission to make sure that I went to college,” Davis said. “So much so, that almost 25 years later, my undergraduate degree still hangs at my parents’ house. They have my high school diploma, cords, tassels, you name it … it’s all at their house.”
Davis’s mom passed away last year and she said that she had a lot of time to reflect about her.
“Some of the happiest times we shared happened when I walked across those stages. I can close my eyes right now and still hear her tell me how proud she was of her ‘big baby,’” Davis says. “It meant so much to my parents that I earned that degree because it was a struggle navigating through the systems that seemed so complicated. It was hard. But thankfully, I had my faith and I had a few people who looked out for me – and I think that many in this room could totally relate to that.
“Those people knew how decisions that were made at that moment in time about my education would change my life forever,” Davis continued. “I know the power of having people believe in you when sometimes you don’t even believe in yourself. If you don’t remember anything I say, please remember that your education is something that nobody can ever ever ever take away from you.”
Davis said that on behalf of the Madison Community Foundation, she wanted to congratulate the graduates as they started this new chapter in their lives.
“And to the incoming Mann Scholars, we cannot wait to see what your future holds as you begin this incredible journey,” she said. “Let your light shine. And don’t let anyone or anything stop you from accomplishing your goals and making all of your dreams come true.”
Every year, four new Mann Scholars are chosen as they enter high school and the Annual Mann Scholars event is an opportunity to announce the new students. Pahoua Thao, Mann Program Assistant, explained what a difficult decision it is to narrow down the 12 Mann Scholar applicants from middle schools all over the city to the four they have chosen to be the 2019 new Mann Scholars.
The four new Mann Scholars are Haley Johnson of Jefferson Middle School, Nicholas Sanders of Sherman Middle School, Elliott Tuinstra of Black Hawk Middle School, and Anecia Washington of Sennett Middle School.
Following some Mann Family reflections from sisters Lorry Mann Carey, Dawn Mann Charles and Becky Gobermann, Amy Wallace, Mann Program Coordinator, honored the senior class of 2019 Mann Scholars. Kaevon Buchanan of Madison Memorial High School was unable to attend the graduation because of sickness.
Mann graduate ReAnna Martin of Madison La Follette High School told the crowd that she had been a 4.0 student for her freshman and sophomore year but then endured a series of hardships and setbacks.
“First, my family had a house fire and the damages were permanent and I began to have health problems. By the end of my junior year, my family lost our home of 12 years. But I knew that nothing is really over until you stop trying,” ReAnna said.
She began to work during the day and enrolled at East High School for school at night and worked hard to graduate and get accepted to college.
“I will be a first-generation college student when I attend Harris Stowe State University this fall where I will study sociology,” she said. “Being a part of the Mann Scholars Program has been one of the best experiences of my high school career. This program has helped me in many ways that I could never imagine.
“I want to say thank you to my parents. I know you will miss me as much as I will miss you, but at least your water bill won’t be so high,” she added, laughing. “I love you. You’ve put my interests before your own for the last 18 years and counting.”
ReAnna also thanked Wallace. “You have been one of my biggest supports in helping me to become a first-generation college student. From college visits to lunch dates to study hall talk,” she said. “This last year, Amy has taught me so much and you have set me up for a special future. I’m proud to say that I am part of the Mann Scholar Family.”
Cornelious Bragg III of East High School told the crowd that he is very thankful for being part of the Mann Scholars Program.
“I want to thank Amy [Wallace] for taking the time to help me. You have done so much for me and I really appreciate it,” Bragg said. “I plan to attend UW-Whitewater this fall majoring in psychology. I’ve always been interested in how the human brain acts in different scenarios and the many behaviors that we display in our everyday life.
“My goal is to become a therapist so I can not only advocate for people of color, but for people who are LGBTQ+. I am a part of these two communities and I have noticed that these two communities are suffering a lot from mental illness, and I want to be there to help,” he added. “This program has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life so far and I’m so glad that I’m making new connections. Thank you so much for having me. This is a great example of black excellence.”