Mann Scholars, friends, family, and community members will gather outdoors at Tenney Park tonight on Madison’s near east side to celebrate the achievements of new, current and graduating Mann Scholars at the Annual Mann Scholars Celebration.
“We’re building on the story of Bernard and Kathlyn Mann and their commitment to education. [We are committed] to 100% high school graduation rate for students of color in the Madison school district,” Amy Wallace, the longtime Mann Scholars program coordinator, tells Madison365. “And every year, we’re adding stories to the Mann family story. And this year, we’re choosing three freshmen and we’re celebrating five seniors, and we’re bringing back an alumnus who is the first in the Mann Scholars program to get a Ph.D.… that’s what we’re celebrating.”
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.
“Inspired by our parents’ values, beliefs and legacy of advocacy around public education, we are excited about the way ahead and are blessed to be in partnership with an amazing board of directors and generous donors (of all amounts, big and small) to build upon the incredible success already achieved,” says Dawn Mann Charles and Becky Gobermann, the daughters of the late Bernard and Kathlyn Mann, who have helped support the Mann Fund for decades under the leadership of their late sister, Lori Mann Carey, who lost her battle with cancer in November of 2020.
Tonight’s Mann Scholars Celebration will feature a welcome by Mark Richardson, Mann board co-chair and Mann Family Reflections from Mann Charles, also a Mann board co-chair. There will be community partner remarks from Angela Davis, the Madison Community Foundation director of grantmaking and Langston P. Evans, the Madison Metropolitan School District director of college and career.
Wallace and her fellow Mann Scholars program coordinator, Pahoua Thao, will honor the senior class of Mann Scholars at the event that includes Gordon Allen and Amir Lee of East High School, Jalah Johnson of La Follette High School, Kimberly Watts of West High School and Genesis Woodards of STEM Academy, Memorial High School.
The event is often very happy and very emotional as scholars tearfully recognize the hard work their parents and teachers and Mann Scholars staff have put in to get them into the position they are in today.
“Being selected as a Mann Scholar has become a huge honor for students and families. I think families understand that we are there to support each student as an individual and for them to make connections to community resources and help them make decisions to live their best life – whatever that means for them,” Wallace says. “So we have some students who go to college immediately, some people go right into the workforce ….because this is about defining who they are as a person.
“And they’re in the driver’s seat while we’re here to support them and make sure that they have the resources that they need to be successful. And that’s really what every kid needs,” she adds. “Not just every Mann Scholar, but every kid in the district … that would be the hope and dream is that every kid is getting that. And we realize that many kids don’t.”
Tonight’s annual Mann Scholar Celebration will conclude with a Mann Scholar Alumnus Reflection by Dr. Alisa King Klemperer, a 2019 doctoral graduate of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
The Mann Educational Opportunity Fund was started more than 30 years ago by a small circle of family friends, along with Mann children — to honor their parents, Bernard and Kathlyn Mann, who were long-time Madison African American parents and strong advocates for high-quality and equitable educational opportunities for all students enrolled in MMSD.
Wallace has been the Mann Scholars program coordinator for 22 years where she has helped dozens and dozens of Madison-area students achieve and succeed.
“We are thankful and appreciative for what Amy has been able to achieve during her 22 years of tenure with the program,” Mann Charles and Gobermann tell Madison365. “We celebrate her and her compelling connections with students and families, and are grateful for the beautiful contributions she has made. She has lifted our parents’ values around education equity and students of color, with a specific emphasis on addressing Black student graduation rate disparities in Madison’s public schools.”
Every year the Mann Scholars family keeps growing as more students are added. The program boasts a 100 percent high school graduation rate for its scholars over the years.
“We now have 71 high school graduates and there are currently 16 in the program, and we’re adding three Friday night,” Wallace says. “We are very excited about the event.”