Equitable Recovery Grant to Support Pre-k Literacy Program Expansion in Milwaukee, WI

Leading Men Fellowship-Milwaukee to expand its reach by recruiting more local young men of color as tutors and increasing its staff capacity to better support Fellows while serving more students. 

(Milwaukee, February 8, 2022) — The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship secured $1,000,000 through Wisconsin’s Equitable Recovery Grant. The funding will be used to address education inequities and provide young men of color employment and long-term career opportunities in early childhood education. Governor Tony Evers announced the award at a check presentation ceremony today.

“We must continue to work together to make sure that as our state is recovering, every community and every family is recovering with us,” said Gov. Evers. “The Literacy Lab fills an important role in the Milwaukee community and exemplifies what an equitable recovery is all about, so I am thrilled to be awarding the Literacy Lab with a $1 million Equitable Recovery Grant to support their mission and people as we work to build a Wisconsin that works for everyone.”

The Literacy Lab, a national nonprofit organization, will use the funds to expand the reach of the Fellowship in Milwaukee by increasing the number of Fellows recruited, trained and placed in pre-K classrooms as well as the number of students served over a three-year period to meet critical needs in the wake of COVID-19. The Fellowship will 1) address the immediate need for literacy development by placing Fellows in pre-K classrooms for an entire school year to provide literacy supports to students at under-resourced schools and 2) address the long-term needs for educator diversity and workforce development opportunities by hiring young men of color (ages 18-24) to serve as Fellows.  The program will double in size in Wisconsin by the end of the 2023-24 school year.  Consequently, hundreds of additional students will benefit from having a Fellow in their classroom.

Ivan Douglas, National Director of the Leading Men Fellowship noted “The State of Wisconsin, City of Milwaukee, as well as countless other local community champions, have contributed tremendously to our growth and sustainability in the region. This new investment is a further down payment on our multi-generational approach to empowering children and young adults in communities in need. I am confident that together with the Leading Men Fellowship-Milwaukee team, and with the support and partnership of the state and local community, we will affect lasting change for more children and more Fellows for years to come.” 

To support the growth and deepen its ties to the community, The Literacy Lab has promoted Bernard Rahming from Program Manager to Program Director and is welcoming two new members to the Leading Men Fellowship Milwaukee, WI team:  Deondray Love, Program Associate and Jasmine S. Bounds, Coaching Specialist. Rahming, after 2 years at the organization, will not only lead the organization’s work in Wisconsin but will also help to shape the direction of the Fellowship nationally. Literacy Lab Coaching Specialist, Rebecca Pride, Love, Bounds, and Rahming, in partnership with school staff, will support the ongoing work to implement a nationally recognized early literacy intervention program throughout the Milwaukee region.

“With this new funding and increased capacity, we have the opportunity to not only expand our reach but also to deepen the impact we have with each Fellow, student, and classroom we work with. I’m thrilled to welcome Jasmine and Deondray to The Literacy Lab and excited by the new possibilities for the Leading Men Fellowship in Milwaukee,” said Bernard Rahming, Program Director. 

Literacy is the foundation for all future success, yet in Milwaukee, only 41% of elementary students met grade-level reading standards in 2018 and only 12% of Black third-grade students met expectations in reading, compared to 48% of white students (MPS, 2018). The pandemic and shift to virtual learning has only exacerbated this gap with experts predicting that students from low-income families and students of color may be behind by as much as a full year due to learning loss (McKinsey & Company, 2020). 

Tracy Sparrow, President of Next Door Milwaukee agrees that the need for increased literacy intervention is pressing and supports the work for the Fellowship: “We have been so fortunate to partner with the Literacy Lab and the Leading Men Fellows for the past several years. Our children have benefitted from the additional literacy support and access to strong male role models. Several of the Fellows have become teachers at Next Door and we are grateful to have them on our team,” 

The Literacy Lab aims to bridge the gap between the supply and demand for a qualified, diverse educator workforce by providing robust professional development enrichment activities, intensive coaching and training sessions, and interactive mentoring experiences with veteran educators and community leaders throughout the entire school year. The program also brings meaningful benefits to the Fellows it employs. Each Fellow is paid a living wage, receives a monthly transportation stipend, a uniform, and a $2,500 higher education award —all in addition to the deep personal and professional development that the Fellowship offers. 

Recruitment for the next class of Milwaukee Leading Men Fellows for the 2022-2023 school year is currently underway.  If you are a young man of color between the ages 18-24 looking for your next opportunity, or you know a young man you want to see join the Fellowship next year, you can complete the interest form for the Leading Men Fellowship here.

For more information, please visit theliteracylab.org