|Vol. 11 No. 10
MAY 12, 2016
There are times in life when it seems as if things that happened 10 years ago seem like they just happened yesterday. It is at times like that
when I wonder how I got so old so quickly and redouble my efforts to make every moment on this earth count because tomorrow is guaranteed
to no one. I regret all of those moments in my life when I sat around feeling miserable and depressed, reliving some negative moment in my past
again and again, stuck on yesterday instead of today. Life is a precious gift. Live it to the fullest.
And then there are those times when I look up and am reminded of an event and I wonder, ‘That only happened last week? It feels like that
happened a month ago.” That’s the way it feels with the decision of the Madison College board on May 4th to enter into a long-term lease through
an RFP on its DTEC site and to expand its presence in South Madison. That was less than two weeks ago.
That was such a significant moment in the history of Madison College and, in many ways, for all of the greater Madison area. Too often, the
academic needs of students of color of any age have been viewed through the prism of what’s left over after the needs of the majority
community needs or wants. For instance back when I lived down in Mississippi, the African American schools would the textbook hand-me-
downs of the Euro-American schools, just assuring that African American students would always be behind when it came to cutting-edge
academic ideas and instructional methods.
At the hearing on May 4th when individuals got up to address the board on the DTEC/South Madison proposal from Dr. Jack Daniels III, one
speaker suggested that the college invest in the Downtown Technical Education Center, DTEC, and then provide better and more frequent bus
service from the greater South Madison area. And so the South Madison students, a majority of them students of color, would be bused to the
downtown campus. In essence, they would be used to fill in the student enrollment gaps to make DTEC feasible.
But economics and sound business planning — not to speak of equity — suggested that Madison College should invest in South Madison in
close proximity to where its future market — future students — lies, thus reducing the barriers to access for students who will increasingly
become a larger percentage of the college’s student population. One only has to drive by Leopold or Lincoln Elementary School at the start of any
given school day to see where the future of Madison College lies.
The decision to expand in South Madison was in the best interests of its students, now and in the future and in its future economic health.
Madison College’s financial health will be determined by its enrollment, its retention rates and its graduation rates. And so, the college needs to
be making inroads with its future students now so that it is able to meet its future goals.
And as Daniels has noted — and others emphasized in their presentations — South Madison is rich in ancillary resources that can assist
Madison College students attain their academic goals. There are Omega School, Urban League of Greater Madison, Centro Hispano, Access
Community Health, the Boys & Girls Club, the Literacy Network, Madison-area Urban Ministry and two predominantly African American churches,
Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Fountain of Life that have made education a priority for their community work. I am sure that I am leaving some
important resources. Collaboration will be greatly facilitated by their close proximity. Many of the ingredients for the academic success — and
future employment — are present.
But that success will not be realized unless these organizations and the surrounding communities are committed to seeing it happen in the long
haul. Getting Daniels’ proposal passed was the easy part. It is going to take the sustained commitment of all involved over decades to see the
tide turn and this future pool of Madison College students realize their academic and professional dreams.
That is what this proposal is all about. It will take a village to achieve academic excellence. And speaking of excellence, I have been doing an
annual feature on graduating students of color from Dane County high schools with a 3.0 GPA or higher for about the last 20 years with the most
recent iteration being the Hues Row of Excellence.
It is always delightful and reenergizing to read the student information sheets and to take their photos and then to write mini-stories about them
and their achievements. They are always truly inspiring and I know that this year’s group will be no less inspiring when our graduation issue is
published on May 26th.
One thing that I have noticed in the past 20 years is a shift in student perspective. When I first started in the mid-1990s — it seems like only
yesterday — it seemed that there were a lot more student activists, that they were going to change and save the world. Frequently, students
were involved in Amnesty International or Free Tibet or any other human rights or political cause. Nowadays, it seems that the students are more
narrowly-focused in their dreams and not necessarily their dreams for a better society.
But we love and cherish their accomplishments nonetheless. We are proud of our graduates and the promise that they hold.
And don’t forget to order your tickets for The Hues 10th Anniversary Celebration. The deadline is only 31 days away and nothing will be sold the
day of the event.