2013 UW Information Technology
Academy Graduation:
Academically Plugged In
a name. Each of you has a unique story, one that only you are able to tell. You are proof that hard work can pay off. You are the proof that
for the tenth year in a row, our ITA scholars can defy the statistics that they will not graduate, that say you will not go on to higher
education and that you will not succeed. You now join with the 138 ITA alumni who paved the way before you and you blaze the trail for
those that will follow. Don’t forget to lift up as you climb.”

The 2013 UW ITA class has not only climbed, it has soared to the academic heights. All 24 graduates are going on to a higher education
institution. And as the students’ names were called and they stepped forward, it became apparent that the University of Wisconsin-
Madison was the overwhelming choice for this graduation class. Clearly 16 out of 24 had applied to and had been accepted by UW-
Madison, a program record.

The achievements of this class were not lost on Raymond Neal, residence life counselor at the Newell Smith Residence Hall. In his
keynote address, Neal urged the residents to celebrate their achievements.

“I want to remind you all that today is a moment that you should be singing about yourself,” Neal said. “Don’t wait to leave the legacy
that you want to leave behind and hope that people are going to sing about you. You deserve to sing about yourself right now. I’m going
to give you a few reasons why you should do that.”

The first reason that Neal gave the students is that they made the right decisions that enable them to complete ITA.

“I am sure there are points in your life that made it very difficult to continue moving forward in this program or in school or anything else
that you thought was important where other people told you it was important,” Neal said. “So whether or not it was the fear of
disappointing an adult, a sibling or a friend or the fear of not honoring the memory of one of those three, you still made the choice to
continue. Sing because you started something and you finished it. Making a choice to continue through this journey and humbling
yourself enough to accept the help that was offered from the staff in this program, those are the choices you made. If you weren’t sure on
whether or not you wanted to be involved four years ago, you made the choice. You started it and you finished it.”

And because of the choices that they have made, the graduates of ITA stand with the select few.

“Based on the statistics that Erica shared with us, I am sure that you can all think of 1-10 more people who you think would be
deserving of this opportunity,” Neal emphasized. “So sing about yourself because you are of the few. I think Erica said 138 graduates.
That is a small number. So you are a very, very privileged few. Please sing about that. With great power comes great responsibility. I’m
pretty sure none of you are web-slinging crime fighters on weekends, but I think you understand that the experience that you’ve had
prepares you for the future, to make a big impact on the world we are going to live in.”

Neal also counseled the students to be open to personal growth and learning in a world that can often times make them closed and
defensive.

“. I want you to be open to inspire and to be inspired,” Neal said. “Be open to the experiences of other people. Be inspired by their
stories and the courage it took to live it and tell it. Share your experience. Take risks. Be courageous and tell your story. Use it to inspire
others. Someone is inspired by you. It could be a family member, a younger student in the ITA program, someone in your school or
maybe one of your peers in this room. Someone is inspired by you. This day is a representation of your ability and your willpower. So
yes, they should be inspiring.”

According to Neal, as the students enter higher education, they need to remain strong and determined in the face of the self-doubt that
will naturally arise.

“Anyone know what the definition of ambiguity is,” Neal asked the audience. “It’s doubtfulness or uncertainty of meaning or intention,
vagueness. It can also be self-doubt or even fear. It’s a human thing to think things like, ‘What if I’m not good enough? If this happens,
will I be able to [fill in the blank].’ It’s not a good feeling, and anxiety that comes from those feelings can be exhausting because they use
up a lot of energy, energy you need to be open. Again, you are human, so you will have these moments. Just don’t let those moments
define your experiences.”

Most importantly, Neal urged the students to build a sense of community no matter where they go to college for it is that sense of
community at ITA that helped them succeed so far.

“The most important thing is build meaningful relationships with others,” Neal said. “Carrying your ITA community experience with you
will help you build a larger community wherever you go. A community of people that shares in each others joys and pains are able to
honestly and lovingly hold a mirror up to each other. I want you to be in relationships with people who can tell you what they see as
contributing to your greatness as well as what they see may be hindering you from being great. These are transformative relationships
and transformative experiences. Singing each others’ songs is what community is all about. You have such a community here at ITA.
You know how it feels.”

Right now, it feels so good at ITA.
Clockwise from upper left: Illa Daff (l-r) and Ann Tran give a joint reading;
Natalia Lucero reflects on her spring abroad; Besma Aly (r-l) and her mentor
Carolyn Daughtry Krill; the 2013 ITA graduating class with the staff; ITA
Program Director Erica Laughlin; Keynote speaker Raymond Neal
By Jonathan Gramling

The trends for students of color in Wisconsin’s public
education system are pretty alarming. One statistic
after another reflects Wisconsin’s academic
achievement gap.

“As of last spring, our state’s white students were 30
percent more likely to graduate from high school in four
years than their African American counterparts and 18
percent more likely than Hispanic/Latino and American
Indian students,” said Erica Laughlin, director of the
UW Information Technology Academy at their graduation
celebration June 1 at the Lowell Center. “And when the
class of 2012 did graduate, only seven percent of Black
students tested, 25 percent of Hispanic students and 30
percent of Native American students met three or more
college-readiness benchmarks set by the ACT.
Approximately 28 percent of all 2012 ACT-tested high
school graduates did not meet any of the college
readiness benchmarks meaning they were not
prepared academically for first-year college courses in
English composition, college algebra, biology and
social sciences. This is the real state of public
education in our region.”

However, there are programs like ITA that are helping
students of color buck those trends and be a student
and not a statistic.
“The students sitting in this room today are proof that
one not be defined by statistics, but by one’s
determination,” Laughlin emphasized. “In fact, none of
you will ever be a number or statistic on a piece of
paper with us. You are more than that. Each of you has