Next Door Milwaukee
A new year-long program called 414 Fellows will place students in early childhood learning spaces to provide services for low income kids and families.
The program is part of Americorps, and is being offered at Marquette through its partnership with Next Door, an organization that works to improve school readiness and literacy for kids aged 0-5 in Milwaukee.
The program will recruit 30 Marquette students across different colleges who are ready to learn and take steps to create and promote a community that thrives socially, as well as, through its educational systems.
The main focus of the group is to spread awareness about educational inequality, poverty and segregation in the city, according to the Center of Community Service.
Fellows who are part of the program will serve 300 hours throughout the academic year by spending time in Early Head Start classrooms at Next Door. Fellows will also spend significant time preparing for work in the classrooms and engaging difficult questions of justice with one another.
“I feel like I will gain great insight on the responsibility for a community to help raise a child,” said Siena Vietti, senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and Fellow. “It will be great to see how I can help enrich learning and teach young children during their formative years.”
Bringing the 414 Fellows Americorps program to the university required funding.
Kelly Walker, director of community service, said in an email that “it has been a year and a half process that included funding from Serve Wisconsin.” Serve Wisconsin’s mission is to “promote service, provide training and allocate resources to programs that enrich lives and communities through service and volunteerism.”
“Programs like this are shown to improve academic achievement and a sense of belonging on campus,” Kelly Walker, director of community service, said in an email. “We hope it will provide a space for Fellows to grow and be their authentic selves.”
Walker said the type of practice the program will use to improve early childhood outcomes is called the serve-and-return method.
“Children naturally ‘serve’ language into their environment with words, babbling, facial expressions, or gestures and adults ‘return’ their serve with elaborative gesturing, emotional engagement and verbalization,” Walker said in an email. “Without consistent return, neurodevelopment may be disrupted and the structural architecture of the brain may be impaired.”
Upon completing their service hours and training, Fellows will receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education award of $1,250 and will be recognized as student leaders and advocates with diverse ideas and opinions to raise awareness about community issues.
“Our youth are Milwaukee’s greatest asset, our hope for strong communities and a healthy future for our city,” Walker said. “Unfortunately, inequities around poverty, segregation and trauma create unequal access to the high-quality education that we know is necessary for youth to thrive and develop to their fullest potential.”