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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

EOP’s new pre-college program, SOAR, introduced this semester

The other goal of SOAR is to prepare high school students for the college application process at their 10 “target schools” in Milwaukee.

Starting this academic year, the Seizing Opportunities Academic Readiness program will expose high school students to new technology through the Educational Opportunities Program at Marquette. 

Steven Robertson, associate director of the EOP pre-college programs said EOP was created in 1969 with the hope to help students graduate, then in 1973 they created pre-college programs within EOP to prepare high school students from poverty backgrounds and first generation families with the college application process. 

“We bring 9th and 10th graders to campus here to talk about career development and careers they’ve never thought of. Maybe engineering, maybe IT, but they can see it up close and personal, and hopefully they want to pursue a career in one of those paths,” Robertson said.

Robertson said SOAR is made up of 50 high school students from low-income backgrounds who will complete training in cybersecurity, AI and technology with the goal of receiving certification from businesses in the industry.

“We’re trying to get them access to the best of the best technology,” Robertson said. “It’s about getting exposure to the kids and the experience they gain in it.”

The other goal of SOAR is to prepare high school students for the college application process at their 10 “target schools” in Milwaukee.

Robertson said after receiving around $800,000 from the U.S. Department of Education, Marquette can allow SOAR to be free for students and have them stay on campus for six weeks in the summer.  

“The students will participate in summer camps, coursework, internships and mentoring. They’ll learn about computer basics, coding, operating systems and network,” Robertson said.

Robertson said during the certification process SOAR students will be able to work with a professor or instructor at Marquette to work on STEM related projects. He said SOAR instructors will also visit the students’ high schools to give presentations and workshops.

“The goal is not to recruit for Marquette, the goal is to help them learn about possible and viable career options, to be a good neighbor and to value them as people, but also to add value in them,” Robertson said.

Robertson said he wants this program to elevate EOP’s mission to be a “good neighbor” to low-income students from the areas surrounding Marquette.

Jason Flagg, Milwaukee native, Marquette alum and alum of the pre-college program, said he came to Robertson with his idea to start an EOP pre-college program focused around IT or STEM related majors.

“They gave me access to some real estate in the offices and asked me what I wanted to do. We’ve been building out what we’ve been doing with SOAR now. So it’s been in the making,” Flagg said.

Flagg attended Milwaukee Riverside High School, and he started coming to campus his freshman year of high school through the upper bound program through EOP. He said never thought he’d end up at Marquette, but before he knew it he was going to events through the EOP programs.

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to give students a leg up before they get out of high school,” Flagg said.

Flagg said he hopes training students on IT related fields will encourage them to think about some sort of career pathway in college whether that be in STEM or otherwise. 

“My involvement has been everything from teaching classes to trying to help bring in other instructors and now trying to coordinate how this curriculum will look top to bottom for all grades,” Flagg said.

After completing his undergrad at Marquette, Flagg started working in IT for Harley-Davidson and has been working in the field since. Flagg said he stresses the importance of hands-on work in your intended major. 

“You can go to school all day long and do the book work, but if you don’t have the experience, that can hinder you in this field,” Flagg said.

Flagg said being a Black and Hispanic man in this field allows him to represent his community in the realm of technology. 

“My biggest hope for SOAR is to influence those that look like me and come from my background, see this as something that’s attainable,” Flagg said.

Flagg also wants women in the pre-college program to give IT a shot. He said he hopes women start to permeate the more “male-dominated” field of technology. 

“Make mistakes, make a ton of them, because you’ll learn from them. We want to eliminate the fear of failure with IT,” Flagg said.

This story was written by Gabe Mannion. He can reached at [email protected] Sophia Tiedge contributed to this report. She can be reached at [email protected]

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