Twelve years ago, the Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation approached UWM about a plan to help the Milwaukee community by lifting more families out of poverty. The idea was to establish a program at UWM for low-income students who are raising young children—a demographic that is historically the least likely to graduate from college.
Out of this vision and the Pettit Foundation’s generosity, UWM’s Life Impact Program was born. The program offers student-parents a $5,000 scholarship as well as life coaching, peer mentorship, networking opportunities, family-friendly events, student-parent workshops, and access to resources and emergency funds. The program also reduces the sense of alienation and exclusion that many student-parents experience.
Natalie Reinbold has been with the program since its inception, and she’s personally witnessed the hundreds of lives that have been changed since 2005. “The program literally would not be here if it weren’t for the Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation’s vision and generous support,” she says. “The program’s success led us to receive continued financial support from the Pettit Foundation.”
In total, the Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation has contributed $3.7 million to the Life Impact Program. As of January 2017, the program had served a total of 195 UWM student-parents and their 273 children. The graduation rate of these students is more than 85 percent, and 100 percent either found employment within 6 to 9 months of graduation or sought advanced degrees.
Reinbold says Life Impact scholars depend far less on government benefits to provide their family with their basic household needs. “Scholars and their families experience improved socioeconomic conditions and lower poverty rates,” she adds. “In addition, UWM specifically benefits from the program by ensuring increased graduation and persistence rates among a diverse population. All these factors influence our community in a positive way.”
Margaret Lund, president of the Pettit Foundation, has praised UWM’s Life Impact Program.
“This program affects not only students but also their children and the communities in which these educated families will eventually settle,” Lund says. “We are proud to collaborate with a top research university like UWM in promoting the welfare of families and children in the Milwaukee area.”