M³ College Connections Graduates Getting Fast Start to Success

Imani Hall-Kneemiller has always been a fast learner.

When she was a middle school student, her mother worked early in the morning, so Hall-Kneemiller taught herself to fix her own hair. As a student at Milwaukee Public Schools’ North Division High School, she offered her styling services to friends and classmates.

And when it came to college, Hall-Kneemiller couldn’t wait to start. She spent nearly all of her senior year of high school taking classes at Milwaukee Area Technical College through M³ College Connections, a dual enrollment program offered by M³ (pronounced M-cubed), a partnership between Milwaukee Public Schools, MATC and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“This program really helped me prepare for college,” Hall-Kneemiller said. “I’m ready to go.”

On Wednesday, June 5, at MATC’s Downtown Milwaukee Campus, Hall-Kneemiller was one of 90 MPS students recognized for completing the M³ College Connections program.

In M³ College Connections, eligible students complete their high school graduation requirements while earning up to 21 college credits from MATC and UWM at no expense to the student.

Students take college-level courses in English and mathematics at MATC, and educational psychology and ethnic studies courses at UWM. Students also can take nursing or science courses at MATC.

By earning college credit while in high school, students save time and money, and get a head start on their college journeys.

With the average cost of a college credit at $300, the 90 students saved more than $500,000 in tuition, according to Dr. John Hill, MPS director of college and career readiness. Since M3 College Connections began in 2019, 697 students have participated, saving more than $2.4 million in college tuition costs, Dr. Hill said.

“This has turned into such a robust program,” MATC President Vicki J. Martin said at the ceremony. “We had 32 students in the first year and this year we had 300 applications.”

Aside from saving students time and money, M3 College Connections helps create a diverse talent pool of professionals ready for the workforce, said Phyllis King, associate vice chancellor at UWM.

“This program was one of the most transformative and rewarding experiences I have had,” said Adonijah Bolden-Murrell, who graduated from MPS’ Milwaukee School of Languages and will attend North Carolina Central University in the fall. “The program gave me a glimpse of college and helped build confidence in myself. I’m ready for college.”

Montserrat Rojas Gamboa, a graduate of MPS’ Bradley Tech High School, said the program taught her how to learn from failure. “When you fall, you need to rise up and try again,” said Gamboa, who received a full scholarship to study nursing at UWM. 

This fall, Hall-Kneemiller will enroll in MATC’s Cosmetology program and then plans to study elementary education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. 

“With the credits I have earned, and the familiarity I have with the field, getting the cosmetology degree will give me some experience under my belt and a way to earn money for college,” she said. 

Kevin Newell, founder and CEO of Royal Capital Group, a Milwaukee development company, served as one of the keynote speakers at the ceremony. He urged the graduates to continue their studies and add value to their hometown. “We need problem solvers like you,” Newell said. “I look forward to seeing what you can do in the real world.”

The other keynote speaker, Capt. Sheronda D. Grant of the  Milwaukee Police Department, reminded the graduates that there are no limits to what they can accomplish for themselves and their community.

“No one can ever tell you what you can’t do,” Grant said. “I hope all of you stay in Milwaukee and help make our city a better place.”