First M³ College Connections students are becoming UWM graduates

Kayla Jackson is graduating from UWM in May with a bachelor’s degree and a double major in psychology and neuroscience on the pre-med track.

Jackson is one of the first UWM graduates who benefited from the M³ College Connections program, a partnership involving UWM, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the Milwaukee Public Schools.

She credits the Educational Psychology course she took through that program with giving her the tools she needed to succeed in college.

“I learned the process of college and the class format. I was able to see how different high school and college were,” Jackson said. “I was better prepared to make the transition into college.”

Kayla Jackson (right) and Sophia Santiago-Fodor presents their research April 28 at the undergraduate research symposium. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

M³ College Connections is an award-winning program that allows eligible Milwaukee Public Schools students to complete their high school graduation requirements while earning up to 20 college credits.

Since the pilot courses started in 2019, 325 high school students have gone through the program. Currently there are 87 students in the program. The high school students take mathematics and English courses at MATC and an educational psychology class and ethnic studies class at UWM. The educational psychology course focuses on helping high school students develop the tools they need to succeed in college. That course has expanded to help high school students select majors and figure out future careers.

“It was great to get those credits and save some tuition money,” said Jackson, who also works for UWM as a campus ambassador.

She plans to take a gap year after her May graduation to prepare for the medical school admission test and develop the personal statement needed for her application, Jackson said.

She decided to enter the medical profession and become a psychiatrist after seeing the mental health challenges her own family faced after her father died of complications of diabetes in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic also had a powerful impact on mental health in her community.  Her long-term goal is to serve the African American community in Milwaukee.

“I’d recommend College Connections to others,” Jackson said. “I learned where to go for support, and not to be afraid to ask your teachers questions. It’s been amazing.”

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