Our scholarship program has long been an impact area near to the hearts of many of our donors. Scholarship students attend schools where an average of 85% of households are considered economically disadvantaged, and their communities often offer little green space and few outdoor play areas. Sharing the Center with children who might not otherwise have the chance to experience our educational programs is a key part of our mission.
Naturalists in the Schools
During the 2017-2018 school year, we decided to amplify our reach to serve even more students. In the past, scholarships were only made available for field trip visits, and with finite classroom space and a busy team of educators, we knew that scheduling more programs on site wasn’t an option. Our golden opportunity, instead, was to take our educators into the community.
Today, our scholarship program includes field trips here at the Center, assembly programs that take place right at schools for elementary students, as well as offsite hiking adventures—with transportation included—at state natural areas for high school students. Last year, our first year of expanded programming, we nearly doubled our reach by serving 4,800 students as compared with 2,600 the year before.
Donor Support Grows the Program
None of this would be possible without the support of our generous donors. Several funders underwrite scholarship programming as a whole, while others choose to focus their support on schools within specific neighborhoods. The Johnson Controls Foundation, a long-time supporter of our scholarship program, uses a place-based approach to philanthropy and engagement called the Milwaukee Neighborhood Initiative to guide their scholarship giving. The Foundation’s goal is to transform three challenged Milwaukee neighborhoods in close proximity to their Glendale headquarters and we use their support to provide specific programming for more than 800 students who attend schools within this area.
Collaborations like these are integral to the health of our expanding scholarship program, and we will ensure our efforts remain relevant and in-tune with the priorities of the community. Thanks to our expansion efforts, our educators get to work with more students, as well as take part in the revitalization efforts occurring in so many Milwaukee neighborhoods.