HACM Education Initiative Changes Lives One Student At A Time
Jermaine Potts may be the new poster child of a “comeback kid.” The 18-year-old was recognized recently as 2016’s Most Improved Student at a celebration of the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee’s Education Initiative. He was also named class salutatorian at James Groppi High School.
Things didn’t look so good for Potts just a few years ago. He was involved with a carjacking, some robberies and even spent some time in jail. When he got out of jail, he wanted to shift his mindset, and he began to focus more on his schoolwork as a pathway towards a better future.
Potts was able to change gears with the help of his family, school officials and support from the Education Initiative.
The hardest part was the pressure he felt from people he hung out with. In the past, “there were times I would leave my grandma’s house for two to three weeks,” explained Potts.
“When I started working with him, I could see that he was struggling to overcome who he felt he used to be,” said Natasha Dotson, HACM’s Education Specialist. “I worked with him consistently to support the vision he had for himself to become a positive example, a leader instead of a follower.”
Potts turned his attention to positive activities at his school, such as the basketball team, which acted as a support system and helped him stay on the right path.
Potts’ family has lived in HACM’s Highland Homes development since 1997. When families move into either the Highland Homes or the nearby Scattered Sites development, they sign an addendum to their lease that requires cooperation with the Education Initiative and its efforts to assess and address the educational needs of youth under the age of 18.
The mission of the Initiative is to keep kids in school every school day, to support academic achievement, and to introduce youth to life-long options for learning. The program reinforces its goals through home visits, report card monitoring, mentoring, tutoring and referrals to educational support programs. A customized plan is developed for each child and is tracked through specified benchmarks. The program also familiarizes children and youth to a variety of post-secondary educational environments through campus visits and interaction with college students and programs.
Since the Initiative’s inception in 2005, over 90% of seniors have graduated and school attendance of children in the program has nearly always been 100%.
HACM’s Education Initiative played a role in helping Potts get on the right track. As with all students in the program, Education Specialist Dotson worked very hard to create a supportive relationship with Jermaine that is continuing to ensure that he is working toward his goals.
Potts started working after graduation, and he’s planning to go on to college to study Information Technology. He thinks it’s important for other youth to know that it’s possible to change, and that it is okay to slip up as long as you work hard to get back to doing what you need to be doing.
“Jermaine decided he wanted a better future, because he realized he has great things to live for,” said Dotson.
“My motivation comes from my little siblings. Being able to be someone they look up to helps me to keep my mind in the right place,” said Potts.
HACM Case Manager Nannette Ray (left) and Education Specialist Natasha Dotson (right) with some of the Education Initiative's graduating seniors.
Milwaukee Alderwoman Chantia Lewis provided an inspirational keynote speech at the HACM Education Initiative's graduation celebration on June 24, 2016.