Silver Lake College has been awarded a $40,000 Community Impact Grant from United Way Manitowoc County to help fund the college's Look Ahead Lakers program for the 2015-16 school year, said Mary Snyder, SLC's Grants and Planned Giving Specialist.
“We are very grateful for support of the Look Ahead Lakers program by the United Way and the community,” said Tara Wachowski, SLC’s School and Community Outreach Coordinator.
Look Ahead Lakers helps students successfully transition from middle school to high school to post-secondary education or college; it also emphasizes career readiness.
United Way focuses on education, income and health as critical in building a strong community. Look Ahead Lakers aligns with the education building block and supports United Way’s community impact model by creating long-lasting, meaningful change in Manitowoc County.
Since forming in 2010, Look Ahead Lakers has helped about 900 students in Manitowoc County, Wachowski said.
“Look Ahead Lakers starts with fifth-grade students at Jefferson and Franklin elementary schools in Manitowoc with a campus visit day to the college," Wachowski said. "For many of the fifth-graders, this is their first experience being on a college campus and interacting with college faculty.”
“After the visit day, we provide mentoring and tutoring support at the schools with programs such as the College Club and Backpack Book Club at Jefferson Elementary School and Homework Hangout at Franklin Elementary School, as well as other activities for students to experience college life and interact with college students,” Wachowski said.
Silver Lake College junior Mikayla Opichka, a Laker Leader, is in charge of the Look Ahead Lakers College Club at Jefferson.
“The thing that I probably enjoy the most is how much the students love having us at school with them," Opichka said. "We develop relationships with them and open doors for them.”
“It is so empowering to have the students so eager for the material, and to know that I am really making a difference in their lives,” said Opichka, who helps students with their homework, encourages them in their studies, works with them on enrichment activities and talks about the importance of going to college.
“They are also making a difference in my life,” she added. “I have gained a lot of confidence in the school environment from this experience, which is important because I am a dual major in Early Childhood and Elementary Education.”
Carl Black, a fifth-grade teacher at Franklin Elementary School, said: “Over the past few years, it has become apparent to me that the Look Ahead Lakers program has provided glimpses into futures that many of my fifth-graders may not have thought possible. I believe the program shows them that college is for everyone and anyone, and the Silver Lake students that interact with the fifth-graders do a wonderful job of showing the fifth-graders that truth.”