“Over the past thirty years, the critical partnership between the colleges and religious orders is a ministry that is transforming lives and working to eliminate illiteracy and poverty here in Milwaukee. At the same time, it is giving hope to those who have always dreamed of furthering their education by attending college.” — Tracy Loken Weber, Executive Director, Milwaukee Achiever
All around us, there is evidence of the amazing connections and effective partnerships between the School Sisters of St. Francis and Alverno College, but collaboration doesn’t start and stop with these two partners. Milwaukee Achiever Literacy Services is a shining example of how the greater community benefits when a multitude of education and faith-based organizations come together.
Three decades ago, presidents from three Catholic educational institutions – Alverno College, Cardinal Stritch University and Mount Mary University – took notice of a startling local statistic, indicating that ONE in SIX of Milwaukee’s adults was functionally illiterate. The need within the community was clear and a collaborative organization, Milwaukee Achiever, developed with a mission to provide education, life skills training and workforce development instruction for adult learners in an atmosphere of mutual acceptance and respect.
The three colleges expanded their support network to include the three affiliated Catholic Orders – School Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of St. Francis of Assissi and School Sisters of Notre Dame – and the first Milwaukee Achiever center opened in February 1983 in what is now the Walker’s Point neighborhood. Loyal Sisters from each of the founding Orders volunteered to be some of the organization’s first tutors, with many remaining as long-time volunteers or transitioning to leadership roles.
Fast-forward 30 years and it’s easy to see the multitude of benefits Milwaukee Achiever provides to the greater Milwaukee community. Each year, the organization serves more than 1,200 learners, and has helped more than 22,000 adult learners over the course of its 30-year history. It provides services out of two learning centers, and has also opened a number of satellite learning labs to meet an increasing demand for adult literacy and workforce readiness training. At these various locations, Milwaukee Achiever provides one-on-one and small group instruction in Adult Basic Education, English Language Learning, General Educational Development, citizenship, computer and workforce development skills.
Of course, all of this is possible because of the strength and support of Milwaukee Achiever’s network of more than 200 volunteer tutors who motivate their learners to attain higher learning and achieve their career goals.