On Friday, March 4, members of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee came together with BMO Harris executives and Marquette leaders to break bread at the annual BMO Harris Scholars luncheon. The luncheon is a feature of the BMO Scholars program, started in 2012, and funded with a $900,000 investment from BMO Harris Bank. The program creates a pipeline for underserved youth to receive college preparation training at Boys & Girls Clubs, scholarships to attend Marquette University, and career exploration opportunities with BMO Harris Bank professionals. Since the launch of the program, nearly 200 students have participated in the BMO Scholars program, with 25 of them going on to attend Marquette University.
Many students participating in the Scholars Program will be the first in their families to attend college and often don’t have a support system at home that understands the college application process or what success in college will require. Boys & Girls Clubs staff in conjunction with Marquette staff and BMO Harris employees fill that gap and serve as that support system, helping the scholars choose the right schools, guiding them through the process and continuing to meet with the students to support their academic pursuits on campus. “The scholarship money that BMO Harris Bank provides our students is critically important to their ability to attend and succeed at Marquette, but the face-to-face interaction with our kids is just as important. It’s a big deal to show up, and show our club members that people in the community care about them, and are invested in their success,” said Al Parchia, Graduation Plus program director at Boys & Girls Clubs.
This year’s luncheon, held at Marquette’s Sensenbrenner Hall, included 18 high school senior Boys & Girls Clubs youth who have all been accepted to attend Marquette in the fall semester. The graduating students were addressed by Carlton Ames, BMO Harris Scholar and current senior at Marquette University. Ames shared that despite growing up in Milwaukee, the idea of attending Marquette did not seem like a reality. With support from the Clubs and the BMO Scholars program, he has thrived at Marquette University and had life-changing opportunities, including working for Congresswoman Gwen Moore in Washington, D.C. Ames challenged the group to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the BMO Scholars program, to understand what is important when choosing a college and to make the college experience their own.
Jud Snyder, president of BMO Harris Equipment Finance Company, was among the BMO Harris executives to attend the luncheon and said, “We at BMO Harris are proud to be a partner with Marquette University and Boys & Girls Clubs to provide the educational opportunities and initiatives that help our leaders of tomorrow reach and surpass their future career goals. We recognize a stronger, well-educated workforce helps our entire community.”