Nicolas Stokes, a recent graduate of Rufus King High School, is an accomplished basketball player who maintained high grades in all his classes. Justin Wilks struggled early on when he transferred to MPS’s James Madison Academic Campus from Brown Deer High School.
In the fall, Stokes and Wilks, both 18, will be attending Morehouse College with full scholarships, thanks to a new partnership between Milwaukee Public Schools and Morehouse, the historically black all-male college in Atlanta.
They will be joining eight other students from the Milwaukee area, five from MPS. Most of the students, including Stokes and Wilks, found out about the opportunity through the MPS TeamUp College Access Center, which helps students and families plan for post-high school education.
The Milwaukee scholarships are part of a Morehouse pilot program to recruit students from cities with low high-school graduation rates for young black men, according to the school’s website. The scholarships are funded by Wisconsin individuals and businesses, as well as national donors.
It was not a foregone conclusion that Stokes would go to Morehouse. At one point he was ready to commit to Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb., on a basketball scholarship. However, in a move that showed maturity beyond his years, according to College Access coordinator Sharnissa Dunlap-Parker, he decided to attend Morehouse because he believed it would benefit him more after college.
“I had a series of long discussions with my parents about what I wanted and what we thought was best for me,” said Stokes. “(About) two weeks before the acceptance fee was due I made my decision.”
Wilks, a member of the school’s robotics team, had a difficult adjustment when he transferred to Madison.
“It can be rough,” he said. “There were definitely times when I didn’t want to go to school there anymore.” But he persevered, and now Wilks will be the first person in his family to attend a four-year college.
“Though J-Mac can be a tough place I believe that Justin was able to find knowledgeable educators and a caring staff, because he thrived,” said Dunlap-Parker. “He totally turned his grades around from not so great early on, to phenomenal by the time he graduated.”