UNIVERSITY of WISCONSIN–MADISON: New Badger Precollege programs offer enrichment, community-building, college readiness for youth

Siblings James and Debra Ejiwale, attending Ronald Reagan High School in Milwaukee, have already homed in on future careers in the field of medicine. Debra, 15, wants to be an ER pediatrician. James, 14, wants to be a cardiologist, integrating computer science into his career.


They both turned to University of Wisconsin–Madison Badger Precollege — academic programs for students age 5–18 — to take a deeper dive into their areas of interest and get a feel for college life.

“It’s great to get a college experience at a young age,” James says.

“Through Badger Precollege, you meet a lot of people, look into a variety of stuff you might want to study and learn about your college career.”

Badger Precollege is ramping up for an all-online summer 2021, revising options and ready to offer an array of programs for a wider diversity of students — from advanced learning and STEM classes to music clinics and college readiness programs.

Increasing access and growing global citizens
For decades, UW–Madison has offered precollege programs to help students pursue their passions and prepare for college.


Christopher Pevey Harry

New goals and initiatives of Badger Precollege are thanks in large part to Assistant Dean of Precollege Programs Christopher Pevey Harry, who arrived at UW–Madison in fall 2019 from Northwestern University, where he also developed programs and supported precollege students. Pevey Harry is currently pursuing a doctorate in educational policy, organization and leadership, specializing in equity and diversity.

“I’m passionate about student access and diversity in education, particularly at the precollege level,” Pevey Harry says. “We’re developing precollege programming at UW–Madison that’s relevant to a wider student audience and gets them thinking about and planning for their future.”

Badger Precollege staff are working with schools across Wisconsin to boost scholarship availability and increase the number of students from different backgrounds and socioeconomic levels and with diverse learning needs who are often overlooked and underserved. They’re also developing innovative, inclusive curricula designed to promote critical thinking, cultural competencies and social justice.

For example, Pevey Harry says they partnered with UW–Madison’s creative writing program to develop a course called Write On! Words Have Power! that explores the intersectionality between writing and social justice to help students think about the role they can have as activists.

“We really want to teach young people to become global citizens,” he says. “That includes thinking at a high level and sharing with peers from a variety of backgrounds, which in turn will also help students be better prepared for college.”

Programs for variety of ages, interests
Debra and James had their first precollege experience pre-COVID, so they were able to stay on campus and experience life as a Badger through the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth (WCATY) program. Debra took a human anatomy course while James opted for a computer science class.

In addition to dissecting a chicken wing (Debra) and learning Java software (James), they researched careers, toured campus and met new friends. All Badger Precollege programs are intended to be transformative learning experiences for young people who can choose to study a range of topics in programs developed and taught in partnership with UW–Madison schools and colleges:

Badger Summer Scholars helps high school students explore a college-level course with a community of peers while interacting with faculty and learning about the college experience.
Summer Music Clinic brings together middle and high school students interested in band, choir, orchestra, jazz or musical theater for three-day online intensives.
Badger Precollege Online offers students in grades 1–12 the opportunity to take live, online courses and build friendships with like-minded peers while exploring life as a Badger.
College Ready is a three-week online college preparation course for high school students that combines a broad college readiness experience with a jumpstart in analytical skills exploration.
WCATY is celebrating 30 years of programming for advanced learners. Students in grades 1–12 can explore academic interests and passions with peers during a variety of programs.
Latino Youth Summitis a conference for Latino middle school students to explore and build their knowledge about college through workshops and activities.
Badger Precollege will be fully online in summer 2021, returning to in-person programming in the future. Should the pandemic allow the university to authorize residential programs this year, all impacted students will be provided flexible options.

Pevey Harry adds, “We are committed to delivering quality programming, regardless of location or platform and will provide maximum flexibility to our students and families.”

James and Debra will be back to Badger Precollege this summer, but they’re not sure what courses they’ll take. They’re still browsing their options. Debra adds, “It’s just a really good experience as a whole, and it’s going to help me with my college applications.”

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