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Millie McDonald

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On the opening day of classes for the 2004-2005 school year, Millie McDonald headed across the river to Maryland Avenue School. There she helped her three children settle into their new Montessori classes, then she headed south to start her own classes at Alverno College. Going to school has been a major theme in Millie’s life for a decade. She attended Maryland Avenue School for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Her high school years were a jumble that included Messmer and Lady Pitts. By the time her senior year came along, Millie had a baby. Turned off by school, she never graduated. Until two years ago she scrambled between waitressing and working through temp agencies. She enjoyed her job placements, especially the Wisconsin Athletic Club, Blue Cross/Blue Shield near Commerce Street, and St. Mary’s Hospital, but after her third child was born, she wondered how she was going to manage. Brittini was born in 1995, Brianna in 1997 and Emmanuel in 1998. She had lots of help from her family and she was dancing as fast as she could, but she was keenly aware that her life was held together by a very slender thread. The thread snapped in the spring of 2002. That was when administrators at St. Mary’s discovered in reviewing their files that Millie had never finished high school. It didn’t matter that she was a whiz at her work or that she had made friends with her fellow workers. Without a diploma or a G.E.D., Millie had to leave. With three children and no job, she moved into emergency gear. She put in a call to MATC and put down $40 to take her G.E.D. tests. Within three months she had passed them all. “I didn’t realize how smart I was,” she reflects. Buoyed by her success at MATC, Millie decided to look into continuing her education. A friend from Christian Faith Fellowship East, the church at Holton and Reservoir where her mother Zella has been active for years, advised Millie to check out Alverno College. With tuition at $15,000 per year, Millie thought Alverno was out of her range, but she agreed attended an introductory session. There she met other women who were raising children, women of diverse backgrounds who welcomed her and helped her feel comfortable. Staff people at Alverno always answered her phone calls, giving her the idea that they valued her and wanted her at their school. They steered her through the labyrinth of financial aid and made it possible for her to enroll as a full-time student in the fall of 2002. Her first year was especially hard because she had to learn to write papers and develop study skills. But now Millie is in her stride as a college student and loves what she’s doing. She has a major in psychology with emphases on drug counseling, adult education, and professional communication. She aims to work with single women with children after she finishes her degree. For now she walks a tightrope as far as time and money are concerned. It is no easy feat to be a mom, go to college, and support a household. She’s on a very limited budget because she decided to only work part-time. But that is her choice; her priority is to have time with her children and focus on her studies. Her present job suits her perfectly: she drives a van and assists the teachers at One-Stop Childcare. Located at 2640 N. Humboldt, the daycare center is within walking distance of Millie’s house and is the place where she has always sent her kids. She speaks very highly of the creative, caring people on the staff there, especially Director Dionne Toney. With her children’s school schedule, her own college studies, and her work at the daycare center, Millie McDonald’s life is woven around schools. Hers is a household where everyone has homework, where everyone goes to school, and where everyone is serious about getting an education.
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