More than 100 students, parents and Madison College faculty and staff attended a Thursday night reception for the first class of Scholars of Promise, a full-tuition scholarship program for MATC students.

Javier Neira-Salazar, program manager for Scholars of Promise, said there are 165 students who will join the Madison College community as Scholars of Promise in the fall. 

Madison College president Jack Daniels III addressed the reception at MATC's Truax campus, telling incoming students that the scholarship was a “wonderful opportunity” for them to take part in MATC due to the decrease in financial barriers the scholarship provides. He also assured parents that “your children will do wonders here at the college.”

That was comforting news for Fatou Ceesay as her baby sister, Ramatoulie, prepares to start at MATC this fall.

“MATC is a great community school. I took some classes here, and I know it is a very good pathway to a four-year college. With this program, we don’t even have to worry about cost because the Scholars of Promise will take care of it,” she said. “We will do whatever we need to do to make sure she excels in the program. We are excited for her. It will get her to the right path that she needs.”

Ramatoulie Ceesay recently graduated from Madison East High School. She wants to study nursing at MATC and eventually transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Madison on her path to medical school.

“I decided to apply (to Scholars of Promise) because I was told it helps people interact with others. I need that since I am so new to this country,” she said. “I want to meet more people, have a fun college life and also fund my college. It is going to save time for me. I don’t have to work to pay for school, so I can use that time to study.”

At the reception, Lori Christianson, an admission counselor from UW-Madison, announced a partnership between the school and Madison College designed specifically for Scholars of Promise students. Christianson said the Scholars of Promise Transfer Plan will provide "UW-specific benefits." If students follow certain courses and guidelines, they will “have the opportunity to transfer to UW-Madison.”

In an interview after her speech, Christianson told the Cap Times she could not provide further details about the partnership before an event, scheduled for Aug. 23, for Scholars of Promise students.

Neira-Salazar said he is excited for students to begin their journey at MATC in the fall.

“The scholars bring so much life experience and talent to campus. I think this program will really push their talents, and that is what we want to do,” he said. "We want them to understand what their potential is and fulfill the promise... they will be the doctors, lawyers, nurses and people we need in our community.”

In addition to covering their tuition, Madison College will partner each scholar with a coach, a mentor who will guide students in their cohort through their first years of college. Coaches include faculty, staff and administrators from various departments at MATC.

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“This is a great opportunity for us as a college to come together more as a community. We have 40 coaches from all over the college,” Neira-Salazar said. “It is exciting to see all of these people who want to interact with our students.”

Scholars of Promise will also complete a college readiness course either this summer or during their first semester. The class covers general tools every Madison College student uses, like Blackboard (a virtual classroom and course management system where students receive readings, assignments and grades) as well as soft skills like interacting with their professors.

The class will help students like Herendira Hernandez, a recent graduate of Fort Atkinson High School, make a smooth transition.

“I am excited to see how different college is from high school,” she said. “I figured (MATC) would be a good place to start considering it is not so expensive and it is close to home."

Hernandez will attend MATC’s campus in Fort Atkinson. Scholars of Promise students can enroll at any of Madison College’s nine campuses. In addition to Madison and Fort Atkinson, the school is located in Portage, Reedsburg and Watertown.