Student wearing headphones on laptopGiving High School Students Foundation for College

Building a strong foundation of experience is an important step in the evolution of a professional career, and particularly so for aspiring young students searching for opportunities to break into a desired field. A cooperative program between Marquette University and Messmer High School in Milwaukee offers ambitious high school students the chance to do just that.

The program, called the Messmer Partnership, teaches students about working in communication fields while providing the opportunity to learn how Marquette can serve as a launch pad for their professional endeavors.

Created in 2006 by Marquette assistant dean Rose Richard and Messmer High/ Marquette alumnus Greg Borowski, the partnership pairs students from the Mass Media/journalism class at Messmer with reporters and editors from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The reporters and editors conduct seminars for the students on such topics as interviewing and writing leads. Marquette students, meanwhile, serve as mentors to the Messmer students, visiting the class on a regular basis.

Through the process, students get a firsthand glimpse of the professional environment. At the end of the semester, participants visit the Journal Sentinel newsroom to sit in on a news meeting and experience the daily behind the scenes operations of the paper.

Meanwhile, a broader group of students visit the Marquette campus each fall for “Messmer Day,” which features workshops led by students in the College of Communication and a panel discussion including Messmer grads who are current Marquette students.

"Messmer and Marquette are both Catholic Schools thriving in an urban environment," says dean Richard of the program. "It seemed to be a natural partnership."

The program also has close ties to the Urban Journalism Workshop, an intensive two-week summer program during which high schoolers use Diederich College of Communication facilities and equipment to learn hands-on multimedia journalism.

Additionally, students who participate in the Messmer Partnership and the Urban Journalism Workshop are eligible for placement in a month long internship with local media outlets. In 2008 the Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Courier and the Milwaukee Community Journal all served as mentoring organizations, offering students the chance to further develop their communication and journalism skills while working in a media setting.

Now into the third successful year, the process of watching the students' transformation remains an awe-inspiring experience for the administrators, instructors and mentors of the Messmer Partnership.

"It builds their confidence," says Richard of the students involved in the program. "They go back to the journalism class (at Messmer) and they're even better communicators. They learn that they're up to the challenge, and they're truly changed through the process."