Black and Latino/a Ecosystem and Support Transition (BLEST) Hub


Our vision with the BLEST Hub is to contribute to improving life outcomes for Black and Latino/a students in the Milwaukee area by strengthening spaces, initiatives, and connections that support our youth during periods of transition from middle school through post-secondary completion and/or fulfilling and stable employment.

This broad vision encompasses:

  1. Supporting the synergy across organizations, institutions, and government efforts

  2. Understanding and identifying gaps in services offered to our young people

  3. Working towards amplifying and supplementing what is available 


Our mission with the BLEST Hub is to concretely build an understanding of the ecosystem of supports for Black and Latino/a students in Milwaukee from middle school through post-secondary completion and/or fulfilling and stable employment, as well as to lay the foundation for providing logistical, informational and catalytic support to these students and the organizations and institutions serving them.

Underlying this mission and the connected actions is a commitment to be attentive to our positionality. For those of us at CURTO, we are especially cognizant of ourselves as adults embedded within a private, Jesuit, Predominantly and Historically White Institution of higher education. Our efforts seek to be open to the needs, voices, and perspectives of young people themselves and those whose work is committed to serving them.  Concretely, this entails striving to center and amplify students (including giving them space to share in the process), as well as to not replicate or complicate the efforts of others. We particularly do this by being attentive to organizations resources and the time and humanity of employees, advocates, and activists.



  • Creating a space where Black and Latino students find supportive resources during formation and transnational times 
  • Highlight opportunities in the city of Milwaukee that support high school and post-secondary students' academic and social aspects 
  • Review, highlight, and establish metrics for local organizations that seek to close the education gap 
  • Aid with the increasing dual enrollment of Black and Latino males from MPS’ Black and Latino Males Achievement program into existing summer programs at UWM, Marquette, and MATC 
  • Aid with increasing participation of Black and Latino/a students into UWM, Marquette, and/or MATC  


Yearly State of the Ecosystem Report


Current Areas of Focus 

  • Support and Services Ecosystem Map and Timeline for Milwaukee Black and Latino/a Students
  • Dual Enrollment in Milwaukee and Beyond
  • Restorative Justice
  • My Brother's Keeper Initiative


Support & Services Ecosystem Map for Milwaukee Black and Latino/a Students

One of the most important tools is the ecosystem map using KUMU software. KUMU allows us to visually represent the actors and partnerships that exist between the number of non-profits, government entities, for-profit organizations, grassroots organizations and coalitions that exist in Milwaukee. Our objective is to create a usable tool to understand the resources for Black and Latino/a students, and to highlight the nature of connections that unite the number of organizations in the city. We believe that this visual representation of quantitative and qualitative data we have been collecting will help us better understand MKE as an ecosystem and serve as a community resource.






Ecosystem Timeline

Building on the ecosystem map, in 2022 we started a project to document the history of efforts and initiatives in this space.  The below timeline is meant to serve as another resource for supporting greater and broader understandings of the ecosystem. 


Dual Enrollment in Milwaukee and Beyond

Starting in 2022, we began to explore how best to support equity, data transparency, and initiatives in relation to dual enrollment in the city and state. We have talked with national experts, state officials, local leaders and educators, and youth themselves. Our goal is to build out greater understanding of who is accessing these opportunities, barriers to engagement in them, and how to expand availability with an eye to equity.

To date, we have produced the following work out of this branch of our activities, with more to come in 2023 and beyond:

  1. Podcast on Data, Equity, and Dual Enrollment
  2. Report on Equity and Access in Milwaukee Using State Report Card Data
    1. Overall Report
    2. School by School Breakdown

My Brother's Keeper (MBK) Initiative

The BLEST Hub is leading the research committee for the Milwaukee County My Brother's Keeper (MBK) Initiative. This effort is part of the Obama Foundation's Alliance network of communities across the country, working to support young men of color thriving in safe and nurturing settings. The backbone organization locally is the African American Leadership Alliance of Milwaukee, a key BLEST Hub partner, and has the support of the Mayor's and County Executive's offices.



MBK Milwaukee actively collaborates with stakeholders to dismantle systemic barriers confronting boys and young men of color in the City and County of Milwaukee. With unwavering inclusivity and compassion, we empower them to dream ambitiously, attain their goals, and actively participate in fostering the city's prosperity.



MBK Milwaukee aspires to serve as a catalyst, inspiring other organizations to join us in making the city and county of Milwaukee more equitable. Our goal is to lead by example, motivating other stakeholders to provide safe, nurturing environments, quality education, mentorship, and empowerment to enable boys and young men of color to become not just future leaders, but also motivating other entities to take similar actions.


The Team

  • Dr. Gabriel Velez, Faculty Director 
  • Dr. Troy Washington, Assistant Director
  • Dr. Robert S. Smith, Director of the Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach and Harry G. John Professor of History
  • Walter Lanier, CEO, African American Leadership Alliance of Milwaukee

Key Partners

  • Milwaukee Area Technical College 
  • Black Male Achievement Advisory Council 
  • Milwaukee Public Schools, Department of Black and Latino Male Achievement 
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Roberto Hernandez Center
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Black Cultural Center 
  • African American Leadership Alliance of Milwaukee