Spotlight on the Good Works of the RCM Community Trust: Brown Street Academy

Brown Street Academy (BSA) is located at 2029 N. 20th Street and is housed in one of the Milwaukee Public Schools oldest buildings, across the street from Johnsons Park.  Despite its age, this MPS elementary school teaching grades K4 through 5th is brimming with energy.  And a good deal of that energy is because of the programs funded through the RCM Trust.


The RCM Trust contributes more than $9,000 each year to BSA.  This money is requested through the RCM Partners in Education Committee (PIE).  Each year, the PIE BSA Liaison meets with the school’s principal to map out the school’s greatest financial need.  PIE does not request funds for equipment, rather the RCM Trust contributions help defray the cost of valuable programming that benefits a good number of students and provides priceless learning experiences. 


For example, for the past several years the Trust has helped pay for every BSA student to participate in science programs for the entire school year at the Urban Ecology Center.   RCM Trust money helps pay for transportation and a greatly reduced program fee from the UEC. 

In addition, the Trust has helped pay for swimming lessons for all second graders at BSA, contributed to the annual awards program and The Community Day held at the school each year.  The Community Day brings together families from the BSA neighborhood to connect and learn about healthy summer activities, safety guidelines and other worthwhile available programming.


In the fall of 2012, under the leadership of Barbara Velez, PIE initiated the RCM Reading Initiative at BSA.  With the help of the University of Wisconsin Center for Community Based Learning, Leadership & Research and the generosity of time from Rotarians, we were able to marshal a small army of volunteers to tutor students needing help with reading.    The tutors, under the guidance of classroom teachers, worked in 12 classrooms Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.  A total of 85 volunteers contributed nearly 700 hours to this initiative since it began.  The Trust sponsors a prize for every classroom’s most improved reader announced at the annual awards program.  Last year, the most improved reader in each classroom earned a brand new bicycle.  The students, teachers and parents were extremely grateful and this child-centered incentive is motivating students to work extra hard this year.


Perhaps the biggest undertaking supported by the RCM Trust for the BSA neighborhood was the revitalization of its playground.  Volunteer leaders and a $100,000 donation from the RCM Trust revitalized the 1.67 acre schoolyard surrounding the Brown Street Academy. See this recent newsletter article for a photo of the recently installed sign recognizing RCM’s contribution. The total cost of the project was $740,000.


The RCM Trust contributes money to worthwhile causes and certainly its help for Brown Street Academy ranks among some of its best efforts.  But, money alone does not transform communities, vision, dedication and the tireless efforts of people really make things happen.  The Rotary Club of Milwaukee members have played a significant role in making Milwaukee a sought-after destination and a great place on a great lake.