Gail Ford

My day job is assistant director of the Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence, more commonly known as PEOPLE, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The pre-college unit works with students in grades 3-12—though most enter the program at the sixth-grade level—and works to prepare them for successful college admission to a UW System school with an emphasis on UW-Madison. We currently have about 1,000 kids in the program, including our College Scholars who are undergraduates at UW-Madison. Most of our students are in the Madison and Milwaukee areas. The program is designed for students of color, free/reduced lunch students, and first generation college students.

The program provides age-appropriate services and support to foster the goal of college admission and degree completion. Services are year-round and include tutoring, college visits, commuter and residential summer programs, and early exposure to potential career options and majors. Sometimes students have a pigeonholed knowledge of what a certain career is like—for instance, they’ve seen an actor play a lawyer on TV but they don’t really understand the vast array of things a person with a law degree might do.

My job focuses on helping students make a successful transition to college. The UW-Madison is our top school—about 50% of PEOPLE graduates attend here—and over 90% of our program participants go to college.

I’ve seen the ripple effect a program like this can have on an entire family—frankly, I’ve experienced it myself! I grew up in Detroit and one of my sisters was in a similar program and my grandmother, who raised us, convinced the program to take me too. I knew that going to college was “special”; it wasn’t something that anyone I knew at that time had achieved. That was a critical first step that helped me get to where I am today.

My most memorable caffeine is the “coffee” I’d have with my grandmother on a Saturday morning. She raised me and it was a special treat to have a cup of very milky coffee and a conversation with my grandmother.

My current caffeine of choice is coffee with two creams and sugar. I really enjoy McDonald’s coffee—to me it’s better than Starbucks!

My favorite place for caffeine is Cool Beans Coffee Cafe. They have great tea—I especially like their Montana Gold. It’s made with cinnamon, orange and cloves and is full-bodied and delicious.

 The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is Marian Shields Robinson, Michelle Obama’s mother. Having been raised by my grandmother, I know what awesome people grandmothers are. I’d love to sit down with Marian and hear about her experience in the White House and what that journey was like for her. There are so many women who are supporting the dreams of others and don’t get the credit they deserve. I’d love to learn more about the sacrifices she made to make Barack and Michelle’s dreams come true.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine:  Access to a great education!