Milwaukee Area Technical College

Face of  Milwaukee’s Diverse Talent Pipeline

MATC; (Left to right) Samantha Albert, MATC Automotive Maintenance Technician program graduate (Spring 2023) and Checota MATC Scholarship recipient; Julie Laurence Brown, MATC Aesthetician program graduate (Spring 2023), MATC Outstanding Technical Diploma winner (Spring 2023) and Checota MATC Scholarship recipient; Photo by Linda Smallpage, Boutique Photographer

In 2020, Julie Laurence Brown found out she had a brain tumor. In December, doctors removed the tumor. The experience left her with a new determination and ambition, leading her to start her own small business. Brown launched Melanin Jewel, selling natural beauty products and services.

Planning to build Melanin Jewel, she enrolled in Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Aesthetician program. A wife and mother of three, she was paying out of pocket for her education until she learned about the Ellen and Joe Checota MATC Scholarship Program. She applied and was offered a full ride, with the scholarship covering her tuition, books, supplies and transportation. “Going to MATC was one of my best decisions,” Brown says. “We got hands-on, practical training that really prepared us for the real world.”

The Checota scholarship, which launched in August 2022, has already helped dozens of students, including Samantha Albert, who graduated from MATC’s Automotive Maintenance Technician program in May. Albert is a single mother whose son has special needs, so while she wanted to obtain her degree, she found it difficult to juggle working, studying and caring for her son. After enrolling at MATC, she was also diagnosed with lupus. Looking for help, she found the Checota scholarship – it covered her expenses, including childcare and food benefits, allowing her to complete her degree. “I’m truly grateful,” Albert says. “MATC did an amazing job supporting me and being there for me. I couldn’t have done it without everybody at MATC.”

Albert is planning to return to MATC to enroll in the Auto Collision Repair and Finish Technician program. And Brown graduated with a 4.0 GPA and is now a full-time entrepreneur with plans to open her own salon and continue growing Melanin Jewel. “MATC is a community school – they’re in the community, helping people,” Brown says. “They create jobs, and they encourage people, and they give people like me a chance to become something more.”

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