Andre Douglas – 35th Annual Black Excellence Awards Honoree

Community Leadership

Andre Douglas
Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee

Andre Douglas is a first-generation college graduate who is determined to help others not only succeed in life, but recognize the merits of education as a ticket out of poverty as he challenges students to pursue higher education.

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Andre attended John Marshall High School before transferring to the Milwaukee School of Entrepreneurship. While he and his younger brother grew up in a single-female headed household, Andre always received positive support and influence from his mother, uncles, his godparents, and his church family.

“Thanks to ‘my village’ I always knew that the pathway for success was part of my destiny because I had so many people looking out for me as I was growing up and even in my adulthood,” he said.

Andre attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he earned an undergraduate degree in speech with a minor in journalism. He also earned a master’s degree in student personnel administration from Concordia University Wisconsin.

At one point Andre considered a career in broadcast journalism, and even envisioned himself as an on-air disc jockey or television reporter and hosting parties as a DJ. Everything changed, though, when he took a summer internship with the Office of Pre-College Programs at UW-Whitewater.

“I discovered my passion was helping students get into college. I was a college student in need of a job and one summer I linked up with a program on campus working with students. It had never crossed my mind to do this line of work. It was a good fit for me so I decided to continue along that path,” he said.

After graduating with his undergraduate degree, Andre worked at UW-Whitewater as assistant director of the Office of Pre-college Programs before taking a position with Blackhawk Technical College as an academic advisor. Today, he is Director of the Grad Plus College Access and Success Services at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. He’s been with the Boys and Girls Clubs for six years and in his current position for almost three years.

Andre is proud of his contributions to the Boys & Girls Clubs and points to one program that he created called the Future College Scholars.

“When I first started working here, we had an umbrella of several college access and success programs. About two years ago, we wanted to grow the program, so I created the plan and developed all the activities for this program, in conjunction with the development depar tment who helped fundraise for the program. We were blessed to have the program funded at $750,000. The students that initially entered the program are currently high school sophomores and they will be involved through college,” he said.

As with most nonprofit organizations, Andre said that finding dollars and resources to support their mission is always a challenge.

“We operate with limited resources. People see Boys & Girls Clubs and assume that because it’s a national organization, we don’t need money, but there are never enough resources. Unfortunately, we sometimes have to turn students away because we don’t have enough space to serve them all. It’s difficult saying no to someone who really wants to get involved, but when you don’t have the space or resources to serve them, that’s the reality,” he said.

Along his journey, Andre recalls some of the individuals who served and continue to serve as mentors to him, including Dr. Jeff Janz, Dr. Dennis Baskin, Jud Snyder, Harris Turner, his godfather, Rev. Michael Dudley and a host of others. As a way of paying it forward, he doesn’t shy away from using his own life experiences to motivate, challenge or encourage students.

“I always use my experiences as an example. For instance, when I was studying for my undergraduate degree, I changed my major seven times and finally settled on speech because I was just ready to graduate. I also talk about my experience with student loan debt. I tell students that there is way too much free money out there to get in debt over college. They need to put in the time, effort and get the grades to qualify for these scholarships.

“Students need support that they don’t always get from their families, not because families don’t want to give it, but sometimes they don’t know how. That’s a role I try to fill— being a mentor and advisor to help them succeed. One of my favorite quotes includes the verse, “If I can help somebody along the way, then my living shall not be in vain.” That is a personal goal—understanding of this race called life and knowing that my personal mission in life is to help other people find theirs,” he said.