53206 is the poorest zip code in the state of Wisconsin and where my family calls home. 53206 has some dubious distinctions as being one of the most incarcerated zip codes in the country and one of the most challenging places for a young person to grow up. Over the years we have been compelled to understand the unique issues facing 53206 and enact change in whatever ways we can. Living here has taught me to seek to understand first and drastically shaped my world view. This has undoubtably influenced they way I approach school leadership by deeply knowing what it means to have high standards while offering a high level of support.
We Got This was founded by Andre Lee Ellis nearly a dozen years ago. After moving on to further his mission of using gardening to empower young men in the inner city of Milwaukee, my wife and I took over operations of the organization. On any given Saturday in the summer dozens of young men and women, 4th – 12th grade, from the neighborhood surrounding the We Got This garden show up to clean up the neighborhood and learn how to grow food for their neighbors while investing in themselves. Each young person that works at the garden is paid $20 for their time and many of the participants point to We Got This as the highlight of their summer.
If you spend any time in the inner city, it becomes readily apparent that the housing stock in the area is substandard. After walking into vacant and sometimes not so vacant houses, we became compelled to do what we could to address this issue. Our solution was to acquire and renovate previously distressed homes within the immediate neighborhood and then rent them at a reasonable rate. The multiple properties we own were or had the capacity to be a drain on the neighborhood and are now some of the nicest houses in the area. Each property receives a full renovation including upgraded electrical and plumbing systems. We provide an excellent product at a good price to ensure we are creating a blessing rather than a burden for our tenants.