Program changes — even saves — lives

By Mark Feldmann

By all accounts, Eddie Knox shouldn’t be alive.

A few years ago, he tried to defuse a potentially volatile family situation at his Milwaukee home. A relative didn’t appreciate Knox trying to peacefully resolve the situation. So six months later – on January 4, 2022 – the relative returned to the house and shot Knox eleven times.

One bullet went into his head. Two others went into his neck. Two more lodged in this shoulder, leaving his left arm dangling and useless.

“I should be dead,” Knox said. “But I survived. That day changed my life.”

A month later, with support from his mother, Knox headed to Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) and enrolled in classes.

Less than a year after that, thanks to MATC, he has his High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) and two certifications through MATC’s Integrated Education and Training (IET) program, where students can earn college credit in certain career areas while simultaneously completing their alternative high school credential, like a General Education Development (GED) or HSED.

Knox shared his story on Tuesday, December 12, at a ceremony recognizing a dozen students who completed IET programs in Healthcare Customer Service, Office Technology Assistant and Bilingual Office Assistant.

Students received certificates and congratulations from MATC President Vicki J. Martin, other MATC administrators and IET Coordinator Isamary Reyes.

“I lost everything when I was shot, but I got a second chance,” said Knox, who earned credits for Office Technology Assistant courses. “My mother told me to get back to school, that this was my time to show God what I could with another chance.”

So far, he has made the most of it. Knox, now 54, plans to attend more classes at MATC and wants to open a small website development business in Milwaukee.

“This program helps change lives,” Dr. Martin said at the event, which was held at the MATC Education Center at Walker’s Square. “This program lifts up our community. It provides employers with a skilled and talented workforce and helps program participants transition into our college programs. More education means more opportunities.”

Making the path easier

Students in the program earned six college credits that they can use to start an associate degree or technical diploma program. “You have already started a program,” said Mary Peters-Wojnowiak, associate dean of MATC’s Healthcare Pathway. “Come see us again. We want to see you in our Pathway.”

Margarita Sanchez, originally from Leon Guanajuato in Mexico, earned an IET administrative professional certificate in December 2022 and now is in MATC’s accounting assistant program. She plans to earn her technical diploma in May 2024.

“IET made my college path easier,” Sanchez told the crowd. “Participating in the IET program was a turning point. It not only enhanced my English skills and computer literacy, but also introduced me to the dynamics of college-level courses. The program became more than just a learning experience — it was a gateway to new friendships and a supportive community.

“The most difficult part is the first step,” Sanchez added. “But once you start, you can succeed.”

Knox knows that feeling. Enrolling at MATC came only after a near-death, life-altering experience. He was one of the older students in his classes, trying to work and take care of a family. “It was hard for me to come back to school,” he admitted. “I was raising kids. I had a long journey, and I still struggle every day.”

Students like Knox who completed an IET program can serve as a bright example to others, said Phillip King, MATC’s executive vice president of student success. “You can show others the way,” King told the students. “You need to remember what got you here and carry that forward.”

This article was originally posted here.

Mark Feldmann

is a copywriter/storyteller at Milwaukee Area Technical College in Wisconsin.