Successful Milwaukee Public Schools Alumni
The Milwaukee Public Schools district is the biggest in the state and it’s where most Black and brown students attend school. According to their site, during the 2018-2019 school year, there were over 77,000 students in MPS, with 54% of the student body being African American and 27% Hispanic, among other races.
Eighty-two percent of those same students are economically disadvantaged, and that’s usually all outsiders tend to see. MPS is criticized for its students, teachers and buildings but never praised for the amazing students who graduate out of MPS every year into successful adults.
Trina Nicole, Brema Brema, Jasmine Jackson and Samer Ghani are all proud products of MPS.
Every day Trina Nicole isn’t sure whether she’ll be in excruciating pain or not because of her Fibromyalgia, but she never lets it slow her down. As a mother of three boys, Nicole has decided to live in her truth by advocating and bringing awareness to her condition through her brand, Fly Girl with Fibro which is the title her book, blog and podcast.
Fly Girl with Fibro, the book, describes Nicole’s journey with Fibro and how’s she pushed through her pain to be her own boss. During high school, Nicole attended Rufus King but then transferred to Milwaukee School of Entrepreneurship, where she graduated from. At the age of 18, she became pregnant with her first son, who in her words, was her motivation.
She told herself and instilled in her son that “you can do better but let’s be great.”
“I don’t know how I did it,” she said about being a young mother. “You just gotta do what you gotta do.”
According to an article written by Nicole herself: “Fibro, as it’s called, is a chronic pain condition affecting over three million people in the USA, and is described as widespread, constant pain in the musculoskeletal system. My muscles and joints throb all over. But pain isn’t the only symptom. Fibro is accompanied by headaches, fatigue, brain fog, and even depression. I am in a constant battle with my body because deep down, I feel like it has betrayed me.”
Despite going through constant pain, Nicole also has to fight the outsiders who don’t actually believe she’s in pain. Similar to Sickle Cell, Fibro is an invisible pain that can be hard to get treated for because the individual with Fibro doesn’t always necessarily look like they’re in pain.
Along with young motherhood and Fibro, Nicole also lost her father to murder a few years ago.
“I had to figure out how to process that since we weren’t close,” said Nicole. “I struggled with was I supposed to feel bad?”
Nicole has been going to therapy on and off for four years and it has helped provide a different perspective on things. She encourages others to see a therapist because as a Black community, and society overall, we’re not taught out how to cope with our emotions. “We need to learn these things,” she said.
Through it all, Nicole just wants to push the message that nothing can hold you back, not even an illness.
“Despite your circumstances, you can still do all the things you want to do,” Nicole said. “You might have to work a little harder, but you can still do it.”
For more information on Fly Girl with Fibro, visit here.
Brema Brema is originally from Sudan but migrated to Kenya because Sudan was going through war. Brema spent around five years on a refugee camp where there was a lack of food and water. According to Brema, the water tap was turned on in the morning and at night for a limited time. One of Brema and his siblings’ chores were to go gather water to bring back home.
Brema also stated that there was a lack of opportunity at the camp. Eventually, the United Nation helped Brema and his family locate to the United States into the city of Milwaukee.
“We were lucky to be picked,” he said.
During his first year in the city, Brema was the in 8th grade and felt he didn’t fit in because he was being bullied. After playing soccer his entire childhood, Brema lost interest in the sports.
“I found out I like doing things by myself and not competing unless it’s with myself,” he said.
Brema had a teacher that spotted a talent in Brema early, so he took him under his wing. As a graduate of Riverside High School, Brema took on every advantage he could: scholarships, extracurriculars and arts classes.
During the summer of 2013, Brema took an internship with the Milwaukee Art Museum where he had his first experience with screen printing. Brema turned that skill into a business and now has his own clothing line Unfinished Legacy Co.
The name originates from a group assignment where each individual had to use one word that described themselves and someone used the term unfinished. Brema loved the meaning of the word and kept it for his own uses.
“[Unfinished Legacy] is for anyone who wants to be great at whatever they’re doing,” Brema said.
When moving to Milwaukee, he resided on the northside which inspired his shirt “A Genius From The Hood” because he saw many geniuses on the northside (considered the hood).
Through Unfinished Legacy, he wants to guide those geniuses into their potential.
Brema is also a well-known photographer with over 50,000 followers on Instagram and connections in major cities, according to his site. Brema’s work is being featured all around the city and most recently, in Saint Kate—a hotel focused on the arts and owned by Marcus Productions CEO Greg Marcus.
Even with his following and the backing of a city behind him, Brema won’t consider himself successful until he’s able to buy his parents a home in Kenya. Brema said he doesn’t need the support from his family because his parents have given him the basic necessities of life, which he’ll forever be grateful for.
“I’m just grateful for everything, no matter if I’m having a bad day,” said Brema. “No matter where you come from you can overcome anything.”
It was 5 p.m. when Jasmine Jackson decided to literally run away from her two-and half-year relationship. She was just in a ripped bra and boy shorts as she was running for her life. Jackson found herself in a domestic violence relationship that she got out of by putting herself first for one of the first times in her life.
“I knew this man was going to kill me,” Jackson said about her reasoning for running away.
Jackson noticed a pattern within herself, she was constantly running away from her issues and running to the next guy to be exactly what he wanted, while taking away from the person who she actually was. After years of not knowing who she was, Jackson went to therapy.
“One bad day turned into two days then a week then a month,” she said. “I wasn’t myself.”
While attending therapy, Jackson discovered the root of her problems which helped change her overall view on life. Sometimes when getting help, individuals use prescribed medication to help ease their anxiety, depression or whatever mental illness they may be going through, but Jackson used nature as her medication.
According to Jackson, she walks at least four miles every day.
“It’s okay to see a therapist. Don’t be ashamed to talk about it,” said Jackson. “Just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean you’re crazy.” Jackson said there’s a lot of people who deal with their emotions and troubles in silence like she did, but she said the way to healing is exposing the truth to first yourself, and then sharing your story with others.
While attending Rufus King High School, Jackson was the class president and it seemed like she had it all together, but at home she didn’t even have running water. Jackson learned early on the meaning of don’t judge a book by it’s cover because she felt people misjudged her.
In 2016, Jackson published a book entitled Past Recovered about her past troubles and how’s she become a success. Jackson said her success isn’t measured by money but by how many people she’s helped.
“I’ve helped so many people that were once in my shoes,” said Jackson. “I’ve always reached out and helped the wounded birds.”
“It’s not about checks and praises,” she added.
To truly help others who have been in similar situations or just need help, Jackson created a mental app Transcribe You. Through her app, individuals “are a click away from help.”
Transcribe You is GPS generated, so no matter where you are in the United States you can find mental health resources, such as local therapist and up-to-date journals about mental health.
The app is self-funded and took about six months to develop because she wanted it to be perfect. Jackson worked with a developer from New Jersey to make Transcribe You a reality.
After spending a few months stripping, a failed attempt at suicide and a life-time of traumas, Jackson has come out on top.
“I’m okay with loving myself if no one else does,” she said.
To purchase Past Recovered, visit here.
Samer Ghani has been in MPS his entire life and really didn’t understand the impact of MPS until graduating from Ronald Reagan High School. Ghani eventually noticed the raw talent he was exposed to, which in turn helped him as a photographer.
Ghani credits some of his earliest dreams of making it as a creative to two of his teachers. They each shaped his perspective for a better future for himself. MPS has taught Ghani the importance of pushing through even with a lack of support and resources.
Eight years ago, Ghani’s photography was published on On Milwaukee—a local news website, and that moment brought him validation that he was the photographer he always knew he was. It was six years later when he began to pay his way into shows to capture pictures. He didn’t charge for his services because he was just trying to get his name in the scene.
It was around 2018 when Ghani was being requested to come take pictures and then eventually was being paid for his services.
Now, Ghani’s day usually starts around 8 a.m. where he’s doing prep and replying to clients and businesses for about three hours. Then around 11 a.m. he moves onto his photoshoots, which are either in his shared studio or outside around the city. His nights usually end with him editing and connecting with artists during the evening, which could be through text or at dinner.
In this social media age, Ghani feels its important to speak and have face-to-face interactions while out because that encourages togetherness.
“There’s not enough honest connections in the city,” said Ghani. “We have to connect to pave the way for artist younger than us.”
“I shake a lot of people’s hands,” he said. “I make it a point to humanize every experience I have with people.”
Ghani said to not worry about getting paid because your focus should be on “[making] art with integrity and making sure you like what you’re doing.”
He also said it’s important to be honest about where you’re at in your artist career. Ghani said it’s better to draw a line in the sand then to let others run all of over you.
According to Ghani, there’s so much value in MPS from the teachers to the students who walk across stage every year.
“MPS breaks walls of segregation and education,” he said. Ghani said we can’t forget the power within MPS despite all of the negative comments that are being constantly spewed at the schools and their students—current and past.
Even with his name growing every day in the city, Ghani said this is just the beginning.
“I’m trying my best to leave a positive footprint before I leave,” he said.
To look at more of Ghani’s work, visit here.
MPS teaches K3-12 and through all the criticism, the students thrive and defy odds.