Northwestern Mutual Partnership Ensures Auer Avenue Students Succeed

Northwestern Mutual Partnership Ensures Auer Avenue Students Succeed

Chef Michael Feker (l) and Northwestern Mutual Foundation's Noreen Noonan serve Auer Avenue students a healthy breakfast.

May 11, 2018

Written by Lauren Widor, United Way volunteer blogger


United Way is proud to bring about community partnerships in the Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County area. One of our special partnerships is the relationship between Northwestern Mutual and Auer Avenue Elementary, a Milwaukee Community School.

Auer Avenue was established as a Milwaukee Community School in 2015, meaning their presence involves the entire neighborhood. “A community school is everybody - parents, students, staff members, residents and community partners - pulling together for the greater good of the school,” said Michelle Allison, community school coordinator and Auer Avenue. “Students also have a responsibility within the community to give back and be a good citizen.”

Northwestern Mutual is a part of the leadership team at Auer Avenue School, where they often come to the table to participate in various initiatives.

“The Community school model is about creating goals for the school itself, and Northwestern Mutual tries to support those goals,” said Thomas Rosenthal, program officer at Northwestern Mutual Foundation. “One of our focus areas is around 3rd-grade reading and increasing proficiency. We want to see children learn to read early and maintain proficient levels into grades fourth, fifth, and beyond.”

To that end, Northwestern Mutual has supported the implementation of the Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) program, part of Milwaukee Succeeds’ Reading Foundations program. This initiative helps Auer Avenue students with their reading and writing scores, which have improved dramatically – more than 15% of students have shown improvement in their reading and writing test scores since 2015. Through CKLA, Auer Avenue hopes to maintain proficient reading levels in grades 4 through 8.

Since 2015, Northwestern Mutual has helped transform an old classroom into a parent room, they’ve “adopted” classrooms, donated supplies, donated $5,000.00 for the Auer Avenue 105th anniversary, kicked off a hot healthy breakfast pilot program, held numerous food pantries, and have provided an endless amount of support for Auer Avenue teachers, parents, and administrators.

In addition to aiding in the development of new spaces and “adopting” classrooms, NM employees consult with students on a “Shark Tank” style grant initiative where students present their ideas on how they’d use grant funding in their school. NM volunteers coach students through the process, teaching them how to generate ideas and put together their final presentations.

“Community Schools is an all-hands-on-deck approach to school improvement,” said Ryan Hurley, director, Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership at United Way. “Community partnerships, such as Northwestern Mutual at Auer, play a very important role in this work by connecting human, financial, and material resources to the most pressing issues identified by the school community.”

If you’d like to join Northwestern Mutual employees by becoming a volunteer with Auer Ave. or any of our other Milwaukee Community Schools, visit

Lauren Widor is a writer based in the midwest. She's a human rights advocate and a parent to three rescue pets. 


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