“Sometimes people look at us like we’re set up for failure, but we’re proving them wrong.”

Izzy and ChengFu both went to school at Milwaukee Public Schools, and knew each other as teenagers. Today they go to UW, both studying science and medicine.

Photos by Megan Monday

ChengFu & Izzy | Milwaukee, WI

ChengFu is a PEOPLE scholar, which is a pretty awesome program that motivates, enrolls, and supports pre-college and college students of color from low-income households.

We headed outside to take their portraits, but it started to drizzle. 

Luckily, Izzy had this beautiful umbrella adorned with a vibrant traditional Hmong pattern. Those two were a total bright spot on that rainy day.

ChengFu: There was one year we went to state for basketball. The team we were playing against was making all kinds of stereotypes about Milwaukee Public Schools, calling us thugs and criminals.

Sometimes people look at us like we're set up for failure, but I feel like we're proving them wrong. We're attending UW and achieving a higher education. We're going into medical fields and business schools. Just kind of proving them wrong...it feels really good.

Izzy: The best thing about going to the Milwaukee Public Schools is that it made me really open-minded to a lot of different people. Our school really pushed heritage and culture.

We always had the Latinos Unidos program, the Asian Club program, the Black Student Union programs…we had a big ethnic fest, too. We had our challenges, but I don’t know that I would have gotten that perspective and that open-mindedness if I hadn’t gone to MPS.

ChengFu: I’m the second son. My brother, he wasn’t very successful in school. He didn’t take it seriously. I’m looked at as the hope of the family…that’s what my siblings say to me. I’m supposed to be the one who goes to college and is successful. There’s all this kind of pressure on me. But I’m a PEOPLE scholar, so I’m getting a lot of support. 

I am really lucky because my counselor kept pushing the PEOPLE opportunity on me. It was like a day before the deadline I was finally, “Oh, okay, maybe I should actually do this.” I got lucky. I got accepted. And here I am.

I kind of have stage fright. Throughout my entire life, I was really quiet. I guess you could say I was kind of awkward. But when it comes to breakdancing, the floor is always yours. There's a kind of respect. So it was just an opportunity for me to show who I am.

It’s not just the really flashy moves, its actually a lot of your own flavor and your own style that you put into the dance. So it’s a way to express myself and show who I am.

-ChengFu and Izzy | Milwaukee, WI

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