On a Mission to Improve the Lives of Children Milwaukee County

Connections in Milwaukee County

Data Source: University of Wisconsin Service Center

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee is the largest youth-serving organization in Milwaukee. It’s also the largest Boys & Girls Clubs chapter in the nation. Every single day, more than 5,000 youth stream through the doors of the clubs’ facilities and participate in the organization’s academic and recreational programs. Many of these children suffer from poverty, violence, and a lack of positive role models. To say that this organization and its programs are critical to the health and well-being of Milwaukee’s children is an understatement.

At the helm of this foundationally important organization is UW-Madison alumnus Vincent Lyles ’84, JD’87. Since 2012, he has overseen the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee’s more than 800 employees and nearly 600 volunteers. It’s a tremendous responsibility, and to finance such an operation, Lyles draws on his years of experience in the private sector, where he served as the president of the M&I Community Development Corporation and grew that company’s investment portfolio from $53 million to $130 million.

I value public education as the true antidote to chaos, confusion, and conflict.

Another thing Lyles draws on is his education, particularly his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was a member of the Prelaw Club and a resident in Sellery Hall. At UW-Madison, he gained critical thinking skills and learned how to navigate a large university environment. The campus provided big experiences to match its size, he says, adding that this was one of the most important aspects of his Badger education because “the big experiences help build competence and courage.”

Lyles also points to important writing and speaking opportunities in both his undergrad years and in law school, where he participated in the Legal Defense Project as a student attorney. “This was great experience for me and allowed me to help the defendant get through some tough spots within the criminal justice system,” he says.

As an alumnus of Milwaukee Public Schools and twice a graduate of the state’s flagship university, Lyles has some deeply held beliefs about the power of public education.

“I value public education as the true antidote to chaos, confusion, and conflict,” he says. “A more educated society is a more productive society and affords or creates more options for us all.”