The holiday spirit could be felt well into January as University of Wisconsin’s Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence initiative received a $35,000 donation from AT&T.

PEOPLE is a program that helps underrepresented and low-income students with strong academic potential prepare for and graduate from college. It is administered through UW’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Education Achievement and currently provides scholarships to 340 UW students.

Scott VanderSanden, AT&T Wisconsin president, announced the donation during a visit with Chancellor Rebecca Blank and PEOPLE program representatives on Jan. 10.

According to a statement from AT&T, UW admitted its largest class of PEOPLE College Scholars yet this year, with 90 new freshmen.

“Through education, we can uplift students through their educational journey and career path,” Jacqueline DeWalt, executive director of the PEOPLE program, said. “It not only lifts up the student, but the family and communities that they come from. Education builds a much more solid workforce and increases the number of qualified workers.”

DeWalt said both AT&T and PEOPLE are committed to enriching underserved communities throughout Wisconsin.

PEOPLE’s College Scholars will benefit from the donation and the money will help ensure students are on track for graduation, prepared for internships and have post-college plans, DeWalt said. She added that the donation could not have come at a better time.

“We are moving into spring and summer planning efforts,” DeWalt said. “At this point, for high schoolers, it’s about getting them ready for their transition into college. Our current College Scholars are helping pre-college students matriculate into the college environment.”

According to the statement, this was not the first time the AT&T Foundation has donated to the program. In 1999, the foundation provided the PEOPLE program with $600,000 in startup funding and has provided more than $1.5 million to date.

DeWalt said AT&T has been most instrumental in the high school and college segment.

“I feel like AT&T has been an incredible partner in the sense that they have always said they felt donating was the right thing to do,” DeWalt said. “They really show the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea from a corporate perspective.”