'Going Home:' Bill Weir Rides Into Milwaukee, Wis.

Bill Weir?s trip to Milwaukee
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When Bill Weir was a kid, the Harley Davidsons hummed, the breweries' brews flowed and the locally set TV show "Happy Days" was in prime time.

But much has changed in the city of Milwaukee, Wis., where over three decades, many people moved out of town along with jobs as several beer companies moved their headquarters to other states.

Going Home: Bill Weir Returns to Milwaukee, Wis.

The latest blow came in April, as Harley Davidson threatened to move its factory operations out of the city. This time, the unions agreed to take a seven-year pay freeze to keep their "Milwaukee Iron" alive and strong.

"You know Harley has a tremendous connection to Milwaukee," said Matt Levatich, president of Harley Davidson. "Our headquarters still exist just down the street from where the three Davidson brothers and Bill Harley started the original factory shed. So that connection is obviously very deep and very strong."

Weir's parents divorced when he was a child. His father was an Army veteran, so he and his mother qualified for Veteren's Administration housing in a housing project called "Berryland."

Going Home: The 'World News' Team Shares Childhood Photos

Weir journeyed to his old neighborhood, where he was amazed to find it so nicely preserved. There, he met another single mother living in his family's old home.

The mother, Joan, left her manufacturing job for technical training and started a new business, "Cakes to Take." Weir was inspired by her entrepreneurial spirit, but the training and education resources at the core of the city are lacking.

Milwaukee Hurt by Education Decline

Weir journeyed to his old elementary school, Carleton Elementary, where he was surprised to find boarded-up decay. In 1977, a five-week teacher's strike began a spiral to the bottom and the school system never recovered. More than 19 percent of families in Milwaukee live below the poverty level.

"I remember when I was a young kid in the mid '70s, a union card was your ticket to a good life," Weir said. "I mean, that was it. There were jobs, manufacturing jobs for all of my friends' dads. That's not the case anymore."

'Project Lead The Way' Creates Milwaukee Students Ready for Jobs

Again, hope for the future surfaces in this manufacturing city, where students are trading in manual labor job tracks for innovative training with a national program called "Project Lead the Way," which is an education-based, pre-engineering technical program.

A high school senior in the program, Eric Lavender, likes STEM class (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) because it is very "hands on." Lavender's class is working on creating a robot.

"This high school has a lot of technology that most high schools don't," Lavender said. "A lot of the classes are hard to find. These are college classes in high school."

The coordinator for career and technical education in the program, Lauren Baker, said the program is necessary for Milwaukee's future.

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