Mario Mack strolls the halls at Falk Elementary School on Madison’s southwest side. He calms down a girl who is flustered by a classmate who was making fun of her. He advises her to stay cool and he’ll check on the situation. As the parent liaison for the school, he is trying to help kids now and into the future.
Mario participated in Common Wealth’s Youth-Business Mentoring Program during the 1996-97 school year while a student at Madison East High School. He was placed at the Willy Street Coop as a bagger and did some pricing, and “it was the beginning of adulthood for me.” Mario worked at the Coop through 1999 when he graduated from high school.
“A lot of times, kids are so stuck on what society thinks,” said Mario. “Common Wealth helped me build a strong work ethic.” He recalls choices he had to make, including weekends where he declined hanging out with friends for the day so he could go work and make some money.
After high school, Mario worked briefly in a mail room at an insurance company before landing as a laborer with a construction company. During the offseason, his dad was ill so he began making daily visits to UW Hospital. One thing led to another and he got a job as a janitor for 12 years at the hospital.
Mario has three kids (ages 14, 12 and 2). He’s very committed to the well-being of his children. It was through his involvement in the schools that he got a job first as a special education advocate substitute, and then permanently as the parent liaison at Falk at the beginning of this school year. Last June 1, he was rear-ended on his motorcycle while being in the wrong place at the wrong time at an intersection near the school. He ended up tearing his ACL, MCL and meniscus, and then had surgery in August. The time between his accident and surgery was the longest period of time he hadn’t worked since high school. He went to Falk for the parent liaison interview with a cane and got the job.
Mario has many hopes for his own kids and for the community at large. He’s hoping his daughter will participate in the Youth-Business Mentoring Program at Common Wealth when she enters high school. He wants to instill a strong work ethic in all his kids. He is also planning on getting more involved with Common Wealth’s newest program, the Southwest Partnership, by helping adults in Falk Elementary’s neighborhood with workforce development through Job Shop.
“Common Wealth had a huge effect on my life and development into adulthood. I wouldn’t be who I am today without that guidance. Now I want to give back.”