GREEN BAY — The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Phuture Phoenix program has been awarded a one-year, $177,579 grant to expand and focus efforts to prepare disadvantaged middle and high school students in Northeastern Wisconsin for higher education.

Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation (Great Lakes) announced the award Monday, Feb 20. Through community investments, Great Lakes funds programs that foster workforce development and improve economic competitiveness by increasing the number of disadvantaged students who start and complete a postsecondary degree or certificate.

“This award not only demonstrates support for the mission of Phuture Phoenix, but more importantly it will allow us to increase and improve our efforts on behalf of young people in Northeastern Wisconsin,” said Phuture Phoenix Director Kim Desotell.

The grant will provide funds for a grant coordinator and 10 Phuture Phoenix Phellows, pre-service education majors who oversee more than 275 pre-service education students who tutor and mentor in 10 middle and high schools in the Green Bay area. It includes a significant research component to collect data and measure the program’s effectiveness.
The grant also provides for three ambitious pilot programs:

— Parent Training will provide programing to help parents prepare their child for college. It will focus upon the parents of minority, first-generation and other disadvantaged populations. Research shows that parent support is critical to student success in attaining post-secondary education.

— After School Academic Tutoring will be offered at Green Bay West High School for struggling students to help them maintain passing grades. The desired effect will be to provide “just in time” assistance so students don’t fall behind and into a pattern of hopelessness.

— ACT Preparation for disadvantaged students at Green Bay West High School will include mentoring and academic support to help guide students through test preparation activities. Students who are effectively prepared for college entrance exams perform better on these critical tests and enjoy more opportunity for postsecondary education.

“The Phuture Phoenix program’s focus on academic enrichment plays a crucial role in helping disadvantaged students prepare for — and succeed in — postsecondary education,” said Amy Kerwin, Great Lakes’ Chief Educational Opportunities Officer. “We are pleased to provide funding to support both the expansion of their services and the evaluation of the program’s impact on the students served.”

The Phuture Phoenix program began in 2002, originating from a conversation between Ginny Riopelle, a leader in the Green Bay community, and Cyndie Shepard, the wife of former UW-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard. Both were struck by the fact that many children from low-income families don’t believe higher education can be in their future. Shepard and Riopelle decided to bring fifth-graders to the campus to offer a first glimpse of college life.

From that beginning the Phuture Phoenix program has evolved steadily. Last year Phuture Phoenix welcomed its 10,000th fifth-grade visitor. A related Education course has been added to the UW-Green Bay curriculum and each student is required to perform 35 hours of tutoring/mentoring in the field. Also, Phuture Phoenix now has been replicated at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Silver Lake College in Manitowoc. Thanks to community generosity, there are now students attending UW-Green Bay on Phuture Phoenix scholarships.

While the Phuture Phoenix program has grown, so has the need. When Phuture Phoenix was initiated, about 30 percent of Green Bay students were receiving free-or reduced-price lunches. That number has almost doubled in the past decade. At West High School, where the three pilot programs will be implemented, 66 percent of the student body receives free-or reduced-price lunches.

“The success of Phuture Phoenix isn’t determined solely by how many students attend UW-Green Bay, but whether we can help young people growing up in challenging circumstances pursue their own post-secondary options,” Desotell said. “This grant will support our efforts to help students develop the tools and confidence to help themselves and pursue their dreams.”

Phuture Phoenix is a program within the Institute for Learning Partnership at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. For more information about Phuture Phoenix or the Institute for Learning Partnership, contact us at (920) 465-5555 or Learnpart@uwgb.edu.

Knowing that education has the power to change lives for the better, Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and Affiliates helps millions of students pay for college and manage their student loans. Through Community Investments, Great Lakes funds programs that foster workforce development and improve economic competitiveness by increasing the number of disadvantaged students who start and complete a postsecondary degree or certificate. For additional information, visit mygreatlakes.org.