A junior at Preble High School in Green Bay, Drew Anderson-Braun is blazing his own education path. He is taking college classes while still in high school enabling him to earn an associate’s degree at the end of his senior year.
“I was extremely excited to get a head start on my future, by graduating college quicker and with fewer student loans,” he said.
Anderson-Braun is one of 126 students participating in Rising Phoenix, which provides students access to earning early college credit. A cohort of students launched Rising Phoenix in the fall of 2020. Students are enrolled concurrently in their high school and at any of UW-Green Bay’s campus locations or online during their junior and senior years. Courses are selected to meet Wisconsin high school graduation requirements and the UW-Green Bay Associate of Arts and Sciences (AAS) degree requirements.
With the AAS degree, students can enroll at UW-Green Bay or any other UW campus as a junior — allowing them to complete their bachelor’s degree in two years, said Meagan Strehlow, associate executive officer of K-12 and Community Relations at UW-Green Bay.
“It’s a big money-saver for students,” she said.
The program is active in Manitowoc Lincoln High School, Mishicot High School, Two Rivers High School, Marinette High School and target schools with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s GEAR UP program, including the Green Bay Area Public School District.
In partnership with CONNECT, powered by American Family Insurance, more students in the Green Bay Area Public School District are able to participate in the program for the next two years.
Steve Amundson, senior manager of strategic partnerships at American Family, said the community is committed to closing equity gaps.
“Our partnership with the University of Wisconsin Green Bay and Rising Phoenix Program aligns with this commitment and we’re pleased to partner with CONNECT to assist in the programs goal of advancing equity in education.”
Rising Phoenix stands out from other dual enrollment initiatives by pairing each student with success coach who provides access to resources and college skill building to help students be successful while balancing their coursework and high school activities, Strehlow said.
“We want them to continue with their regular high school schedule so they can participate in activities, such as band and sports,” she said.
Along with supporting a cohort of students in the Green Bay school district, CONNECT also links students with a mentor — an American Family employee who attended UW-Green Bay.
“Our mentors, who are all UW-Green Bay alumni themselves, are excited about building relationships with and supporting their mentees. It is such a great opportunity for our employees to get directly involved in something so meaningful in our community, said Lisa Jossart, vice president of community investment and partner distribution at CONNECT.
The cost savings were a big incentive for Zoe Bryant, a junior at the John Dewey Academy of Learning in Green Bay.
“I thought to myself ‘If I do this, I will have saved two years of time after I graduate high school and I will have a huge head start,’” she said.
Bryant said the program has been a big influence on her life.
“I’ve gained a sense of purpose and motivation throughout this program,” she said.