Riley Garbe came to UW-Green Bay as a fifth-grader on a Phuture Phoenix field trip, where a visit to the campus turned into a dream of one day graduating from college. In the fall of 2013, Garbe entered the University on a Phuture Phoenix scholarship, and now his dream will come true as he will receive a bachelor’s degree on Dec. 16, having majored in English with a minor in education.
The Alumni Association, which has been designating the Outstanding Student Award recipient for each graduating class since 1976, recognized Garbe for his undergraduate student success, his leadership on and off campus and his volunteer service to others and the community. He was also nominated and selected by his graduating peers, as the student commencement speaker.
Garbe completed his course of studies in four years, placing himself on the honor roll all eight semesters, four of them with high honors. This semester, fall 2017, he maintained a 4.0 GPA. During his time at UW-Green Bay, Garbe has twice received the University Leadership Award, in 2016 and 2017, and received the Green Bay Phoenix Student Athlete Academic Achievement Award all four years of study. Additionally, he has been named as a Horizon League Honor Roll Athlete.
As a teacher and mentor, Garbe has impacted classrooms and students throughout the Green Bay area, including Franklin Middle School, Washington Middle School, West Green Bay High School and Jefferson Elementary School. Garbe said he was inspired by the Phuture Phoenix program to give back to his community and to the program that helped him realize his dream of becoming a teacher. Garbe said he feels compelled to help the students who are what he once was, and to give them hope that they too can succeed.
“The day I returned to the cracked streets, aroma of the local cone factory and sights of the neighborhood I grew up in to be a park program leader for local youth, my life was forever changed as kids uncovered the scars and bruises, both physical and emotional,” Garbe wrote. “I looked into the suffering eyes of these broken children and listened to their painful words, and in each of these young kids, I saw a piece of myself… I learned quickly that it was my societal duty and moral obligation to bring hope to these children.”
Garbe has also given his time and talents as a volunteer to many organizations in the community. Garbe served as a volunteer for the UW-Green Bay Campus Catholic Ministry, as well as a youth leader for Spanish-speaking middle and high school youth at St. Willebrord Church. Additionally, Garbe volunteered at a south side Chicago shelter for undocumented immigrant women and children who are victims of abuse and violence where he tutored school-aged students, watched over toddlers, gardened, cleaned and painted bedrooms.
An avid runner, Garbe not only ran for the UW-Green Bay cross country team, but also served as a running club coach at Howe Elementary School where he trained students preparing to run the Cellcom 5K and taught them leadership skills through running.
The value of higher education is often questioned. The answer is always in the beholder of the degree. Garbe summarizes his time on campus this way: “At UW-Green Bay, I discovered myself, I found my place within society, I grew comfortable in my own skin after many years of hiding from myself and the world, and I learned to love myself for who I am.”
Photo submitted by Phuture Phoenix program