The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has proudly presented the “Phirst” Phuture Phoenix Scholarships to seven students who were part of that very first group to visit the campus in 2003.
In a ceremony held May 27 in the Phoenix Room of the University Union, UW-Green Bay Chancellor Thomas Harden called the presentation of these scholarships an especially important event for the University. The recipients are from that first class of fifth-graders to tour the campus.
Phuture Phoenix began in 2003 from an extended conversation between Cyndie Shepard, the wife of former chancellor Bruce Shepard, and University Trustee Ginny Riopelle about establishing a mentoring program that could help students in at-risk schools stay on course for college. It has since served almost 10,000 school children from elementary schools with significant low-income populations. And it’s being replicated at UW-Eau Claire and Western Washington University.
“College access is critical today because our world and our workplaces are changing so rapidly, so dynamically,” said Phuture Phoenix Director Kim Desotell. “Certainly a college education prepares young people for what lies beyond their immediate view. It means they can do more than dream, they can dare.”
The cornerstone event of Phuture Phoenix is an autumn tour of the campus for nearly 1,300 fifth-graders attending high-needs schools in the area. Giving them tours are UW-Green Bay student volunteers.
But the Phuture Phoenix program has grown well beyond a field trip. Each year UW-Green Bay students go to middle and high schools to serve as positive role models and mentors for at-risk students. It is a connection that begins in fifth grade and extends to graduation.
The recent scholarship presentation ceremony touched upon the program’s inspiration. Returning to the campus to present the scholarship that will bear her name, Cyndie Shepard embraced Riopelle and emotionally recalled how their vision began when a fifth-grader told her bluntly that his future, like his father’s, would probably lead to prison.
“For Ginny and me, it is our proudest moment,” Shepard said.
Eventually, at least 20 scholarships of $1,000 each will be made available to qualified students. The scholarships are renewable each year the student attends UW-Green Bay.
The program received a major boost earlier this year when the WPS Foundation announced that it will provide 31 scholarships during the next five years in the name of Larry Weyers, the former president and chief executive officer of Integrys Energy Group, Inc.
The seven scholarship recipients for this year are:
The Larry L. Weyers Wisconsin Public Service Foundation Phuture Phoenix Scholarship:
• Thomas Mottl, Green Bay Preble High School, planning studies in computer science.
• Gary Flores, Green Bay Preble High School, hoping to enter the medical field and work with under-served populations in South America.
• Seenia Thao, Denmark High School, planning a career in the area of social work, perhaps obtaining a master’s degree.
• Ka Vang, Green Bay Preble High School, an early high school graduate, is already enrolled at UW-Green Bay and studying to be a teacher. She is also a Phuture Phoenix volunteer.
• Zer Yang, Green Bay West High School, intending to work with children, either as an elementary teacher or social worker.
The Billie Kress Scholarship:
• Jennifer Mottl, Green Bay Preble High School, planning to study English.
The Cyndie Shepard Scholarship:
• Elizabeth Sanchez, Green Bay Preble High School, intending to major in design arts and eventually learn Japanese.
For more information about Phuture Phoenix contact Kim Desotell at (920) 465-5170; or, www.uwgb.edu/phuturephoenix.