Each fall, UW-Green Bay gets a little younger for a day or so as local fifth-graders visit campus on Phuture Phoenix Day for a look at college life.
The fall 2010 edition was special for its record turnout, gorgeous weather and the fact the program is now old enough that “alumni” — students who toured campus themselves as fifth-graders — help as mentors and tour guides. As always, it’s a fun experience.
“It was pretty cool to come here and see real classes studying and the view up in the library tower,” said fifth-grader Brooklyn Oleck, West De Pere.
For the students, it’s an opportunity to get a glimpse of college life.
“Went to the library, saw the Winter Garden, went on an elevator,” said Daniel Fiscal, a fifth-grader from Fort Howard Elementary School in Green Bay.
For the University, it’s a chance to reach out to at-risk students.
“It helps the University connect with the community in a very tangible way,” said Stephanie Cataldo Pabich, associate director of the Phuture Phoenix program. “It brings students, who might not ever have an opportunity to ever walk on a college campus, out here and meet a very welcoming campus community that really enjoys engaging with 10-year-olds for one day out of the year.”
Cataldo Pabich says this is a record-setting year for the program. More than 1,400 fifth-graders from 16 schools took part in the program. There were so many students, in fact, that for the first time they had to sit in the balcony at the Weidner Center.
This year, 91 faculty participated in the program, by far the most ever.
It’s also the first time former Phuture Phoenix students who are now students at UW-Green Bay, are giving the tours.
In 2003, Ka Vang was a fifth-grader at Danz Elementary School in Green Bay. She was among the first students in the Phuture Phoenix program.
Now, she’s a UW-Green Bay student and is giving tours to fifth-graders from her old school.
“I’m the first to go to college in my family so I never really knew about college until Phuture Phoenix actually. I never knew that there was school after school,” Vang said.
2010 also marks the third time Phuture Phoenix has been replicated. Representatives from Silver Lake College in Manitowoc came to campus to observe the day and get ideas for the soon-to-be launched Look Ahead Lakers program.
“Manitowoc is a factory town. It has always been a factory town where the expectations were that children would move into work in factories and on farms and many of those jobs are not going to be there for them and so we want to encourage them to consider higher education,” said Carol O’Rourke, project director for the program at Silver Lake College.
Silver Lake College joins Western Washington University and UW-Eau Claire in replicating the Phuture Phoenix program.
Cataldo Pabich says the continued replication showcases the success of the program.
“I think it says that this program is able to touch students and that’s the whole goal,” Cataldo Pabich said. “We’re able to help other people in other areas do the same for students that are at-risk in their communities.”