From internship project to full-fledged after-school program, the Phuture Phoenix FLITE initiative is making a difference for students at Green Bay Preble High School.
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Begun in Spring 2010 by Diana Delbecchi, then an intern with UW-Green Bay’s signature college-readiness program and now a University Financial Aid staff member, FLITE is helping high school students prepare for a bright future.
“FLITE’s an after school group at Preble High School targeted at college awareness and increasing students’ high school graduation and going off to higher education,” said Delbecchi, Student Employment/Scholarship Coordinator at UW-Green Bay. “It stands for Future Leaders Inspired Through Empowerment, which is very long — but we just call it FLITE.
“It actually started I was tutoring at Preble high school as a Phuture Phoenix intern. And I was talking with a lot of the students I was tutoring and I was kind of asking them questions about what they wanted to do with their lives or what they knew about college. And I found that a lot of them weren’t really sure what they wanted to do or what options were available.”
So Delbecchi set about coordinating a program that would help those students, many of whom would be the first in their family to attend college. She worked with Preble School Psychologist Amy Olson-Guillen to get the program up and running.
”A lot of these kids are very smart, but no one’s gone to college in their family,” Olson-Guillen said. “So they’re — it’s daunting for them to think about the application process, the FAFSA, super scary; you know like, ‘how do I do any of this? The Phuture Phoenix part is really focusing on the academics, during the school day. Flite, after school, definitely building the relationships.”
UW-Green Bay junior Yara Macias began attending weekly FLITE meetings at the encouragement of a friend. FLITE has helped her learn valuable information about college and explore interests that include radiation oncology, international studies and photography.
“I will be like a first generation in my family to go to college so my family doesn’t know anything about it,” Macias said. “And just going and getting all that information, it’s really helpful.”
Delbecchi remains the adviser for FLITE, while regular meetings are run by a Phuture Phoenix intern.
“We have two types of meetings. We either have what I call like a lesson meeting, which is where myself or the intern kind of plans something — it could be financial aid based, scholarship, talking about the type of majors a college has (etc.),” Delbecchi said. “And then on the other end when professionals come in we usually ask them to talk about what led them to their career, what kind of inspired them what they studied in college and how that kind of correlates to what they’re doing now, if it even does.”
Preble senior Jessi Conklin has been attending FLITE meetings since she was a freshman. Now, as she prepares to head off to college, she says FLITE has been invaluable.
“(Diana’s) talked about study skills, writing, stuff like that and she’s also helped us with financial aid and scholarships and stuff like that as well,” Conklin said. “She actually helped me fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) … that was a big key for me this year as a senior.”
Conklin is one of two students who started the program as freshmen and now will be graduating after four years of FLITE. Delbecchi has kept in touch with many former FLITE students, and says it’s rewarding to hear about their successes in navigating college life. Many of those stories she gets to hear firsthand.
“Some of our students are at UW-Green Bay now and have a very strong relationship with Diana,” Olson-Guillen said. “They went through FLITE with her and they feel comfortable on the campus. They feel like this is a home for me and I have people here who support me, specifically because of Phuture Phoenix and FLITE.”