Joshua Vollmar

Because of a field trip: Phuture Phoenix marks progress with 200 current students on track to graduate in next four years

Phuture Phoenix, looking forward:

For the 2016-2017 school year, Phuture Phoenix is slated to award scholarships to 40 students, totaling nearly $70,000. This figure includes the inaugural awarding of the John M. and Meredith B. Rose Phuture Phoenix Scholarship, worth more than $8,600 and renewable annually, to Joshua Vollmar from Suring, Wis. Vollmar is a Human Biology major and plans on entering the medical field in the future. Vollmar attended the Phuture Phoenix fifth-grade field trip as a Suring Elementary School student in 2007, and he wrote about his Phuture Phoenix field trip experience in his scholarship application as a reason he chose to attend UW-Green Bay over other universities.

In addition, nearly 200 current UW-Green Bay students have participated in Phuture Phoenix programming and are on track for graduation over the next four years, with nearly 40 more freshman planning to attend UWGB in Fall 2016.

Phuture Phoenix, looking back:

In 2002, Cyndie Shepard — wife of former UW-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard — and Ginny Riopelle — longtime UWGB advocate and member of the Chancellor’s Council of Trustees — had an idea: launch a pre-college program that provides opportunities for students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds to believe post-secondary education is important, attainable and available.

The very next year, in 2003, hundreds of Green Bay area fifth graders visited the UW-Green Bay campus for a field trip.

Phuture Phoenix: rising from the ashes:

Theresa Rock and Ginny Riopelle

Theresa Rock and Ginny Riopelle

Theresa Rock, ’15, was one of those fifth-graders experiencing a college campus for the first time. In fact, because of the fourth grade and fifth grade split class to which she belonged, Rock visited UWGB twice, in 2003 and 2004, as a student of nearby Nicolet Elementary. And for as much as she enjoyed the back-to-back trips to campus, Rock most remembered the connections she made with her UWGB role models nearly 13 years ago.

“I loved arriving on campus. It was absolutely beautiful,” says Rock, “But I really remember the UWGB students visiting us during recess and playing with us. That’s the most important part of Phuture Phoenix: the connections we made to all of these really cool college students. I totally looked up to them.”

Years later, Rock cited her fifth-grade Phuture Phoenix experience as a reason she applied to UWGB — she was then awarded a Phuture Phoenix Scholarship upon her admission to the University in 2011, when the Phuture Phoenix Scholarship Program began.

From its origins, the Phuture Phoenix Scholarship program was made possible by dozens of area philanthropists and donors, many of whom have supported the program since its inception. In all, seven students comprised the first Phuture Phoenix scholarship class in 2011, with six of those students coming from Green Bay area high schools — Rock herself is a 2010 East high graduate. As the scholarship program gained momentum under the leadership of Riopelle and former Director of Phuture Phoenix Kim Desotell, the number of scholarship students ballooned to 28 by 2014, one of the largest scholarship programs on campus.

Graduates with Ginny Riopelle at 2016 Spring Commencement

Top, left to right: Samantha Thao, Rachel Steffel, Amanda Sabah. Bottom, left to right: Kate VanBoxel, Natalya Jensen and Phuture Phoenix co-founder Ginny Riopelle.

Phuture Phoenix, by the numbers:

$181,000: scholarship dollars awarded to Phuture Phoenix students since 2011

  • 40: UW-Green Bay students to be awarded Phuture Phoenix Scholarships for 2016-2017, a record number
  • 30: UW-Green Bay graduates since 2014 who participated in Phuture Phoenix programming as grade-school students
  • $8,624: value of the first-annual John M. and Meredith B. Rose Phuture Phoenix Scholarship, one of the largest scholarships awarded by UWGB

And it all started with a field trip.

Story submitted by Zachary Taylor.