(UW-Green Bay) student’s class project turns into 50-year success story
APPLETON, Wis. — The words had barely fallen out of Linda Pratsch’s (’71, Communication and the Arts) mouth when a chorus of moaning and gnashing of teeth began to pierce her ears.The classmates before her at UW-Green Bay thought her idea was bad — like concrete parachute bad. This scene took place in 1971 when Pratsch was in a class on how to be a social change agent. She had been tasked with selecting a standing institution in the community — like the YMCA or Big Brothers Big Sisters — and institute some degree of change. She initially selected Brown County Social Services, a decision she soon regretted. Wasn’t her cup of tea, she said. So, instead, Pratsch came up with the idea of starting a free community health clinic, instantly making her the least popular girl in class.“Nobody was for me doing something different because they all had to go to all these institutions and do something there,’’ said Pratsch, a 71-year-old Appleton resident. “I knew I was not going to be successful in helping other people with the parameters I was given in that class. So I had to buck the actual, not the purpose of the class, but the curriculum of the class. I had to make that special, for me. So I just kept fighting for my idea.’’That unpopular proposition is now called the N.E.W. Community Clinic. It has locations on the east and west side of Green Bay and it has served thousands and thousands of people over the years. And, today, it turns 50. So, how’d your class project turn out?
In a December 1987 story in “The Fourth Estate,” the UWGB school newspaper, the late Rolfe White, who was an associate professor of social sciences and Pratsch’s teacher, said of Pratsch:
“She was a rebel at heart. She went around the country, looking at different free clinics. She mobilized a core of volunteers, got donated equipment; all we needed was a facility.’’