UW-Green Bay’s culture of caring carried Frances Nazario in her journey to become an educator

The journey to a bachelor’s degree was long but fulfilling for Frances Nazario, who will graduate from UW-Green Bay on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, but raised in Wisconsin, Nazario says she “feels blessed and fortunate to be bicultural. I am proud to be Puerto Rican and proud to be a Wisconsinite.”

It has also given her keen insight to the education system and those who struggle because of language or cultural barriers. For Nazario, an education major, that means rising up so that those she teaches will do the same.

“I love teaching,” she says. “My experience at current placement (Edison Middle School) in Green Bay, Wis. reaffirms it daily. The students I serve are wonderful, my host teachers have been so supportive, patient, and wonderful educators on this last semester.”

Frances Nazario
May ’21 graduate Frances Nazario

Nazario believes education is extremely important, and “truly it is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world (Nelson Mandela). It is also extremely important that students see themselves reflected in the educators that serve them,” she said.

“There is a large disparity in Latino, African American, Native American, and other cultural entities serving as educators. The more representation students see in their classrooms, the more we will inspire them to become future educators. I also believe that in that process there needs to be an approach in dismantling racism and inequalities in the education system. Bridging gaps and opening more doors of opportunities for all students that come from different socio economic, ethnic, racial, learning abilities and linguistic backgrounds.”

She also hopes to lead a classroom in which her students can feel safe and welcome.

“In me they will find someone that will always advocate for them, lead them, guide them, and teach them beyond content but the skills they will need to be successful leaders in the places they will end up.”

In a yard sign given to her by UW-Green Bay to express those to whom she is most appreciative, Nazario’s included her husband, “an amazing man who has held down three jobs so I could focus on school and family” and two beautiful children, Micah 4.5 and Levi 3, who inspired her to “complete the journey. “They have been such a big piece to my not giving up.”

“I also must give credit to my personal relationship with God. He has been my strength and my guide through it all.”

Her journey into higher education won’t quite be complete when the diploma is in her hand May 15, 2020. She is already looking into master’s program and has identified one (or two) at UW-Milwaukee that has continuing to look forward…

“I am interested in getting my major in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Urban Social Studies and Culture and Communities. I suppose that would be a double major since they are separate.”

In a moment of reflection, she credits her experience at UW-Green Bay for fueling her passion.

“I have been extremely blessed to have had educators that embody those things I aspire to be. As a mom I never wanted to use that as an excuse to not do work, or not participate. I was five months pregnant with my second baby (Levi) when I met Mary Sue Lavin. I was in the Phuture Phoenix class at UW-Green Bay, and her kindness and empathy were everything I needed to not give up during a semester where my homeland Puerto Rico was horrifically affected by hurricane Maria.

“The following semester I took a break to focus on my newborn, and once again that summer (2018) I was shown empathy and compassion when my advisor (Christin DePouw) came to my house because I had my hands full with an infant and a toddler. To help me plan the rest of my time at UWGB and creating a timeline that I still have to this day. If Fall 2018 I attended an event where speakers of the book Somos Latinas came to campus, I especially wanted to attend because the former principal of my elementary school (La Escuela Fratney in Milwaukee) Rita Tenorio had taken part in creating the stories that fill those pages. As well as my former teacher Berta Zamudio who has passed away summer of 2018. I attended with Levi who was just a few months old and them sharing their stories of resilience and perseverance as working moms, single moms and being Latinas in general. Mai (Lo Lee) from MESA held my tiny baby so I could stand up and speak as well as get to know others in the room. Moms with babies and toddlers get little to no adult interaction and being on campus, attending events like that one always gave me that. I will never forget that gesture.

Her time at UW-Green Bay, she says, has been “inspiring and transformative.”

“I am so thankful for every kind person I have encountered, every accommodating faculty and staff member that was more than supportive when I had to bring my babies on campus to finish projects, meet one on one for instructional support or just lend a listening ear when all I needed was to be heard. Lastly to the P.E.O. Reciprocity Scholarship and the Rita E. Nelson Endowed Scholarship for Education Students. Without you I would not have been able to complete my last year. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone.”

Frances Nazario’s story, with editing by Sue Bodilly


Mary Sue Lavin with Phuture Phoenix Tee

Video: Phuture Phoenix program still making a difference during COVID-19


It’s October and you know what that means! It’s Phuture Phoenix campus visit time! Only this year, campus visits will be virtual. Students will still receive their future phoenix t-shirt but they will also receive a virtual tour put on by the Education 208 students.

Those students are putting together as close to a campus visit as they can. Students who are viewing the campus visit project will still visit the Weidner Center, the Kress Events Center, the union, the Cofrin Library, housing, and all of the great things we have here on the UWGB campus. They are also charged with trying to create a relationship with some students who will be watching their projects virtually.

Students have begun working on their project and will have everything compiled by the beginning of November and we will then roll out these projects to all of the teachers who would have brought their fifth-grade students to campus this year. Hopefully, they will have their t-shirts, they will have their virtual campus visit and they’ll have a college experience day where they can learn about the possibilities of post-secondary education, namely our great campus UWGB!

Phuture Phoenix

Photos: Phuture Phoenix inspire, energize the Green Bay Campus

They came, they toured, they played, they ate, and they energized UW-Green Bay. Nearly 1,600 fifth-graders spend much of their day at UW-Green Bay, Oct. 16-17. It was the 15th annual Phuture Phoenix Phuture Phoenix Campus Visit. Students from 26 Northeast Wisconsin Schools were inspired to “dare to dream about going to college.”

UW-Green Bay’s signature Phuture Phoenix program partners with schools that have high percentages of students from low-income families and encourages students to graduate from high school and pursue a college education.

The program has hosted nearly 22,000 fifth-grade students during the annual campus visits every October since it began in 2003. More than 300 UW-Green Bay students volunteered to serve as role models and group leaders for the day and 107 faculty members participated in various activities and sharing their classrooms on campus.

See the press release.

Click to advance slideshow or view the album on Flickr.

Phuture Phoenix 2019

Photos by Dan Moore, Marketing and University Communications

UW-Green Bay to host nearly 1,600 fifth graders Oct. 16-17

Green Bay, Wis. — UW-Green Bay will host its fifteenth annual Phuture Phoenix Campus Visit on Oct. 16-17, 2019, welcoming 1,595 students from 26 Northeast Wisconsin Schools to the Green Bay campus to inspire the students to “dare to dream about going to college.”

UW-Green Bay’s signature Phuture Phoenix program partners with schools that have high percentages of students from low-income families and encourages students to graduate from high school and pursue a college education.

The program has hosted nearly 22,000 fifth-grade students during the annual campus visits every October since it began in 2003. To help support the campus experience for fifth graders, there will be over 300 UW-Green Bay students volunteering to serve as role models and group leaders for the day and 107 faculty members participating in various activities and sharing their classrooms on campus.

Phuture Phoenix is a coordinated program to inspire academic success and alert children to educational opportunities that are available to them. College prep starts early, and the Phuture Phoenix campus experiences offer students a first-hand look at the necessary steps to pursue and attain higher education goals, as well as everything a university education can offer. Phuture Phoenix programming helps prepare elementary school students for college early, according to Jenny Woldt, fifth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School.

“You have to start in kindergarten, get it in their brain that they are college-bound no matter where they come from, and that they just need to work hard in school and work hard in their community, and they can get there,” Woldt said.

Included in this fall’s campus experience are expanded partnerships with the Kress Events Center and UW-Green Bay’s Office of Residence Life, making it possible for fifth graders to experience two essential elements of college life: recreational opportunities and on-campus housing.

“The Office of Residence Life is happy to be able to participate in the Phuture Phoenix program, as it’s never too early to introduce the concept of attending college,” said UWGB Director of Residence Life, Gail Sims-Aubert. “It’s so important that today’s youth understand going to college means they will be a part of a vibrant educational experience both inside and outside the classroom. This program is an outstanding opportunity to provide a sneak peak of life on campus.”

All students who participate in the Phuture Phoenix Campus Visit days are eligible to apply for a Phuture Phoenix Scholarship if they choose to attend UWGB after graduating high school.

More information about Phuture Phoenix is available at http://www.uwgb.edu/phuture-phoenix/.

About the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a comprehensive public institution offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs to more than 8,000 students with campus locations in Green Bay, Marinette, Manitowoc and Sheboygan. Established in 1965 on the border of Green Bay, the University and its campuses are centers of cultural enrichment, innovation and learning. The Green Bay campus is home to one of the Midwest’s most prolific performing arts centers, a nationally recognized 4,000-seat student recreation center, Division I athletics, an award-winning nine-hole golf course and a five-mile recreational trail and arboretum, which is free and open to the public. This four-campus University transforms lives and communities through student-focused teaching and research, innovative learning opportunities, powerful connections and a problem-solving approach to education. UW-Green Bay’s main campus is centrally located, close to both the Door County resort area and the dynamic economies of Northeast Wisconsin, the Fox Valley region and the I-43 corridor. UW-Green Bay offers in-demand programs in science, engineering and technology; business; health, education and social welfare; and arts, humanities and social sciences. For more information, visit www.uwgb.edu.



Phuture Phoenix students returning Oct. 16 and 17

It is that time of year again! On Wednesday, Oct. 16 and Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s campus will be flooded with visiting fifth graders in their safety green T-shirts. The visit is accomplished through UW-Green Bay’s Phuture Phoenix program.

The visiting youth will check out a college class, learn from faculty and staff, check out campus housing, tour the Kress, admire the view from the top of the Cofrin Library and so much more.  Please join Phuture Phoenix in creating a positive post-secondary experience the young visitors will remember for years to come.

Get 2 the Point: Phuture Phoenix program helps students dream

Students are getting ready to head back to school, from kindergarten to college. University of Wisconsin-Green Bay students start classes on Sept. 4. Later this fall, a new influx of students will arrive at UW-Green Bay for a day, courtesy of the Phuture Phoenix program.

It’s a campus visit program that started in 2002 by Cyndie Shepard, faculty member and wife of then-UWGB Chancellor Bruce Shepard, and Ginny Riopelle, who currently sits on the University’s Board of Trustees. The ladies had volunteered at an elementary school and encountered a young boy waiting to talk with the principal. Phuture Phoenix program director Mary Sue Lavin tells what happened next. More via Get 2 the Point: Phuture Phoenix program helps students dream, WBAY-TV.

Joshua Vollmar

Josh Vollmar recognized as UW-Green Bay’s ‘Most Outstanding Student’

Being good at something is one thing. Being passionate about learning is another. Outstanding Student Award Recipient, Joshua Vollmar, came to appreciate the difference after taking an Introduction to Human Biology class, realizing that learning about health science while sharing compassion through active volunteerism were key to how he wanted to build his future career. That combination of learning and living make Vollmar a most deserving recipient of this year’s Outstanding Student Award.

Joshua Vollmar-1Vollmar was presented with the award by the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Alumni Association at a May 17 student award ceremony on campus and was recognized on Saturday, May 18 at the 99th Commencement Ceremony at the Kress Events Center. The Alumni Association, which has been designating a single Outstanding Student Award Recipient for each graduating class since 1976, recognized Vollmar for his undergraduate success as a student and volunteer service for others and the community. He was nominated and selected from all students eligible to receive diplomas at May commencement.

Vollmar graduates today with a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology with a Health Science emphasis. A native of Suring, Wisconsin, Vollmar first came to the UW-Green Bay campus as a fifth grader on a Phuture Phoenix field trip more than 11 years ago. Today, he crossed the stage as an example of UW-Green Bay’s finest: a graduate with a 3.787 GPA, five semesters earning honors, a student highly engaged on and off campus, a Chancellor’s Medallion recipient and a Phoenix ready for more.

Throughout childhood, money was tight and an education past high school was rarely discussed. “I never thought getting a degree was an option for me, let alone being able to have an extensive resume,” Vollmar wrote in his award application. “Attending UW-Green Bay has changed my life for nothing but the better. I have found passion in pursuing a career in medicine and am hoping to return to the area to continue serving the community.”

As a first-generation college student and Phuture Phoenix, Vollmar received several scholarships upon enrolling at UW-Green Bay. He credits these scholarships as the turning point in his education, when he was able to focus more on his academics than on his financial responsibilities. These awards also granted him the opportunity to experience a human biology travel course to Germany and Poland.

Vollmar also worked throughout college to fund his education, starting as a table assembler for a woodcrafts organization and ending as a Certified Nursing Assistant for Bellin Health.

As a human biology major aiming to make a difference, Vollmar immediately got involved in campus organizations including the Tri-Beta Biological Honor Society, where he assisted in turning the organization from inactive to a bustling chapter with 68 members and 22 graduate members and helped create the Human Biology Professional Development Council. Vollmar is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and has participated in the UW-Green Bay Fall Research Symposium, the Tiny Earth Research Symposium and the Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity (URSCA) Symposium.

Vollmar’s community volunteer record is impressive and includes giving of his time and talent to numerous community and campus events over the last four years. “Every chance I was given to give back to the community through donations or assisting with an event revolved around one driving force, and that is compassion. While there may be times when the world needs more of it, I am grateful to have witnessed the power of compassion and the effect it can leave on a community. I am excited to carry these qualities into my future career.”

Phuture Phoenix Grads

Wow! 31 former Phuture Phoenix fifth-graders are now graduates

Thirty one students who first came to campus from throughout Northeast Wisconsin as fifth graders will participate in Commencement on Saturday at the Kress Center. All of these students, hailing from all four colleges, participated in a Phuture Phoenix campus visit at least nine years ago. Please join Phuture Phoenix  in congratulating these students. You will recognize them as they will be wearing “safety-green cords” as part of their Commencement regalia, reminiscent of their safety-green-colored Phuture Phoenix shirts received on their tour day. Most of them managed to get together for this photo at Spring Commencement 2019.