Phuture Phoenix expands program to Green Bay Area Middle Schools

This spring, Phuture Phoenix will host eighth-grade students from three Green Bay Area Public Middle Schools. Each school will attend two days of morning tours in April.

  • Franklin Middle School will come to campus on April 1 and 2.
  • Edison Middle School will tour on April 10 and 11.
  • Our newest addition, Washington Middle School, will be our guests on April 23-24.

Eiggth-graders will tour campus with UW-Green Bay student role models. They will see classrooms, residence life, and the Kress Center, in addition to participating in various college prep activities around campus. It is the goal of the Phuture Phoenix program to have all Green Bay Area Middle School eighth graders tour campus by 2020! 

Phuture Phoenix is currently recruiting student role models and faculty/staff support for the eighth-grade visits. If you are interested in being a part of this wonderful program, please contact Mary Sue Lavin / 465-2992 or Robert Fish 920-465-5170.

EVERY student who attends a Phuture Phoenix campus visit and chooses to attend UW-Green Bay is eligible to apply for a Phuture Phoenix Scholarship. Help spread the word about these scholarships in your recruitment events at Green Bay Area Public Schools.

UW-Green Bay to host more than 1,600 fifth graders on Oct. 10-11, 2018

GREEN BAY – The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay will host its 14th annual Phuture Phoenix Campus Visit, Oct. 10-11, 2018, welcoming more than 1,600 students from 15 Green Bay Area Public Elementary Schools, Bowler Elementary, Bonduel Elementary, Gillett Elementary, West De Pere Elementary Schools, Oneida Nation Turtle School, Keshena Primary, Oconto Middle School, Oconto Falls Elementary, Abrams Elementary, Sturgeon Bay Sunrise Elementary, and Suring Elementary School. Participants will visit the UW-Green Bay campus and 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 a total of 19,017 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 more than 300 UW-Green Bay students volunteering to serve as role models and group leaders for the day and 107 UW-Green Bay faculty and staff 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 the a university education can offer. Phuture Phoenix programming helps prepare elementary school students for college early, said 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.”

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 UW-Green Bay after graduating high school.

More information about Phuture Phoenix is available at






First Ever ‘Riley Garbe Scholarships’ awarded

Riley Garbe, UW-Green Bay’s December 2017 Outstanding Student Award Winner, awarded two Freedom High School students with the first ever “Riley Garbe Scholarship.” Bill Welter, a board member for The Brian LaViolette Scholarship Foundation was inspired by Garbe’s story of determination. Welter named a scholarship after Garbe to help other Freedom High School students going through a similar struggle. WBAY-TV has the story.


Photos and Video – Phuture Phoenix Scholarship Reception

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Phuture Phoenix program celebrated 15 years. Can you believe it?! Check out the photos of the April 26, 2018 celebration reception and the video, which includes reflections by co-founders of the program — Cyndie Shepard and Ginny Riopelle — and features many who have been involved with the program through the years. Among the guests were Mary Ann Anderson, a former principal who was with Riopelle and Shepard on that momentous day, 16 years ago, when a fifth-grader told Riopelle and Shepard that he had no hope for a path which led to college.

Click to advance slideshow or view the album on Flickr.

Phuture Phoenix Scholarship Reception 2018
– Photos by Dan Moore, Marketing and University Communications

Riley Garbe's commencement address

‘We are survivors,’ Garbe tells Class of 2017

Riley Garbe, Student Speaker December 2017 Commencement
Riley Garbe, Student Speaker
December 2017 Commencement

Riley Garbe first came to UW-Green Bay as a fifth-grader on a Phuture Phoenix field trip, where a visit to the campus turned into a dream of one day graduating from college. Despite surviving a difficult childhood that included witnessing abuse and violence and moving from home-to-home, Garbe entered the University on a Phuture Phoenix scholarship. He was recognized today (Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017) by the Alumni Association as the University’s Most Outstanding Student. He was also nominated and selected from all graduates as the student commencement speaker.

The following were his remarks to his fellow graduates, which were interrupted by applause and drew an emotional standing ovation from fellow classmates, friends and family in attendance:

Greetings to my UW-Green Bay Phoenix family. I am grateful and honored to be today’s commencement speaker.

As we take in this special moment, I’d like us all to remember our journeys up to this point. The late nights studying, those last minute essays and projects, the stress of balancing your responsibilities, eating cheap meals to get by, and worrying as you look at your bank account balance. But those are just on the surface. Many of you graduating today have achieved this incredible feat working multiple jobs, caring for your children or other family members, dealing with illness, grieving the loss of loved ones, navigating financial aid, and/or utilizing disability services. But here we are. We can all take a sigh of relief because we survived. For many of us, the struggle, the hustle, and the grind began long before college.

For me, I was born into a tough world. My parents were drug addicts and alcoholics, my parents went away to jail and prison throughout my childhood, I witnessed abuse and violence more times than I can count, my older brothers quit school to get involved in gangs and drugs, and by age 12 I had already lived in 16 different homes and two shelters. Like many of you, the odds were stacked against me from the beginning. Well my friends, here we are. If there is anything I would like to stand before you today and represent, it is this: first, the message that nothing is impossible and miracles really do happen, and second, to be a voice for all the young kids out there whom the world has betrayed, abandoned, and given up on.

At one point in college, I moved off campus to live with my family because my father was sick and could no longer work. I was studying for classes, competing for the cross country team, helping to take care of the little ones in our family, cooking and cleaning, and working to help the family pay bills. My dad told me, “Son, you are a survivor.” And today, I tell you that we are all survivors.

To everyone involved with Phuture Phoenix, to the university’s academic services and financial aid office, to all of the wonderful professors I had in the English and Education departments, to Coach Mike Kline and my cross country family, to the spiritual directors and priests in my life, and to my hundreds of kiddos out in the community who keep me going everyday, thank you all for helping me to be a survivor.

My fellow graduates, we have been out in the dry desert, falling to our knees many times, and crawling to find a sign of life as the sun cooks our bodies and sweat burns our eyes. It is out in the dead of the desert where we have clawed beneath the dry, hard surface and discovered the water of life. Though we thought we were going to die out in the desert, today we sip that water of life (some of us might sip a little something else today too), say cheers to our fellow graduates, and continue to survive.

Each of us has spent time at this great university gaining wisdom and knowledge through classroom experiences, lab experiments, opportunities out in the field, internships, scientific research, and studying abroad. Now it is our responsibility to use that wisdom and knowledge to go out into the world and do our part to progress the world in a positive direction. It was through sacrificing my life for others that I discovered myself. I recall one kid who I mentored in an after school program and coached in a running club, whose rides never showed up on time. I willingly stayed late with him everyday to practice basketball and multiplication. When his ride would arrive, he would walk out with his head down in embarrassment that he was always the last one to be picked up, the kid who people had given up on, the kid who just wanted someone to love him. In that young man, I saw myself and remembered that I need to be the champion for him that I needed when I was his age. Just as many role models in our lives have helped us to survive through the challenges of life, it is our turn to help others be survivors.

UW-Green Bay Class of 2017: Together let us pour love out into a world that is broken and crying for us to do something. Congratulations, now it’s time to celebrate as we continue to rise like the Phoenix!

Not only is Mr. Garbe the Fall 2017 Commencement Speaker and Outstanding Student Award recipient, he also represents a milestone for one of the University’s signature programs, Phuture Phoenix. This important program began 15 years ago to introduce middle school students to college, and to encourage them to dream big about their futures. The first Phuture Phoenix participants walked across this stage in 2015. Today, 16 Phuture Phoenix students graduated, bringing the program’s total impact to 51 students. And today, Mr. Garbe represents the FIRST Phuture Phoenix graduate to be recognized as the Outstanding Student and to be selected as the Commencement Speak for the graduating class. Congratulations, Riley and to all Phuture Phoenix graduates!


Former and Phuture Phoenix Riley Garbe is Student Commencement Student Speaker, ‘Most Outstanding’

Riley Garbe came to UW-Green Bay as a fifth-grader on a Phuture Phoenix field trip, where a visit to the campus turned into a dream of one day graduating from college. In the fall of 2013, Garbe entered the University on a Phuture Phoenix scholarship, and now his dream will come true as he will receive a bachelor’s degree on Dec. 16, having majored in English with a minor in education. The Alumni Association, which has been designating the Outstanding Student Award recipient for each graduating class since 1976, recognized Garbe for his undergraduate student success, his leadership on and off campus, and his volunteer service to others and the community. He was nominated and selected from all graduating seniors eligible to receive diplomas at the December 2017 commencement to be their Student Commencement Speaker. Read the full feature.

‘Outstanding Student’ Riley Garbe — Once a Phuture Phoenix, always a Phuture Phoenix

Riley Garbe came to UW-Green Bay as a fifth-grader on a Phuture Phoenix field trip, where a visit to the campus turned into a dream of one day graduating from college. In the fall of 2013, Garbe entered the University on a Phuture Phoenix scholarship, and now his dream will come true as he will receive a bachelor’s degree on Dec. 16, having majored in English with a minor in education.

The Alumni Association, which has been designating the Outstanding Student Award recipient for each graduating class since 1976, recognized Garbe for his undergraduate student success, his leadership on and off campus and his volunteer service to others and the community. He was also nominated and selected by his graduating peers, as the student commencement speaker.

Garbe completed his course of studies in four years, placing himself on the honor roll all eight semesters, four of them with high honors. This semester, fall 2017, he maintained a 4.0 GPA. During his time at UW-Green Bay, Garbe has twice received the University Leadership Award, in 2016 and 2017, and received the Green Bay Phoenix Student Athlete Academic Achievement Award all four years of study. Additionally, he has been named as a Horizon League Honor Roll Athlete.

As a teacher and mentor, Garbe has impacted classrooms and students throughout the Green Bay area, including Franklin Middle School, Washington Middle School, West Green Bay High School and Jefferson Elementary School. Garbe said he was inspired by the Phuture Phoenix program to give back to his community and to the program that helped him realize his dream of becoming a teacher. Garbe said he feels compelled to help the students who are what he once was, and to give them hope that they too can succeed.

“The day I returned to the cracked streets, aroma of the local cone factory and sights of the neighborhood I grew up in to be a park program leader for local youth, my life was forever changed as kids uncovered the scars and bruises, both physical and emotional,” Garbe wrote. “I looked into the suffering eyes of these broken children and listened to their painful words, and in each of these young kids, I saw a piece of myself… I learned quickly that it was my societal duty and moral obligation to bring hope to these children.”

Garbe has also given his time and talents as a volunteer to many organizations in the community. Garbe served as a volunteer for the UW-Green Bay Campus Catholic Ministry, as well as a youth leader for Spanish-speaking middle and high school youth at St. Willebrord Church. Additionally, Garbe volunteered at a south side Chicago shelter for undocumented immigrant women and children who are victims of abuse and violence where he tutored school-aged students, watched over toddlers, gardened, cleaned and painted bedrooms.

An avid runner, Garbe not only ran for the UW-Green Bay cross country team, but also served as a running club coach at Howe Elementary School where he trained students preparing to run the Cellcom 5K and taught them leadership skills through running.

The value of higher education is often questioned. The answer is always in the beholder of the degree. Garbe summarizes his time on campus this way: “At UW-Green Bay, I discovered myself, I found my place within society, I grew comfortable in my own skin after many years of hiding from myself and the world, and I learned to love myself for who I am.”

Photo submitted by Phuture Phoenix program