Get 2 the Point: Phuture Phoenix program helps students dream

Mary Sue Lavin, Phuture Phoenix program director for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (WBAY photo)
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Students are getting ready to head back to school, from kindergarten to college. University of Wisconsin-Green Bay students start classes on September 4. Later this fall, a new influx of students will arrive at UWGB 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 UWGB 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.

“They struck up a conversation with him, and Cyndie asked him, 'What do you think you want to do for the rest of your life? What do you see yourself doing in the future?’ And he said, ‘I’m probably just going to be in jail like my dad.’”

The Phuture Phoenix program was born in that moment, Lavin says. The two ladies got together for lunch and mapped out the program on a placemat. Today it includes a class for education students at UWGB, having them tutor and mentor in schools as role models, and the fall visit that brings hundreds of 5th graders to campus.

Lavin says it makes a difference. “We call them role models because we want them to work on those relationship building skills. Even though we only see those kiddos for a day, we want them to leave feeling like, ‘Hey, I know somebody at UWGB, I know my role model Jessica or I know my role model Mike.' Because there’s a lot of research that shows if a kid can see themselves on a college campus, and they have it in their mind, they are more likely to pursue post-secondary whether it’s here, or somewhere else.”

Find out more about the Phuture Phoenix program, from its humble beginnings to its slow expansion into an 8th grade visit from program director Mary Sue Lavin, in this week’s Get 2 the Point podcast.

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