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Blugold Beginnings to expand thanks to $274,028 AmeriCorps grant

RELEASED: Sept. 14, 2010

graphic image for Blugold BeginningsEAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has received a $274,028 AmeriCorps grant to expand Blugold Beginnings, a program designed to give more area youth access to higher education through precollege outreach.

The newest funding will be used to develop a Blugold Beginnings College and Career Readiness program targeted at youth from low-income families, first-generation higher education youth and youth who are from minority racial and ethnic families, said Jodi Thesing-Ritter, associate dean of students and one of the authors of the grant proposal.

"The AmeriCorps grant is a phenomenal opportunity for Blugold Beginnings to partner with the Eau Claire and Arcadia school districts to provide students with the information and support needed to achieve post-secondary education," Thesing-Ritter said. "UW-Eau Claire students also will benefit from the opportunity to have AmeriCorps positions and participate in valuable community service."

The project's goal is to create a school culture that encourages students to develop the knowledge, attitudes, skills and values they will need to be successful in higher education and employment, Thesing-Ritter said. It also will work to ensure that the children most at risk are targeted for and receive assistance, support, encouragement and rewards, she said.

"We're building on relationships we already have established with the Eau Claire and Arcadia school districts," Thesing-Ritter said. "There is a community need for higher education and achievement gap awareness in our region. Students who are low- to middle-income, first-generation and are minorities are less likely to enter post-secondary education. Even though programs and initiatives have been developed and implemented to address this problem the problem still exists."

With the new grant dollars, Blugold Beginnings will hire a field supervisor to recruit and supervise four full-time AmeriCorps members who will serve as college coaches in eight area schools. The field supervisor also will supervise 85 AmeriCorps members who will help with school programming and provide one-on-one and group tutoring and mentoring for targeted students.

"The Eau Claire Area School District is pleased to learn of the approval of the AmeriCorps grant to expand Blugold Beginnings to our secondary schools," said Tim Leibham, deputy superintendent of the Eau Claire Area School District. "Having college coaches in each school will provide additional connections to the university, especially for our first-generation college students. Our partnership increases our educational effectiveness for all children."

For more information about the grant or the Blugold Beginnings program, contact Jodi Thesing-Ritter at 715-836-2325 or thesinjm@uwec.edu.

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JB/DW

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