The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Blugold Beginnings up for grant

This fall, Blugold Beginnings entered the Pepsi Refresh Project with the goal of being awarded a $50,000 grant for their fifth grade campus tour day in the spring.

According to their website, Blugold Beginnings exists to educate and inspire students, especially underrepresented, low-income and first generation college students, to believe that post-secondary education is important and attainable.

Lissa Martinez, a program coordinator for Blugold Beginnings, helps to organize the fifth grade tour day, and submitted the program to the Pepsi Refresh Project in September.

Martinez said she got the idea to submit the program from family members and student volunteers.

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“My aunt is a retired principal, and she’d seen the advertisement and recommended it to me,” Martinez said. “One of our college mentors this summer said the same thing. That was my extra push to submit this fall.”

The Pepsi Refresh Project, according to their website, funds “amazing ideas that refresh the world” in four different categories. Blugold Beginnings is competing in the Education category, and is currently in 65th place in the $50,000 tier.

In order to win, however, Martinez said the program needs to be in the top 10.

“They don’t tell you how many votes you have,” Martinez said. “We’ve been speculating, but when we started we were at 129. Our daily office votes aren’t going as far as they used to. We really need campus help to get to top 10.”

Jason Anderson, event production coordinator for Event Services on campus, participates in the tour day by making reservations for the group in Zorn Arena. Anderson also puts together a color theory class for fifth graders, teaching them about light and how the human eye perceives it. He said he can relate to them.

“I grew up on a farm in the Chippewa School District,” Anderson said. “Although I had one parent who attended college, it was this mythical thing. I’d never been on a campus until I was a senior and
started touring.”

Martinez said getting elementary students comfortable with the idea of college is the goal of the tour day.

“As a whole, they’re introduced to post-secondary and coming to campus and are comfortable with the idea of college,” Martinez said. “At the end of the day, every fifth grader will be able to say they’ve been on a college campus and have talked with college students.”

The program started in 2009 with money from grants written by Jodi Thesing Ritter, the associate dean of students.

Although the program works with area school districts throughout the year to pair 5th-12th grade students with college students as mentors and tutors in core subjects, the fifth grade tour day is the program’s biggest and most visible event during the year.

As the biggest event, the tour day is also the most expensive, Martinez said. Expenses for tour day include highlighter yellow t-shirts for students’ safety, lunch and transportation.

“Transportation is the biggest thing, getting all the students to campus,” Martinez said. “Lunch is just a basic bag lunch, but for 1,600 fifth graders, it carriers a pretty big price tag.”

Blugold Beginnings is now working on spreading the word to students on campus to help gain votes online. Hannah Lesko, the graphic design intern for Blugold Beginnings, designed the posters that can be seen across campus, and is excited to see the program “slowly climbing up the ranks.”

“I wanted everyone to notice it, and get the basic information across in a way that would be simple for students to know how to vote,” Lesko said. “The money will help so much if we win, because that’s one less thing we have to worry about.”

Students can vote up to five times a day, at, by searching Blugold Beginnings.

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Blugold Beginnings up for grant