Blugold Beginnings gets grant

Allows for more participants in popular program

Blugold Beginnings gets grant

Photo by Submitted

Story by Kristina Bornholtz, News Editor

Blugold Beginnings, the program that floods campus with hundreds of fifth graders for two days each spring, has received a grant from Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation worth $159,189.


Though the campus tour days for the fifth graders are the most visible to the whole of Eau Claire, the grant will be going to the more behind-the-scenes portion of the program. Blugold Beginnings partners with Eau Claire students who apply to be a part of the program and allows them to mentor in Blugold Beginnings’ school-based programs.


“We are looking for someone who is willing to commit,” Jodi Thesing-Ritter, Blugold Beginnings program director said of potential applicants to the program. “If they’re going to be accepted, they have to be willing to commit.”


Commitment is a major factor, because the program lasts through graduation. Thesing-Ritter calls it a “comprehensive college access program,” starting in fifth grade going through graduation. When a student is chosen after applying for the program, they sign up for two courses to take as a group, paired with a faculty and student mentor, and are mentor members of the program in elementary schools.


The continuity of the program is what drew Great Lakes, a non-profit organization that works to help with student loans and financial aid for students in need, to give the grant, Thesing-Ritter said. She said the program received grants from Great Lakes in years past.


Blugold Beginnings received this grant, called the College Success continuation grant, because it has consistently proved to be a strong partner, Thesing-Ritter said. She said the fact that the program grows stronger every year drew the attention of Great Lakes for the grant, which will fund further growth.


“This grant helps us to support the learning community of 50 (additional) freshmen,” Thesing-Ritter said.


The program aims to form a partnership between students in the community and the university itself, she said. By pairing college students in Blugold Beginnings with students in the school-based programs, she believes the school-based students will be more inclined to apply and enroll at Eau Claire.


Kaeleigh Wilson, senior secondary English education major and one-time participant of Blugold Beginnings, said she thinks the program is important especially for members of the school-based programs.


“I definitely think it’s a good idea,” she said. “It makes them realize that, ‘Hey, the things you’re doing right now in school matter.’ It’s not just a thing you can blow off. If you want to go to college someday, that’s a reality you need to think about.”


The first round of school-based program members are currently in high school and will soon be applying for colleges. Because of Blugold Beginnings, Thesing-Ritter said she hopes they will choose Eau Claire.


“As our program grows, more students come to UWEC because of our program,” she said. “So this grant helps support those students.”