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College program for poor families expands to Eau Claire campus

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GREEN BAY -- A program aimed at getting kids from low income families interested in college is expanding.

The program exposes kids to college life and mentors them in the hopes they'll return someday as university freshmen.

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The Phuture Phoenix program began at UW-Green Bay. Now a similar program is being worked up at UW-Eau Claire. That one will be called Blue Gold Beginnings.

The idea at both schools is the same. Bring fifth-graders to campus for a day-long field trip. Then mentors, usually current college students, follow the kids through middle and high school.

Eau Claire won a $100,000 federal grant to start Blue Gold Beginnings. The grant is administered by the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation. Chief Guaranty Officer Amy Kerwin says there's no more grant money available for other schools, but similar programs could be started at relatively low cost.

The first class to go through the program at UWGB is approaching high school graduation. They are being tracked to see how many end up in higher education.

Both Phuture Phoenix and Blue Gold Beginnings are targeted at schools with high numbers of kids who receive free or reduced lunch, an indication of low income families.

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