A Letter from Kelly Ruppel

Dear FFWS scholars and supporting friends,

As we embark on selecting FFWS’s sixteenth cohort, we pause to celebrate the 25,000 Wisconsin scholars supported by the generosity of John and Tashia Morgridge through grants and stipends. We celebrate fifteen years of learning – both for the students and for ourselves.

As the second-ever executive director of FFWS, it is my honor and privilege to lead FFWS. FFWS is built out of love and care for the state’s youth. This love is coupled with research-based knowledge that an educated workforce is the foundation for economic development in the state of Wisconsin. After spending most of my career in K-12 systems and nonprofits, removing barriers to access and opportunity for our youth is critical to the success of our state and our country.

While we know that financial barriers are not the only barriers scholars face when attending and graduating from college, we believe providing grants and stipend funding helps. We recently added a peer mentor program for new students. Our hope is that our peer mentors will create that first welcoming smile for scholars to know they belong.

Financial aid officers and other campus officials helped shape the FFWS program and its implementation over the years; they are tremendous partners to the FFWS efforts, and their time and effort cannot be thanked enough. They continue to provide insights and guidance to the program. We also work with the research community to question what determines whether a student persists and succeeds in completing a degree. There are social, emotional, academic and financial issues as well as pragmatic issues at play.

As a Board, we aim to be lifelong learners along with our scholars. We continue to look at how we can provide students with more support systems to encourage them to stay in school and succeed. We listen to our scholars through our peer mentor discussions, scholar advisory groups, and survey feedback. We have continuing scholar surveys, graduating scholar surveys, and a stop-out student survey. We also hold scholar discussions during our Board’s on-campus events. Our scholars help us identify our strategy and direction for the future.

Wisconsin is a unique and wonderfully diverse State. As we continue, we will keep learning how best to ensure that FFWS students succeed at school and graduate with a college degree.

Kelly Ruppel

Executive Director and Board Member