UW-Stout News Story

Program at Famous Dave’s inspires multicultural students

September 20, 2012

When they left home this summer to attend University of Wisconsin-Stout, freshmen Sharlee LaBarge and Michael Guzman were having some second thoughts about their decisions to go to college.

LaBarge, of Lac du Flambeau, has overcome significant barriers with the recent loss of close relatives and left behind two younger siblings that she sorely misses. Guzman, of Racine, left behind an apprenticeship that paid well and set aside his original plans to earn a two-year degree.

From left, Dave Anderson, Sharlee LaBarge and James AndersonAs first-generation, minority students breaking new ground, they were carrying more than just backpacks on their shoulders. “I was apprehensive. It was a very hard decision,” Guzman said.

Thanks to two special programs, LaBarge and Guzman are feeling much more comfortable with their decisions and confident in their abilities to handle their new surroundings. First, both are part of Stoutward Bound, a self-selected living and learning community that accepts 25 African-American, Native American, Asian and Latino students to campus two weeks early. Stoutward Bound launches them by getting students started in two general education classes and helps them acclimate and make friends.

Without the rush of thousands of other students arriving at the same time, they were able to ease into their new home. They even found themselves helping other freshmen prior to classes beginning Sept. 5. “I feel like I have an edge now,” LaBarge said.

Second, they and 11 other Stoutward Bound students received an extra boost. The group went through an intensive two-day leadership training program, Leadership from the Heart, led by James Anderson of Minneapolis. Anderson is the son of Dave Anderson, founder of the Famous Dave’s restaurant chain.

Stoutward Bound students traveled to the original Famous Dave’s near Hayward for the program. The other half of this year’s Stoutward Bound group will experience the training program on campus Oct. 13-14.

James Anderson’s program consists of 20 hours of training in such areas as developing self-confidence, decision-making, goal-setting, communicating effectively and making good daily choices. “Famous” Dave Anderson also addressed the students and congratulated them at the end of the program.

Heartfelt experience

LaBarge and Guzman couldn’t say enough about the leadership training.

"For me, it was empowering because I'm Native American and I felt a strong connection with Famous Dave, seeing as how he too is a Native American. His story is similar to my mother’s. They both fought addiction, but unfortunately her addiction won. So to see ‘Famous’ Dave rise above and flip his whole life around was inspiring. Like he said, it only takes one day, one choice to change everything," LaBarge said.

Dave Anderson is the former director of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. James Anderson takes a special interest in working with youth on Indian reservations and worked this summer with the UW-Stout Native American Precollege Program.

LaBarge said many young people from the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation, near Minocqua, drop out of high school and that among those who graduate few go to college.

LaBarge came away from the weekend with the conviction that she can take risks and choose her own path in life. “I will not be a statistic. You don’t have to be what people think you are,” she said.

“James told us that you don’t stop when people doubt you. As minorities we’ve been shut down and told we can’t do it so many times. He told us we need to break through that.”

In 2011-12 UW-Stout had 716 minority students, or 7.6 percent of its enrollment.

James Anderson’s program pushes students to “step out of the box and do things we didn’t think we could do,” said Guzman, who confronted his fear of rejection during the training. “I learned that I can’t let it hold me back. The leadership retreat made me realize how I can better myself.

“It was just incredible watching everyone work and grow together. One of the biggest things I took away from this was the connections we made with each other,” Guzman said.

Leadership from the Heart has been presented more than 420 times in the past 11 years to a variety of groups, including corporations and government agencies, and has been featured on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” James said he especially enjoys presenting to college students because they are open to change and use friendships to help lift each other up, he said.

The UW-Stout group did, indeed, take the messages to heart. “It was an outstanding experience. The Stoutward Bound students have the ‘want’ to do better, to be better and to use feedback. That attitude will serve them well,” James said.

Watching them grow

Barb Miller, director of Multicultural Student Services at UW-Stout, and Vickie Sanchez, Stoutward Bound coordinator, are grateful James Anderson offered his program through the Anderson family’s foundation, LifeSkills Center for Leadership.

“Because of this program, these students are stronger, more resilient and will succeed. They are leaders making a difference,” Miller said.

Dean of Students Joan Thomas, who attended with Miller and Sanchez, agreed. Many minority students “because of their backgrounds have the resiliency other students don’t have. James told them to step up every chance they get.”

Sanchez said Stoutward Bound students continue to benefit from the program throughout the year by taking two classes together, living on the same residence hall floor, attending enrichment workshops and forming study groups. “They have a shared experience, a common ground,” Sanchez said.

Stoutward Bound and Leadership from the Heart have helped a special group of students start their college careers with confidence. “I feel like I already have a family here at Stout,” LaBarge said.

For more information about Stoutward Bound, go to the Web page. For more information about Leadership from the Heart, go to the website.


Photo caption

Sharlee LaBarge is congratulated by "Famous" Dave Anderson, left, and James Anderson after completing Leadership from the Heart.

View all news items