[Before I start talking about what happened today, I need to give a huge shout out to the always amazing Larissa Pahomov. A few years ago, I asked her if she’d take on the role of Alumni Coordinator, and she’s done so much to build our alumni community. Nothing that happened today would have happened without her hard work and vision.]
Today, somewhere between 150 and 200 SLA alumni descended on their old school for a day of celebration and giving back. Our school has only had seven graduating classes, so 200 alumni represents almost twenty-five percent of all the kids who have ever graduated from our school. Every class, from 2010 to 2016, was well-represented, and it was incredible to see so many kids from our history now as adults in their early and mid-twenties. There was discussion of the second generation of SLA kids, as we had some little ones in strollers and such. Time goes on, our kids get older. One of the fun moments for me was making the older alumni feel particularly old by mentioning that Jakob was now twelve and Theo – who was one month old when the Class of 2010 started at SLA – was now 10.
But the day was about more than coming together around shared memories and donuts. All throughout the day, SLA alumni led panels about life post-SLA for current SLA students. Topics included “Careers in STEM,” “How to Pick the Right School (From Kids who Transferred,” “Careers Outside of College,” “Adjusting to the Real World,” and many more. Young men and women who were a few years further down the path than our current students took time out to plan panels to pass along the wisdom they’d gained since they left our walls. Sitting in and listening to some of the panels was wonderful, throughout the day, I heard our alums passing on the kinds of knowledge that will benefit our current group once it’s their time to leave us.
The other thing that happened is that our fledgling alumni mentoring program took its next step. We’ve had a dream for a while that kids would come to SLA, and the first time they logged onto their email, there’d be a note waiting for them from an alum who promised to be on the other end of an email for the next four years. We’ve finally started that this year, and alumni took time to meet their mentees face to face. It’s the kind of thing you can do when a school really does consider themselves family – long after they leave your halls.
And this brings to the thing I always wonder about school – why do so few schools find ways to keep their graduates deeply engaged and involved in their schools once they leave? As we think about making our schools more caring, more empowering places, isn’t there a role for our graduates to play in doing so? So… some questions for all of us who work in schools that might move us to keep redefining community in ways that define us in more inclusive, caring ways?
- What role do alumni play in your school? How can you make them an active and vital part of the lives of your current students?
- How can we leverage technologies to connect students from across multiple eras?
- How can we leverage the wisdom of graduates to inform the lives of our students?
- How can we make schools hubs of networking for both current and former students?
- How can we make our schools communities where alumni want to stay connected, stay involved and stay vital to the health of the school?
With seven classes under our belt, we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of these ideas. Today was an amazing day where so many of our students came back to see us, see each other, share what they’ve learned and tell us all that SLA still means to them. It was an amazing day that we all agreed needs to continue to grow.
Thank you to all the SLA graduates… you make us all so proud.