The Millennial Dollar Question: Why Engage Alumni Volunteers?

It could just be that the most uniquely qualified and ready-to-go volunteers to support your students are the ones who just graduated. Known as near-peer mentors, college-going alumni are old enough to exude the clout and aspiration students are drawn to while still being relatable enough -- thanks to shared interests, goals and backgrounds. Near-peer mentors can help support students through the college admission process and offer firsthand insight and advice. 

Here are three reasons why millennial alumni may your secret weapon to boost college access at your high school. 

A tech in the right direction

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country had approximately 500,000 open computing jobs in 2015. Yet U.S. universities produce only about 40,000 computer science graduates each year. One way to attract college-bound students into computer science is by reaching them before graduation. For example, those behind the University of Arizona and Microsoft’s Teaching Education And Literacy in Schools (TEAL) program believe, “Role models and near-peer mentors can positively influence a young person's decision to pursue subjects like computer science education.” It’s even more powerful if students can see themselves in their mentors, and that’s exactly where alumni can come in and help bridge the computer science gap. For students in grades 7 to 12, 58% of white students attend schools with computer science classes while the same is only true for 47% of Black students. Research has shown same-race educator-student matching can not only benefit academic outcomes but also positively affect behavior infractions. 

A College Companion

State spending increases to boost college access is taking momentum. For example in Idaho this year, the state is spending $9 million on college and career advising programs -- all designed to help high school students chart their future, and improve Idaho’s low postsecondary completion rates. One approach (of several) on the table for schools districts and charter schools to choose from includes near-peer mentoring. Near-peer mentoring is a “promising practice” that should be studied more closely, wrote Cathleen McHugh, the State Board’s chief research officer. McHugh compared the 10 schools with near-peer programs to similar high schools in the state. She looked for comparison schools with similar poverty rates and minority student populations. High schools with near-peer programs see about a 4 percentage point increase in college enrollment rates in the first year of the program. In subsequent years, the increase grows to 5 percentage points.

Alumni are Ready: Ask!

Imagine a team of athletes and cheerleaders on the sidelines eager to run on the field to bat for your school, but they’re sitting and waiting -- never asked to go on. 

  • 79% of millennials volunteer annually

  • Less than 5% volunteer at their alma mater

  • 86% of millennials want to volunteer where they can by sharing skills, talent and expertise

  • 47% of millennial alumni say they haven’t volunteered at their high school because nobody’s asked

The time to ask is now. Download the academic calendars for the colleges your alumni attend and find the overlaps when colleges have time off, but your high school in still in session. You may find that alumni have December and January off before and after their exams; are off in March for Spring break and may end their academic year as early as May. Invite alumni back into the classroom and inspire the next generation of graduates. 

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