How Alumni Can Make a Huge Difference in Today’s Public High Schools

Alumni may be the most underutilized resource available to public schools. It’s time to reimagine outdated alumni programs focused on reunions and Facebook groups.  It’s time to reinvent alumni programs- focused on alumni helping and inspiring student and teacher success.

Let’s start by looking at millenials for an example. Research shows that millennials are driven to make a difference in their communities. 79% of millennials volunteer annually, 86% volunteer where they can share their skills, experience and expertise, and 47% would consider volunteering for their former high school.  The problem? They’re invited back for reunions- not to help students, or even their schools, succeed.  

Here are the ways we believe alumni can make a difference: 

Project-Based Learning

What do Awkwafina, Mae Jemison, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg all have in common? They all graduated from public high schools and reached inspiring career peaks. They’re subject experts, inspiring role models, with knowledge and hope to share with their former schools. 

In today’s world, it’s not enough to simply phone a friend. It’s time to email, Tweet, connect or ping an alumni who can offer expert guidance and resources for project-based learning. As project learning partners, alumni can serve as: 

  • Topic experts and practitioners

  • Project-based learning judges and coaches

  • Internship providers

  • Business partners

  • Community learning sites

  • Community service providers

  • Opportunity networkers

  • Project-based learning committee members

Once the school calendar is set and educators know key test and project due dates, reach out to alumni and invite them back as judges and coaches. It’s never too early to begin outreach and bookmarking school events with alumni. 

College Knowledge

From application to acceptance, alumni can be guides on the page and on campus. Recent graduates are near-peer relatable role models whose FAFSA experience is still fresh and can offer relevant, timely tips to increase financial literacy. College-going alumni can connect guidance counselors with the right college campus staff to organize information nights and campus tours. 

Alumni have walked in the shoes of today’s students so they understand the challenges they may be facing from being the first college-bound student in their family; learning English as a second language; choosing between in-state or out-of-state tuition; and applying for scholarships. As college knowledge guides, alumni can: 

  • Beinspiring college role models

  • Help organize college knowledge workshops

  • Volunteer to help with FAFSA completion

  • Support college application workshops

  • Support scholarship workshops

  • Organize and lead college visits

  • Assist with language translation

  • Advocate for STEM majors

October is College Knowledge Month and a great time to invite alumni back to share their college application strategies. 

Career Partners

With more reality and less show, alumni can provide the warts and all roadmaps for succeeding in careers students are interested in -- without the rose-tinted storytelling found in some career websites and brochures. 

The workforce is changing and the coveted corner office is giving way to democratized co-working spaces. Landing a hot start-up gig can be just as prestigious as a Fortune 500 nine-to-five position. As career partners, alumni can be: 

  • Inspiring guest speakers

  • STEM role models

  • Workplace site hosts

  • Business partners

  • Internship providers

  • Resume and interview workshops leaders

  • CTE committee members

  • Student mentors

Students ready to work or secure internships for the summer can benefit by learning from and connecting with alumni over the spring. Alumni can help students fine-tune their resume, conduct mock interviews, and make job placement introductions for students. 

 

Advocates


As the personification of their alma mater’s efforts and success, high school alumni are proud graduates who celebrate their school and community. There are examples from across the country of alumni making a difference to promote whole child growth, school improvement, and community citizenship. Alumni have rallied together to open food pantries in schools and volunteered their time to beautify school campuses

Alumni who are advocates can be: 

  • Committee members

  • School funders

  • Educator and program funders

  • Student services funders

  • Levy/policy supporters

  • Family outreach and community networks

In the summer, as educators plan for the following school year, many high school alumni have not yet started their college semester. This is the time to invite alumni back to lend their support towards macro-level planning and offer resources, insight and funds. 

With the myriad ways alumni can help improve student outcomes, the time to engage is now.

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