“Start small,” advised Alumni Toolkit presenters at the San Diego launch.
Every K-12 school has a major untapped resource: the alumni. How might schools engage their alums to communicate with students younger than themselves?
CREATE hosted an event featuring Alumni Toolkit, a brand-new database and messaging infrastructure allowing schools to reach out to alumni for college and career presentations, mentoring, coaching, and more. More than 60 local K-12 and university educators attended to learn more about Alumni Toolkit and were excited to discover how they could get their alumni to sign up on the Toolkit, indicate their interests, majors, jobs and whereabouts, and use alumni strategically for good in their schools. As part of the launch and development of the alumni impact program, attendees were eligible to participate in the UC San Diego Alumni Toolkit pilot program offered free of charge with lifetime access.
The Alumni Advantage
According to Alumni Toolkit, high school alumni have a distinct advantage when connecting with, inspiring and motivating students at their former schools. Alums are familiar with the school’s culture and have knowledge of successful strategies and pathways for specific student communities. And they want to give back: research shows that if asked, more than 33 percent of public school alumni would come back to talk about their college and career experiences with students. Using Alumni Toolkit, schools can tap alumni to participate as:
- Inspiring role models to inspire and guide student engagement
- Near-peer, college-going alumni as college and workshop volunteers
- Diverse and local Career Technical Education (CTE) and STEM guest speakers and business partners
- Tutors and mentors for students
- Project based learning judges and coaches
- Topic experts and practitioners
- Alumni networks to expand Work-based learning (WBL) opportunities
- Extended family networks that support parent engagement
Ideas: January Toolkit Alumni Launch
Ideas from the assembled group about “how to leverage alumnae” included the following. Each is a communication for equity.
- Alumni can talk to younger students about the college they attend. They can even lead tours when students tour a college or join panels when colleges come to K-12 schools.
- A database like Alumni Toolkit can help link alums with specific careers and with younger kids interested in those careers. For example, “We can match our engineers with our engineers-to-be,” for conversations in which engineering college students help younger students consider what activities, courses and projects can support engineers’ development.
- Two- and four-year grads could return to help with applications. “Recent alums are a natural for college knowledge.”
- Alums might help younger students think about how to pay for college, based on their own experiences, serve as FAFSA workshop volunteers, help identify scholarship resources.
- Multilingual alums might even be able to help their prior schools with translation at events.
- More rural schools could tap alums for school site councils.
- Schools could get alums more involved in coaching sports or judging a science fair, or, for those who now have specific skills, helping with clubs like robotics.
- First generation college students could be particularly effective talking to first generation college students at their former schools.
- Alums could serve as career role models at Career Days or Career Nights and discuss the complex pathways they took toward them to reach their goals (including through Career and Technical Ed courses).
Early alums, in years 5-15 after graduation, are a natural to talk about “finding a career, what it’s like settling into a career, and what it’s like today in the workplace.” Year 15-25 alums could serve as seasoned career professionals. Those 25-40 years post-graduation can serve as “senior professionals.” All alums have something important to offer. “This person might be invited back because they have a STEM career; this person, because they are a two-year college student.”
A core tension, is time. “How do we get alums attracted to coming to our schools and investing the time? Alumni have a life,” one person pointed out. But Alumni Toolkit leaders made clear that schools can smart small: “You don’t need 300 or 1,000 alumnae – once you figure out what you think you WANT alumnae for – two, three, four events that you calendar – then you say, ‘how many alumnae am I talking about?’” said Jeff Stein, co-designer of the Alumni Toolkit infrastructure and project director for Future First USA. “If you’re talking about a guest speaker, you might be talking about just one every month.”
Alumni Toolkit can create messages that schools can post on Facebook or LinkedIn, encouraging alums to sign up. Then, alums complete a profile on Alumni Toolkit, clarifying what they now do and how they want to help. Schools reach out to them from there.
Promising infrastructure to tap a real underused resource in schools!
Learn More about Improving Your Work with Alumni
For more information about using Alumni Toolkit, sign up at AlumiToolkit.org. If you’re interested in becoming an Alumni Toolkit pilot school, with free, lifetime access, please contact CREATE’s Associate Director Susan Yonezawa, email@example.com, who is heading up a pilot implementation study on the Toolkit here in San Diego.