This past month many of our Alumni returned to – or started for the first time – their college journeys. I’ve noticed these times of transition are taxing on our students. Their free time is decimated by the arrival of classes and homework, and increasing costs (like rent, books, and gas) demand more hours serving lattés, shelving books, or babysitting. The combined added stress and shifting of their sleep schedule can contribute to illnesses, feeling overwhelmed, or even self-sabotage.
Despite the barriers, 38 Alumni spent 98 hours in planning meetings and trainings in September. This included our Fall Alumni Meeting, where we discussed this year’s vision and plan for engaging and supporting Alumni; the initial Alumni Team meetings for both the Cesar Chavez Learning Academies and Arleta High; our planning and kickoff meetings for our College Summit Club @ CSUN; and our first professional development workshop (“BALANCE”) on effective communication, best practices online, and the dreaded elevator pitch.
Add another 27 hours of volunteering activities, and the total comes to an impressive 125 hours Alumni engaged with the organization in September alone.
Three main factors contributed to this kind of success: offering different and convenient points of entry, providing a product they view as useful, and leveraging Alumni’s existing passions and values.
1. Make it Easy to Get Involved. Over 25 days, we offered 7 chances for Alumni to get involved. That’s one every 3-4 days on average, held in diverse locations, on different days of the week, at various times of day. For two of those events, Alumni had the chance to participate virtually via Google Hangout. Parking was always free or subsidized, and carpooling was strongly encouraged. Given college students’ busy class, work, and family schedules, this gave them flexible options from which to choose.
2. Make it Worth Their Time. It’s a truism that people don’t attend events unless they have something to gain from them. That’s why each event was grounded in a strong purpose with clear objectives. During the quarterly Alumni Meeting and the initial Alumni Team and CSUN Club meetings, we collaboratively discussed and identified a direction for the year. The BALANCE session offered concrete tools and skills for Alumni to better themselves in their pursuit of a college degree and a successful career. The hours accrued volunteering increase Alumni’s chances at being selected for paid Alumni Leadership in the summer. For each event, the Alumni said it was worth their time.
3. Make it Meaningful. Being a College Summit Alumnus is about more than just professional development, accruing hours, or even the meaningful interpersonal relationships they’ve build with each other. It’s deeper than that.
“Inward Journey, Outward Service” is the Alumni mantra, reflecting both their personal commitment to being the best they can be and their responsibility to support the next generation of low-income youth.
These deeply engrained values of dedication to oneself and one’s community fuels our Alumni’s desire to be involved. Not only do we make involvement easy and purposeful, but it meets their needs for individual growth and greater meaning-making during their college experience and beyond.
As College Summit’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Brian works to recruit and mobilize the organization’s growing volunteer and Alumni Leader base while supporting sales initiatives, program implementation, event coordination, and development. Brian joined College Summit in 2011, seeing the organization as a place to bridge his passions for social justice, empowerment through education, and grassroots community building. Follow the adventure on Facebook by likingCollege Summit Southern California or via Twitter @CollegeSummitLA.