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Counting on Alumni during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted by Justin McLellan'16 on January 1, 2021 at 12:00 PM
Justin McLellan'16

alumni collage (1)The COVID-19 pandemic presented many questions for the futures of institutions and individuals alike. For independent schools in the summer of 2020, questions surfaced about how to safely reopen during the pandemic, what safety procedures to implement, and how to manage the additional labor needed to make reopening a reality.

Individuals, too, were plunged into uncertainty. In particular, college seniors graduating in 2020 found their plans drastically altered as a result of the pandemic. For those looking to enter the workforce, employers delayed or revoked job offers to recent graduates. Other graduates hoping to pursue advanced degrees were forced to relocate as many universities closed their campuses for the 2020-2021 school year. My own plans were no exception. The Fulbright Fellowship I was planning to begin the summer after graduating was postponed and postponed again before finally being canceled due to the pandemic.

Schools Reach Out To Alumni In A Time of Need

Like so many of my classmates, I ended up living back at home for the first time in four years. Students still in college found themselves at home as well, and without the extracurricular offerings of a traditional college environment, they were left with more free time than usually is the case in college. With many of their alumni returning to the area and available to work, independent schools began reaching out to former students to support their reopening efforts. 

Alumni Return To Work On Campus: Win, Win for School

Schools implementing a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning needed additional teacher’s aides, substitute teachers, and technology assistants to ensure that faculty had the support they needed to adapt to a new teaching system. The benefit of having alumni fill these roles is the deep familiarity they possess with the school that cannot be taught in orientation. Many alumni returning to work at their alma mater were former students of the teachers they are now working with. They understand how their school functions and the culture that guides it. As a result, these new employees can jump right into action upon assuming their position—a value that is particularly important in this unpredictable school year. 

Alumni Gain Experience: Win, Win for Alumni

For alumni, the obvious benefit of returning to work at your former school is having a steady job during the pandemic in a setting you already know well. But additionally, it serves as a chance to gain professional experience that may have otherwise taken years to achieve. A teacher’s aide, for example, works in the classroom directly alongside a professional teacher. At independent schools, these teachers often possess advanced degrees in their field and have years of teaching experience. For college students and graduates, this is a great opportunity to work closely with someone further in their career and explore their own professional interests. 

Alumni Need to Stay Connected

An engaged alumni base is a testament to the strength of an independent school’s community. Particularly this year, when schools have relied on their communities to adapt and persevere in incredible ways, alumni have proven to be an invaluable resource in promoting a school’s educational mission. At Sanford School, many alumni have returned to campus to make this school year possible. You can hear from members of Sanford’s class of 2016 about their positive experience being back on campus by listening to Sanford Spotlight, a podcast dedicated to showcasing the Sanford experience.

Listen to Sanford Spotlight Podcast  Welcoming Home Alumni

See Also: 5 Reasons Why Alumni Involvement Is Important To Private Schools

Justin McLellan graduated from Sanford as a lifer in 2016 before receiving a degree in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame. He has had extensive teaching experience, working in classrooms in the United States, Peru, and Italy. Justin returned to Sanford as a Communications and Technology Associate in 2020.


Topics: Community, Alumni