Alumni Leadership Through Socially Distanced Times

By: Sarabeth Weszely, Senior Writer
January 27, 2021

“My mom and I moved from the Dominican Republic in 2013. I needed a lot of help with my English, and no other school had the right tools to help me learn and push me to where I am today. I earned awards that I never thought I would earn. I was pushed to succeed, to apply to college, and participate in internships the school set up for me. IAL is a rock in the community and I could not be more grateful to continue to be a part of it today as an alumni ambassador.”
– Gabriel Nova at November Charter Renewal Hearing

It’s that time of the year again! Each January, we let our alumni take the stage to encourage our students and larger community in their educational and career goals. Despite the many challenges this past year has brought those studying in colleges, universities and trade schools, our alumni offered generous expertise to students in all grades through videos and live Zoom panels over the last week as a part of our Annual Alumni Week, virtual for the first time this year. This is also the first year Alumni Week activities have been available to our middle school students, and we celebrate this change, as the work of creating a college-going culture begins young.

Below is a video highlighting a few of those conversations and giving you a look into our students’ future aspirations through “vision boards” they each created.

“What makes me stay motivated to not give up is my parents, especially my mom, who’s in the DR. She sacrificed me and my sister moving  to another country so we could have a better education. So I feel like I owe this to her.” 

– Maria Tamarez

Students were also able to hear career stories and advice from outside professionals in fields like business, law, and media. Connecting students with leaders outside our school community has always been a priority, and we are grateful for the volunteer partners who have allowed us to continue this work in a remote format.

As part of our year round initiative to lead students from Inwood to college, we started an Alumni Ambassadors Program this fall, selecting two alumni applicants to advise staff as we continue to build out our alumni program and represent the program to current students. 

Alumni Ambassadors are compensated financially for their part-time work. Our inaugural Alumni Ambassadors are:

Gabriel Nova – 2019 IAL graduate, now a sophomore at City College majoring in Business and Management

Maria Tamarez – 2019 IAL graduate, now a sophomore at John Jay majoring in Public Administration 

The program started early in the fall and has now grown to a group of five with our new High School Ambassadors Angela Vasquez, Jassani Ruiz, and Kiara Williams.

“When you represent the school, you can’t only represent it academically to students; you have to represent it to the community as well. We want to empower IAL students to seek higher education and give back to their community.” – Gabriel 

We are grateful for the leadership of our student and alumni ambassadors as they do in-person what this blog attempts to do in writing: make the mission of Inwood Academy accessible to all. 

Stay tuned for more great work from them!

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