By: Sarabeth Weszely, Senior Writer
October 30, 2019
can you print my resume? i’ll email it to you. i’m on my way.
hey quick question. if i change my major, will the credits I’m taking right now go towards my major?
Yo bro what building you at tomorrow? I need help with my LinkedIn.
I’ve got some good news, I got the job!
Hazel Piña scrolls through her phone and reads these text messages from various alumni, who shuffle in and out of the new alumni hall where she and Alyssa Weaver spend their workdays.
Hazel and Alyssa
Hazel (left) started as Alumni Coordinator in 2018 with IAL’s first graduating class, and she has been joined this year by Alyssa (right) to oversee both classes, now 167 alumni.
Why spend this time and money serving students after graduation when most public high schools do not?
“We’re at this really crucial point where many students nationally are dropping out of college,” explains Alyssa.
At Inwood Academy, we’re committed to creating lifelong learners, and while we define student success in more ways than one, we understand that college opens up many doors to make life-long learning possible. “But at some schools, I don’t think students are being prepared for that success,” Hazel points out the many stressors that face our students as college is increasingly considered necessary for a fulfilling career. Her and Alyssa’s job is to offer continued support until students reach their unique form of success, keeping in touch with each alumni until they graduate college and/or enter a desired career path.
Hazel was born and raised in Inwood just blocks from Inwood Academy. “My parents are both immigrants. I am the youngest of six but I was the first one to go to college.” Like Hazel, the majority of our alumni are first generation college students. Hazel is passionate about providing support for graduates during this often frightening transition, especially for students whose families don’t have familiarity with the process. “I remember feeling that way when I was in college. I was just like, I gotta figure it out because nobody knows!”
Hazel and Alyssa are committed to visiting each alumnus on campus in their first year of college, both locally and out-of-state. They take alumni out to eat, catch up, and then ask informal assessment questions to help improve the effectiveness of our programs. Alumni also get to choose one piece of their college’s merch to purchase on IAL’s dime.
Alyssa reflects on her own time in college. “Even more than finding your dream career, college is a time for students to learn how they can influence and impact other people, no matter what their backgrounds.” She enjoys walking with graduates as they learn about themselves in this way and become leaders outside of Inwood Academy.
The Alumni Room
What was just last spring a large classroom for seniors is now fully-dedicated alumni room, decked with couches, rugs, study lamps and a 65-inch flat screen TV.
“We were given a generous grant from Lowe’s Toolbox for Education do something special with the room,” Alyssa says, “to create a space that feels comfortable for alumni to come in and vent their stresses, sit down and relax, or put their heads down and do some work.”
There is a steady flow throughout the week of alumni coming in and out of the space, asking for help with assignments or applications, studying, eating lunch together, watching TV or even napping.
“I think it’s a unique thing that they come back,” Alyssa says. “It points to the family feeling we have created within the school.”
Hazel and Alyssa note the particular need our community has for this kind of space. Because many students live in small apartments with large families, homes are not often ideal places to study for those students living at home and attending classes in the city. The alumni room will also be open late for formal study nights during high-stress times like semester finals.
What Alumni are Saying
I don’t hear any other schools say they have an alumni hall, and I think it’s really important because we have a lot of roots here, and we do still need help, especially from people who we’re so comfortable with.
It’s a space where we feel comfortable enough to get work done or ask for help, or just to chill.
The fact that we have this, I don’t know where I’d be without it. I’m blessed.