Our Community, Our Schools

The Story:

Those of us fortunate enough to graduate college were all given some variation of the same speech along the way: Your connection to these hallowed halls is now permanent, you'll remember these as the best days of your life, this place shaped who you'll be and what you'll accomplish, and giving back so that future generations can have a similarly transformational experience is something to be done early and often. In case the message didn't set in at commencement, it's fair to expect calls from alumni services in the future for fundraising drives, emails about alumni events, and copies of quarterly or annual alumni magazines to arrive in the mailbox. Colleges and universities even have a knack for tracking former students down when they move, change phone numbers, or shift email accounts.

Alumni outreach is so central at many institutions of higher learning because it's so critical to their missions and viability. The Council for Aid to Education estimated that more than $11.37 billion was donated collectively by college and university alumni to their alma maters in 2017 alone.

If college is what shapes many people, it's their years from kindergarten until wrapping up their senior year of high school that allow them to take form. Most of us have a story about that teacher, the one who made an impact on us at a young age. I was lucky enough to have many of these, and know that high school, in particular, was the time that allowed me to begin becoming who I am today.

The Solution:

I believe Duval County Public Schools should seek to reengage with their alumni, many of whom are leaders in our community and beyond, and many of which would surely be as happy to ensure the next generation can benefit from these formative years as they are to give back to their colleges or universities. Many may be more willing to give to their K-12 institutions than they would to sources of higher learning, knowing how much further each dollar will go toward directly helping students, as opposed to the more abstract benefits associated with funding an endowed chair or research program. But to find out, we have to ask.

I believe each Duval County high school should appoint an Alumni Liaison and be provided with a modest budget to reconnect with their graduates. Development of alumni events, digital updates on their schools, and fundraising drives can help direct needed funds from willing sources to our schools' pressing needs. The majority of funds raised through these efforts would remain tied directly to the school responsible for raising them, to fund specific programs or principal discretionary accounts, while a portion would be directed to a district-wide program under the superintendent's purview, to ensure the schools most in need of support also receive it.

At a time when our schools are starved for funding, shouldn't we at least offer alumni the opportunity to pass on some of the dividends of their educations to tomorrow's students?