This year, YES Prep has restructured college initiatives to provide more targeted and individualized support for alumni. Shannen Garza, Director of Alumni Affairs, works with two Alumni Advisors, Liliana Monsivais and Nernwon Kargou, who each handle a caseload of alumni in need of additional support. As an Alumni Affairs team, they are focusing on three areas: restructuring alumni communication, developing an alumni association, and fostering external and internal partnerships. We interviewed Garza about the initiatives.
1. Restructuring alumni communication
The Alumni Affairs team created a communications plan for campus college initiative staff members that ensures all communications are aligned and contributing to targeted efforts. College initiatives staff members are now entering case notes from their communications into a database, so that YES Prep can collect qualitative and quantitative data. This data will continue to inform the work of the Alumni Affairs department as it builds its support toolkit and strategies.
We’re being sensitive to the individual context of the student and not generalizing. What is this particular student facing and what do they need? We’re then tailoring our communication to meet them where they are.
2. Developing an alumni association
The Alumni Affairs team is in the process of identifying and developing a leadership team for the alumni association. The president of the association will have the opportunity to work with YES Prep’s board and leadership team. Alumni who take on other leadership roles will have the opportunity to gain work experience as they maintain budgets, fundraise, and more. Through the establishment of this association, YES Prep alumni will have more opportunities to reinvest into YES prep.
“We want it to feel like a college alumni association. As a minority student, you may not have social capital, but you can build your community and network within YES Prep.”
3. Fostering external and internal partnerships
Partnerships will offer YES Prep alumni the opportunity to build a network and gain internships or jobs.
“We want to coach our students to be really strong candidates for jobs by creating internships and connecting students to internships.”
Additionally, the Alumni Affairs team will be pushing into senior seminar classrooms this spring to give seniors an overview of resources available to them as they transition to college, discuss the cultural and social side of the transition, and role play difficult situations they may encounter.
“Many of our alumni talk about feeling like an imposter in college. They left a school that was almost 100% minority students and entered a completely different system in college. They felt unprepared for that leap, and so we want to build their skills and awareness before they leave for college,” said Garza.
In the future, the Alumni Affairs team hopes to improve the advisor to alumni ratio, so that students leave their senior year with a personal relationship with their assigned advisor. That way, students will feel comfortable reaching out if they encounter obstacles and advisors are better able to meet the needs of individual students.