Hargrave Military Academy’s Twist on Alumni Day: Keeping Alumni Connected by Giving Back Through Service

One of enduring questions for private schools – boarding and day – is how to keep alumni connected as the years pass?

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In a twist on the traditional alumni weekend, Hargrave Military Academy connects and engages alumni through their  Annual Alumni Weekend of Service; Hargrave’s Weekend of Service combines traditional alumni weekend activities of reconnection, athletic contests, and fun with service to the school. This coming weekend, September 19-20, Hargrave alumni will return to campus for fellowship and labor.

“I’m here to give back to the school. Basically repay them for what they’ve done for me, what I’ve done in my life and so we have a weekend of service,” alumnus Jason Hinckley told WSET in 2013.

There’s no arguing that private and boarding school alumni tend to feel strongly about their school experiences throughout their adult lives. Sure, a few stay connected on their own. But keeping alumni engaged is the raison d’être of the alumni office. As schools, we work to maintain and build on these connections. We prosper when alumni stay actively engaged in school life.

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A Hargrave alum works during their Annual Alumni Weekend of Service.

The traditional alumni newsletter is still a connection tool and we now have social media and apps.

But, how can a school keep alumni connected, get them physically involved (on campus and working), and let them give back to their school in a form other than the classic monetary solicitation-donation relationship?

Let’s be blunt, there are lots of boarding school alumni who love to help out with their alma maters but will never be a source of ‘the big check.’ Hargrave gives alumni the opportunity to donate their time and labor — service.

Check appreciated, but not necessary.

Hargrave’s Weekend of Service begins with a list of all those things that need to get done around campus that you sometimes need a few extra bodies and/or an extra set of hands to get done.

The school organizes materials and projects. “Wire brushes, rollers, paint, paint brushes, scrapers, rakes, gloves, safety goggles, rags, buckets, power washers, mulch and even a John Deere skid steer loader were all placed in locations close to the areas they were going to be needed.”

Alumni volunteers set to work on Saturday morning. Put in a full day’s labor and enjoy fellowship and commraderie at a barbecue Saturday evening. A few loose ends and projects get tied up Sunday Morning.

Come Sunday, things have physically gotten done and a sense of accomplishment pervades.

I’ll have a follow-up on the 2014 Weekend of Service in the coming weeks.

Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

More by Brian Fisher

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