How We Help Our Alumni Continue on the Path Towards Excellence

Sofije Brija

It is our goal to help our alumni continue to strive for and achieve excellence—here is how our Alumni Relations team makes it all possible. 

One of the things that sets our organization apart is our unwavering dedication to our scholars beyond just the time that they are in our schools. We have made it our mission to help our alumni continue on the path towards success by offering them an abundance of resources that they can utilize to achieve continued excellence. Our Alumni Relations team has been and continues to be instrumental in coordinating events and opportunities for our former scholars and in offering them an ongoing line of support and encouragement. We sat down with Mr. Dominic Cathey, Senior Director of Alumni Relations at Excellence Community Schools, to get an overview of all things alumni.  

What are some of the events that have been held in support of our alumni?

When organizing events for alumni, Mr. Cathey explained that it’s important that these cater not only to academics and learning, but also to building social skills and a sense of community. He walked us through a handful of the alumni events that have taken place over the last year and a half that sought to both teach scholars and nurture camaraderie:

  • Reunion at Dave & Buster’s: a popular, fun-filled event held for scholars in 9th grade through college that serves as an opportunity for socializing and reuniting.
  • Night at the Met Museum: teens throughout the city come to the museum for a “teen takeover” and partake in a host of activities ranging from face painting, to a silent disco party.
  • STEM and Politics: a two-week college immersion program held in July that takes place between Bronx Excellence 1 and Colgate University where rising 7th graders through rising 10th graders are introduced to financial literacy, STEM programming, coding, politics, artificial intelligence, and more. 
  • Alumni Dinners: most recently a dinner was held at Bronx Excellence 1, serving as an opportunity for alumni to reunite with their former classmates while also learning about all of the programs made available to them throughout Excellence Community Schools.

What are the different resources made available to our alumni?

According to Mr. Cathey, resources are offered to alumni through an individualized process as Alumni Relations reaches out to each former scholar to determine how they are doing in high school and college and what their needs and dreams are. Some of the resources offered are resume writing workshops, interview prep, financial planning, and workforce workshops. Alumni Relations also helps former scholars find volunteer opportunities within our schools themselves such as tutoring, work under the Alumni Relations department, and work with Operations and Human Resources offices. These opportunities help alumni to develop their skillsets and gain professional experience, making it easier for them to land job interviews down the line. 

What has the alumni response been to the support they are receiving?

“The students really value the lessons that are learned,” Mr. Cathey explained, stating that due to the fact that many of our scholars are learning college-level ideas and curriculum before they even get to high school, our alumni often express feeling prepared well beyond their peers as they enter the next phase of their lives and education. 

Alumni can also feel a bit overwhelmed as they try to formulate their identities in the new, larger spaces of high school and college and so the events that Alumni Relations offers in terms of reunions and social networking allows for these scholars to reconnect with the people they grew up with and to feel a sense of community and belonging while in this new stage of their lives.   

What has the parent response been to the support they are being offered?

Per Mr. Cathey, the majority of parental feedback he has received has been an appreciation around the college process. Parents often feel that they haven’t been informed enough about this process from the other institutions in their lives and so they are grateful for the resources and knowledge that Excellence Community Schools offers surrounding college applications and applying for scholarships, as well as for the ability to fly out to see colleges for free.

Why is it important that we continue to help our scholars when they are no longer at our schools?

In his own experience, Mr. Cathey said that he’s had people who he’s met in elementary and junior high school who have assisted him in ways he didn’t think were possible and that these people became an extension of his family, contributing to his overall success. He feels it’s important to give our alumni the chance to build these same sorts of connections because “everyone plays a role in someone’s success.” If kindness, and caring, and support can be offered, it will help others to feel confident and successful and “it’s important to offer our children the opportunity to dream bigger than they imagined possible in this moment.”

What is the department looking to achieve down the line? What are some of the goals that have been set for the future?

“We’ve really mapped out a robust program,” said Mr. Cathey, explaining how his team is looking to serve “every element of a child’s life whether it’s academic, social, emotional, or anything that’s related to high school and college.” His team wants to continue to tackle “what does it take to be successful?” and their approach to this question has been divided into two parts. 

The first part is to continue to inform people of what’s available so that all of the parents and families at our schools know of the opportunities and resources that are available to them and their scholars.

The second part is “to create a larger community of individuals who just care about children.” The department is looking to amplify this community “in a way that the children feel it, the family feels it, and the community feels it.” Mr. Cathey said that his team wants to make sure that students and families feel like they have somewhere to return to and that he wants them to feel empowered “to not only voice their concerns, but to take action on them, because once they feel empowered the impossible is no longer impossible.”