VHS alumni return to tell all

Caitlin McKeand, Staff Reporter

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Young adults traveling from across the United States and gathering in one spot to tell of their misadventures and give advice.

Alumni are flocking home to give presentations, represent their colleges and talk to students one on one about their experiences. The visits started on finals week, Monday the 12th and will continue after students return from holiday break, picking up the pace once more on January 4th during PIT.

“The value that I see in it is for students to hear from students who’ve been in their shoes,” College and Career Transition Coordinator Sarah Spradling said. “So they can not only talk about the university and what they experience so far, because I only sent the invitation to students who graduated just last year.”

The new college students use their break time to talk to kids about college life before having to return to their university.

“These are students who are just finishing their first semester in college,” Spradling said. “They can still remember what it was like to be a highschool student, and still remember what it was like to go through the college application process and to have to be deciding which school they’re going to choose. It’s really interesting because none of them have it figured out yet, but they can certainly talk about things that they have learned so far. It’s a little bit more real than talking to someone who hasn’t been in college in years and is just there to sell their school.”

The goal is to round up as many diverse alumni as possible in order to get students more interested.

“We got quite a bit of response,” Spradling said. “Of course, there might have been like 7 [students] for UT and that’s super easy, they are right here, but it’s still insightful to hear from them. Then there are another few outlier schools that we just don’t have a lot of students go to them or we don’t have representatives that come to visit.”

Spradling stated that part of the issue was that they emailed students through the emails on Naviance, but the students may not check that email anymore.

“What I’ve done was I just emailed them collectively and said hey this is the date that I have pinpointed for you guys, I’d love for all of you to be able to visit with the students,” Spradling said. “So like UT for example, I think I have 7 students that I emailed and I think 4 or 5 said yes, the date worked for them. We will do a larger group, probably once we see how many students have signed up we might have to do that in the lecture hall and do more like a panel where we’re asking them questions or we might just split it up to where they’re at different tables in the lecture hall with their name and their majors. That way students can do more one on one visiting with them as opposed to the group where it feels less personal and more students can’t ask questions. I still have to figure that part out still.”

Spradling, who has coordinated the alumni visits herself stated that this was the first year it was set into motion despite speaking about it before.

“We’ve always talked about doing it and it’s just there’s always so many other things going on that I’m like ‘I can’t handle one more thing’, but I said no we’re gonna do this and make it easy and simple,” Spradling said. “So, if you guys have suggestions of how to make it better in the future I’m definitely open to that. We’ll see how it goes. But I just hope that students sign up for it. That’s what I worry about is that students will be taking time out of their now personal time to come and visit with high school students and then only one signs up, but they also usually have ulterior motives and wanting to see staff, teachers, that sort of stuff so it’s usually a win win situation for them too.”

Students can sign up in Naviance under colleges and the link college visits to meet some of the alumni that will be visiting. One of such is Alayna Thomas from the University of Texas, Dallas.

“Mrs. Spradling and the College Career Center were two critical resources that I used as an upperclassman,” Thomas said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to give back. The most helpful advice that I received for my freshman year was from college friends who were older than me.”

Thomas states that even though she is a business major she thinks it’s beneficial to ask questions that apply to everyone and that she can answer questions ranging from core curriculum to campus resources, and the best places on campus to study.

“I also would love to answer questions about how college is different from high school,” Thomas said. “A lot of VHS students have been told that college will be easier than high school and in some ways, that might be true. AP kids are used to a very rigorous workload and multiple assignments. But, as a whole, college is completely different than even the hardest high school class because there are minimal grades and maximum self-management.”

Thomas hopes that with her participation comes in increase in alumni-led events.

“Vandegrift stands out from other high schools because of its great student involvement, even when they graduate,” Thomas said. “My goal is to help each student know more about UTD and college as a whole so that they can make the best decision for themselves about where to go after graduation.”

Another student participating is Alexis Sears from DePaul University.

“I wanted to participate because I had the time for it and it’s great to share what the college experience is like to the current high school students,” Sears said. “Since I’m on break, I thought it was good to get away from home for a bit and be able to chat with students.”

Sears came the week of the 12th, the first week of alumni visits.

“I did hope the students would ask me questions because doing so would allow me to answer whatever they needed to know and to let them know it’s completely fine to ask me anything,” Sears said. “The importance of asking questions is to gain knowledge on what the person is curious about.”

Colleges such as the University of Houston, University of Arkansas, University of Alabama, TCU and others will be convening in the lecture hall in January.

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