ALUMNI ASSOCIATION ACTIVITIES
When our alumni get together, whether it’s students on campus or an intergenerational meetup, we have fun. That’s because it’s a gathering of kindred spirits —whatever it was the Commission saw in us, they saw it in other Scholars, too. The camaraderie of our time in Washington picks right up, even with people who weren’t in our cohort of Scholars. We are immediately in conversations with fellow alums who were adults before we were born, or who weren’t even born when we received our medallions in Washington. We finish each other’s sentences even though we didn’t know each other an hour ago. And this isn’t some alumni gathering where we’re trying to impress others with our accomplishments. We’re all Presidential Scholars, and that’s enough.
Our alumni activities involve both “inreach” and “outreach.”
There are over 7,000 of us, and that’s a host of fascinating people to get together and get to know! And so we hold meetups across the nation where small groups of Scholars, who happen to be in the same geographical area, can talk and have that great experience of being on the same wavelength with ‘strangers’ upon a first meeting. We share stories about our own Washington experiences, but conversation soon turns to other subjects of mutual interest (and Scholars are interested in everything!). Older alums often want to help: how can we mentor younger Scholars? All this happens over food and/or drink, in locations all over the United States. In recent years we’ve held meetups all the way from Seattle to New York City, from Los Angeles to Boston, and places in-between.
In addition, every five years or so we host national events bringing hundreds of Scholar alumni together to multiply these conversations, learn more about the world around us and how we can make it better, and to propel our organization forward. In 2014 our first “Summit” brought 350 people to Washington, DC on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Presidential Scholars Program. Hosted and organized by the Alumni Association, with a wide range of alumni speaking and performing, the event also included the release of a 180-page book chronicling the history and future of the Scholars, the program, and the Alumni Association. The Summit created new friendships and possibilities for our group, and whetted our appetite for more. We are planning a 55th anniversary event for 2019—stay tuned for more details.
We are active on social media, including our “United States Presidential Scholars” private Facebook group with over 1,000 members. On social media we share news and successes; we create and plan new events, including meetups; and we get to know each other without being in the same room (yet!). We support each other—for example, by encouraging votes for our own India Carney (2011, CA) on the TV show “The Voice.” We also share and collect information and artifacts about our Scholar experiences for preservation in our archives at the University of Georgia’s Russell Special Collections Library in Athens, Georgia.
But once you get Presidential Scholar alumni talking to each other, it’s not long before we’re saying, “What can we do to help?” The charge to Scholars given by every President from Lyndon Johnson on down has been to be a force for positive change in our society and our world. We take that charge seriously; Scholars are too engaged with ideas and issues to be content with a “remember back when” alumni association.
That’s where outreach comes in.
Our Alumni Association reaches outward from local communities via service projects in places such as Chicago and Boston to the world, where we are engaged with the U.S.-China Student Leaders Exchange that sends 10 new Scholars to China each year.
We also have ambitious plans to create the Academy of Presidential Scholars, an honorary, on-going organization in parallel with the inreach-oriented Alumni Association, so that the end of national recognition becomes a commencement, an induction into a national academy of high-achieving adults.
Working together, the Academy and the Alumni Association will provide a mentoring program to support younger Scholars in realizing their dreams and older ones in their desire to promote positive change.
Like the other national academies, the Academy of Presidential Scholars, will provide independent expertise, pro bono, so that Scholar alumni will be able to apply their knowledge, skills and connections to give back to the nation that honored us, and the world that is our home. An experience all Scholars have in common, being selected for exemplary pre-K-12 achievements, and advocacy and service on behalf of primary and secondary education will be a special focus of the Academy.
The Academy Task Force is working to create the Academy. Working Groups are now developing the Mentoring Program and the Academy Creative Commons for sharing the work of Scholars not only within the Community of Scholars, but also with our local communities, our nation and with the world.
To learn more about Academy activities or to volunteer on the Academy working group, contact Ellen Coy Mandell via email.
If you are inspired by meeting and sharing time and ideas with kindred spirits, mentoring and being mentored, and/or employing your talents for a better nation, then you have a home in the Presidential Scholars Alumni Association.