Every February, an orange envelope arrives via mail, a Wildcat emblem blazing in the left-hand corner. It’s the annual alumni notice from Clay Center High School, a reminder to pay the $5 yearly dues and save-the-date notice for the get-together.
The letter includes information about the annual scholarship presented to graduates (paid by dues) and celebrates successes of students during the previous school year.
It re-establishes a connection between graduates and the school system that molded our future paths.
I admit I haven’t been a model alumnna when it comes to attending the Memorial Day weekend celebration. I’ve only attended twice. The first time was when the Class of 1979 celebrated its 25th anniversary. The other time was the final year of the school’s singular existence, before merging with a school district located south of town.
Even though the school is now part of another district, graduates still gather every May.
I wouldn’t want the event to end.
While the organization of the alumni event may need tweaked, it is a tradition worth keeping and supporting.
I’ve heard discussion from local community members about whether the alumni banquet - in its customary form - has run its course.
No, it hasn’t.
Dwindling attendance numbers highlight an obvious truth: changes will be necessary to keep it alive.
Why aren’t more attending the celebration?
Social media may be one of the biggest excuses since it keeps us connected 24/7/365.
If I want to know what my high school pal, Julie, is up to, I don’t even have to call her to find out. Log on to Facebook and I discover she recently had ankle surgery.
No need to sit through a two-hour banquet to learn that. The loss of interpersonal communication may be one roadblock that limits attendance.
Another reason people may skip: our lives are over-scheduled. With so many events going on, people may limit choices instead of attempting to get to all events during alumni time.
What needs to change to keep the tradition alive?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have ideas how to make improvements.
First, organizers need to look at the planning process and determine how to get more individuals involved. Should a specific class be in charge or should a rolling committee, based on honor year classes, plan the event?
Groups should also consider alternate ideas.
Maybe it’s time to consider a biennial event or move the celebration to a different weekend or consider adding activities to draw younger graduates.
Like family, alumni share a common bond, a sense of kinship and camaraderie, that deserves to grow. Alumni events encourage and foster those relationships.
Without it, the legacy associated with a district will slip into oblivion, disappear from the fabric of communities that supported the local school for years, shutter and dilapidate and wither away until memories and stories that comprise a school’s history are forever lost.
That would be a shame.