Every week they walked into a small classroom and took their seats facing the familiar blue and yellow poster reading,“Discipline, Respect, Enthusiasm, Maturity, and Accountability,” the acronym that had become a permanent part of their memories of high school.
For most of them it had only been two years or less since they graduated from Democracy Prep, but as a part of the first Summer Alumni Fellowship Program, they found themselves back in a classroom. However, instead of reviewing math problems, the alumni, dressed in crisp, professional attire were here to learn lessons about the real world.
Along with the assignments for their fellowship, everyone was invited to attend a series of Lunch and Learn workshops every Wednesday from early July to the beginning of August.
“The purpose of the Lunch and Learn series was to provide our alumni with an opportunity to learn from Democracy Prep’s knowledgeable staff,” says Eliza Saunders, the coordinator of Summer Alumni Fellowship Program.
Each week the Lunch and Learn sessions consisted of workshops on various topics including resume building, financial planning, personal branding, leadership, and test taking skills led by Democracy Prep staff. Each session lasted from an hour to an hour and a half.
“There are a lot of things you often learn the hard way in the working world,” says Saunders. “I’d rather give our alumni an opportunity to learn in a safe place where we can provide mentorship and lessons on professionalism in an encouraging environment.”
When the Lunch and Learns were first introduced, many of the alumni felt apprehensive about taking time away from work, but their perspectives began to change as the workshops progressed.
Rick Abare, a Democracy Prep Data Associate led a Lunch and Learn on testing strategies that really resonated with many of alumni, says Anita I., a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College.
“As college students, we are naturally under pressure between balancing school work and other activities,” Anita says. “Mr. Abare just graduated college so he understands how to tackle these challenges.”
Trey B., a junior at Binghamton University, said he learned test-taking strategies and concrete skills that will help him when he goes back to college. “He taught us how to identify questions that we don’t know in order to focus on the questions that we do know so that stress is alleviated.”
“The Lunch and Learn workshops exceeded my expectations,” says Saunders. “There were a lot of relevant topics for the alumni, but I also gained insight of things I wished I knew before graduating from college.”
About the Author:
This post was contributed by Democracy Prep Charter High alum, Amanda H. She is a junior at SUNY Albany and was a member of the Summer Alumni Fellowship program.