Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Schools keep alumni connected

High school graduates return to help boost pride, guide younger athletes

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Cory Hawkins (left), 18, an Albert Einstein High School alumna who graduated from the Kensington school in 2007, cheers for the Einstein boys basketball team Friday night with current Einstein students Guillia Goletti, 17, and Gabrielle Crane-Flett, 17, during a doubleheader against Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.
Sitting in a newly furnished alumni room at Albert Einstein High School, athletic director Brady Blade motioned to the plaques of former students on the wall that comprise the school’s athletic hall of fame.

‘‘The idea is to get everybody more involved in the school,” he said, ‘‘whether it be students currently or alumni, and really make everyone proud of their athletic achievements.”

Along with several other area high schools, Einstein has embarked on a campaign to increase its outreach to former students in the hopes that they will return to the school and help guide those who have yet to graduate.

Programs at Einstein and Montgomery Blair have ties to the athletic program. Another, at John F. Kennedy High School, is hoping to create opportunities for current students through partnerships with businesses and alumni contacts.

On Friday, the Einstein Booster Club invited all alumni back to the Kensington school to watch a doubleheader basketball game against Bethesda-Chevy Chase. Blade said he wants current student athletes to see how their predecessors have succeeded after high school and let them know that they, too, can succeed.

‘‘What we want to do is take this alumni group and current kids and mesh them together,” he said.

Among the alumni who came Friday was 18-year-old Cory Hawkins, who graduated from Einstein last year after earning 10 letters for playing four years of soccer and basketball each, and two years of lacrosse. Now, as a college freshman, Hawkins is the goalkeeper on the girls’ soccer team at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., and says she has her high school sports career to thank for her success.

‘‘I like coming back and seeing everyone,” she said. ‘‘It’s kind of cool to talk to the juniors and the seniors now and hear them talk about this project and that project. I just tell them to get through it.”

Senior Gabrielle Crane-Flatt, 17, is one of the students Hawkins and other student athletes came back to visit.

‘‘It’s just interesting to see them,” she said, ‘‘because I was playing a sport with them, and now they’re at the next level, and I think maybe I could play at the college level, too.”

Also on Friday, Montgomery Blair in Silver Spring invited its alumni back for a social following a basketball game against Springbrook High School.

Assistant school administrator James Short said there was ‘‘a great turnout,” and that it was one of several recent efforts by Principal Darryl Williams to make alumni a part of the school’s future.

‘‘Our new principal wanted us to reach out to our community and try to get more of the alumni and people of the community to come back to the games,” he said. ‘‘If you know the history of Old Blair, you know the Blair-Springbrook basketball game was a big event.”

Alumni can also make contributions to their alma mater beyond the playing field.

Last year, alumni at Kennedy rallied with local businesses to create a nonprofit foundation aimed at funding projects that Montgomery County Public Schools cannot.

‘‘I decided to join it because Kennedy was a pivotal time for me growing up. The community is the community that I lived in and love,” said Monique Prentice Riddick, alumni network director for the John F. Kennedy High School Educational Foundation and a 1988 graduate.

Riddick said the group has already solicited thousands of dollars in donations and begun planning grants to Kennedy staff and students. Alumni were also pivotal to the school’s September homecoming and will return to raise funds through the Kennedy Cavalier Classic Golf Tournament on April 7.

‘‘We have fond memories of what Kennedy did for us and we want to provide those same opportunities that we had for [current students],” she said.