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New London-Spicer's Educational Foundation Works to Establish Alumni Association

By Brett Blocker, Lakes Area Review Editor

Efforts are underway by the New London-Spicer Educational Foundation to create an alumni association – a non-profit arm of the foundation that would serve a multitude of roles including providing scholarship opportunities to students, and acting as a link between the community and its alumni.

Although in the early stages of development, this association, said Education Foundation Executive Director Megan Swanson, would aim to “highlight the opportunities given to NLS graduates, inform our community about what’s going on with our alumni, and give [alumni] the opportunity to give back to our current students.”

For context, Swanson said, the NLS Educational Foundation was formed in 2006 as a non-profit organization “with a mission to provide additional funds for innovative STEM opportunities through a grant and scholarship program.” Over time, she said, “it has evolved to manage two different endowments that support grants and scholarships not only in STEM but in the Arts and trades as well.”

Initially, these grants were primarily geared toward students pursuing four-year college degrees, or those who ranked at the top of their class. However, in 2015, an all-school class reunion organized by the community, school staff and alumni, raised funds to support a scholarship for students pursuing technical degrees, or who would otherwise not be qualified for these existing merit scholarships.

The educational foundation has managed this fund since 2015 and set a goal for expansion of additional scholarship opportunities. Establishing an alumni association, Swanson said, would streamline the process.

“We believe strong alumni relations will help the district and educational foundation, because they’re probably our biggest supporters, especially in a small community.”

She adds: “In my time as executive director, I’ve had a lot of graduating classes or alumni classes that come to me saying ‘we want to start a scholarship – we’re collecting money and want to do it.’ But usually what happens is it’s designed as one-time scholarships, so we’re trying to build the fund so we can award more scholarships perpetually.”

Janet Novak, who concluded her term as the educational foundation’s president in December and is succeeded by Sam Quam, noted that the district is currently selecting scholarship recipients, which she said was not the all-school reunion donors’ intent. “In order to choose our scholarship recipients, we need to organize the alumni [association] and elect officers.” 

However, scholarships are not the only goal of an alumni association. Swanson said she is often approached by former graduates planning their class reunions who assume an alumni association has already been established. “They come to me looking for ways to contact people, or access images, plan tours, and assume we have things available to them that we don’t... So when we talk about doing an alumni association, these would be things that it would help with.”

Another goal: highlighting the achievements of NLS graduates in post-high school life through an “alumni spotlight.” Swanson said she is currently working on a form to be sent out to former students  in order to collect and share their stories (“what have you been doing since you graduated?”) 

When asked if there was a model on which the NLS alumni association could draw from, Swanson pointed to Redwood Falls.

“Their educational foundation and alumni association brings in around a million dollars for scholarships, grants, events and initiatives. They stay in contact with their graduates after they leave,” she said, with the district reaching out on set intervals for its alumni to send in updates about their lives, careers and accomplishments.

“I think drawing attention (to alumni) is going to be one more way to support the school district. Support isn’t just monetary, you can be involved in many other ways.”

For now, Swanson said, the next steps in moving forward with NLS’s own alumni association include recruiting community members to serve on the board, potentially forming an annual community fundraiser and informing the public about plans for said association.

For more information, contact the NLS Educational Foundation at: NLSeducationalfoundation@NLS.K12.mn.us.