By Carol South
Special to the Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse City Area Public Schools Alumni Network transcends schools, graduating class and eras.
The network leverages social media to connect both graduates and supporters of any Traverse City Area Public School. Members' first goal is to create a registry of contact information for 10,000 people. Network organizers hope to complete — or exceed — that number by June 2013.
"As this network begins to grow, it's going to be amazing what we learn about how people's lives went on whatever trajectory they took," said Alison Arnold, a parent of two alumni and the district's director of communication, marketing and volunteer services. "It will also help current students see that they are part of a big legacy."
The TCAPS Alumni Network began with a few social events over the summer. The first meeting at a local restaurant in July drew 20, many of whom are still involved. In August, recent high school graduates performed together at the Traverse City Elks Club.
Another outreach event was held at a Friday Night Live downtown. There, recent alumni, plus Central and West Senior High School mascots, passed out the network's distinctive TCAPS Alumni Network white ovals.
"People were asking, 'What are these stickers?'" said Arnold. "It was really kind of cool to see how many people were wearing them."
The alumni network also hosted a tailgate party at the Central versus West High Patriot Game football matchup Sept. 28 at Thirlby Field.
The first of monthly strategy meetings was held September 12 at the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce. The local chamber provided an accelerator grant from the Traverse Bay Economic Development Corporation to kick start the network's founding.
Additional strategy meetings for this school year will be held Monday, Oct. 15, Nov. 19, Dec. 17, Jan. 21, Feb. 18, March 18, April 15 and May 20. Any alumni or supporter may attend the gatherings at the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.
The TCAPS Alumni Network also plans four social events and a summer gathering, as well as an ongoing newsletter.
"Until the TCAPS Alumni Network became an initiative of TCAPS, there has been no single resource for all graduates to reconnect with TCAPS," said Wendy Nienhouse, parent of a TCAPS senior and a graduate who serves as the network's facilitator.
The longer term vision for the network is a vibrant alumni group, possibly modeled after a college alumni organization. The idea is to tap the time, talent, enthusiasm and funds of graduates and supporters.
"Ultimate goals through outreach to those connected to the TCAPS Alumni Network include providing a legacy endowment as well as volunteer opportunities to enrich learning for TCAPS students," Nienhouse said.
Mike Meindertsma, class of 1980, is part of the leadership team for the network. He points to many positive experiences with the district, both as a student and parent.
Growing the TCAPS Alumni Network and creating a lasting legacy is a way to give back.
"It's easy to be involved and perpetuate the great things TCAPS is doing," said Meindertsma, whose wife, Brenda, also is a Traverse City Senior High graduate.