On April 17, more than 300 New Trier alumni came together from different ages and backgrounds, connected only by their school, to work on service projects that mattered to them and connect with their peers and Trevians. Organized by the New Trier Education Foundation to celebrate their 20th anniversary and the Young Alumni Leadership Council, the Day of Service was a hit success with over 15 projects taking part.
The group projects that took part in the Day of Service were diverse and contributed to different parts of the community and those in need. Girls Club participated by making hygiene kits and providing clothing for children, from birth to age 12, that have been affected by low-income living situations or homelessness; BinaryHeart collected electronic and hardware parts to help make and fix computers that would be donated to several charities.
“Since April 17, we have been cleaning the machines up in our BinaryHeart space so as we’re checking the devices, we clean them thoroughly. And then we tag them and then we scan them into our tracking sheet, and then they go on the shelf until they’re ready to be worked on,” said Jacqui Pritchard, co-sponsor of BinaryHeart.
It wasn’t just school clubs that participated, though. Project Coyote, an organization with the mission of ending wildlife killing contests, also attended in which they met with State Representatives Robyn Gabel and Jennifer Gong Gershowitz to discuss the legality of killing wild animals.
Guitars Over Guns, an art space youth development program in Chicago and Miami, collected musical instruments to continue their mission of working with underprivileged kids in the city to teach them music, leadership skills, and good life choices.
“We always send kids home with instruments to practice but especially this year, that was really essential that we had that equipment to be able to send home so that kids could be able to engage in sessions,” said Andrew DeMuro, regional director of Chicago at Guitars over Guns and participant in the Day of Service.
Even though this was the Day of Service’s first year ever as an event as an attempt to get alumni involved with their community, students and alumni over the years have always been upholding the values and motto of New Trier. The Day of Service allowed organizers to focus on connecting with others interested in the same service ideas and act on them.
“The Day of Service truly was the embodiment of what is personally my favorite part of the New Trier motto, ‘To commit lives to the service of humanity,’” said Jean Hahn.
With much of the planning that went on for several months, the NTEF had to deal with the effects COVID would have on organization and participation. With more COVID guidelines being changed or added everyday, they made sure to monitor constantly not just state guidelines, but county guidelines as well as Illinois High School Association guidelines.
“I’m constantly communicating with the district leadership to see, ‘For a long time students weren’t allowed to go to offsite community service projects, so would that be allowed?’ or ‘What does it look like if we wanted to have outside people in the building?’,” said Liz Mayer, Class of 2002 and Executive Director of the New Trier Educational Foundation.
Finding alumni that were interested in participating during COVID was difficult, too. Considering that there were alumni ranging from the Class of 1968 all the way to the Class of 2020, getting a way to contact and arrange such events was a challenge for NTEF. Many alumni during COVID were looking for opportunities to take part in events, socialize, and connect with their fellow alumni which made the event much more appealing. Tools such as the Alumni Database helped alumni and the NTEF organize and monitor the event as well.
“The database really makes for ease of communication to alumni. It’s easy for alumni to give us their information and it’s easy for us to communicate out to alumni,” said Mayer. “So that definitely made a big difference.”
For the NTEF, the event was a big success, as it harbored plenty of projects from all over the country all supporting different problems alumni found important. Because this was the first year for the Day of Service, the NTEF have already started planning and discussing how to improve the event for next year.
“No matter how good of an event you have, there’s always things you can improve on and things you can expand on. So, our committee actually met earlier this week to just kind of debrief the event and talk about, what we liked, what we want to continue doing, what to change to make it better, and how to make it even more accessible in the future years,” said Mayer.
The participants that attended came from diverse years of graduation as well. 17.3% of participants were from the Class of 1977, 13.5% from the Class of 2014, 7.7% from the Class of 2002, and 5.8% from the Class of 2020.
The NTEF are also looking forward to next year’s Day of Service and planning on making it bigger, better, and allowing more people to participate. The event allowed students that were disconnected from the school to get involved in the community once more.
“The Day of Service really embraces our school motto and it is a good way for alumni to stay connected and participate in something wherever they are,” said Mayer.