Two Downers Grove commissioners are taking on a new role this year, representing the Community High School District 99 Education Foundation as the organization’s first “alumni ambassadors.”
Sean Patrick Durkin, a 1988 graduate of South High School and Geoff Neustadt, a 1993 graduate of North High School, were enlisted this fall to foster communications with alumni members and reconnect them to the schools, as well as support the Education Foundation.
Both Neustadt and Durkin are also commissioners for the Village of Downers Grove.
"The Foundation members were thinking of ways it could to connect with the community, and felt it would be a great idea to harness the natural enthusiasm that alumni from both schools have," said Jill Browning, communications director for District 99. "(Durkin and Neustadt) volunteered to help spread the word about the Foundation and its mission, and we felt a descriptive and catchy title for them was 'alumni ambassador.'"
Eric Olson, president of the District 99 Education Foundation, said the organization is currently working on establishing an alumni association for both high schools. Having two prominent alumni sign on was the perfect way to kick off the campaign, he said.
"One great thing about Downers Grove is that many alumni will come back to Downers Grove to raise their families and become part of the community," Olson said. "We wanted to tap into that energy."
As an active member of the Downers Grove community and a proud supporter of South High School, Durkin is happy to do his part to get the project off the ground.
“Many high schools have created alumni associations, and we’re exploring this as a way to help our graduates keep in touch with one another and to share news,” Durkin said. “An association could also be a resource for planning reunions and supporting our future generations of alumni.”
In June, District 99 commissioned an outside research firm, Harris Connect, to help update its alumni records.
“Updating our records is a crucial first step in building better relations with our alumni groups,” said Superintendent Mark McDonald, who serves as an ex-officio on the District 99 Education Foundation. “The official process with the outside researcher will end in October, but we welcome all graduates wishing to update their information to contact the district at any time.”
Durkin and Neustadt are also helping the foundation spread the word about its upcoming "Homecoming Socials" for North and South, which will bring together alumni and friends of District 99 for live screenings of the schools' homecoming football games.
The events will be held at Friday, Sept. 28, for South's homecoming, and Friday, Oct. 5, for North. Both socials will run from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Downers Grove Moose Lodge, 1030 Warren Ave., and will include pizza from Skuddlebutts, wings from Lemon Tree Grocer, popcorn from the Tivoli Theatre and a shuttle bus from the alumni tent to the Moose.
Tickets are $25 and are limited; they may be ordered by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All proceeds will benefit the District 99 Education Foundation.
Neustadt, who grew up and is raising his family in Downers Grove, said he hopes the socials become tradition for District 99 alumni and their families.
“Many people in our community who grew up here are now raising their own families here,” Neustadt said. “We hope that the upcoming events at the Moose will turn into an annual tradition and become a destination for graduates of all classes.”
The District 99 Education Foundation was founded in 1994 as a way for alumni, parents, educators and the Downers Grove community to support "innovative curriculum and technologies that fall outside of traditional public funding." For more information, visit www.d99ef.org.
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