I grew up in a bubble. Consisting of only 4.8 square miles, Lynwood was all I knew for years, and so it was my safe haven. I always share how lucky I felt growing up surrounded by caring adults and people who served as positive role models in my life. In school, I even had teachers who were Lynwood alumni themselves, which only fostered in me a deeper appreciation and love for my community.
While most of my youth consists of great memories shared with teachers and positive school moments, it was in high school that I first acknowledged how lucky I was to be a part of Lynwood. I remember being a 9th grader when I first attended my first Lynwood Alumni College Conference. This annual conference is hosted by alumni who facilitate over 25 workshops; on average, the conference hosts over 500 participants. As a high school freshman, the idea of college seemed like a far away dream, yet there was a college conference that everyone seemed to look forward to. What made the Lynwood Alumni College Conference so exciting was that the people hosting the college-focused workshops were proud products of Lynwood schools themselves. Every workshop was hosted by an alumnus of Lynwood schools, and the majority of the facilitators were current college students who came home to share their experiences with the new generations as a way of motivating them to believe in their dreams. While having so many of my own teachers were an inspiration to me, it was this conference that first exposed me to the power of mentorship.
Every year of high school, I looked forward to the Lynwood Alumni College Conference. As the years passed, familiar faces returned and shared about their “First Year Experience” and tips on how to choose the college of our dreams, along with so much more. After attending my second conference, I began to look forward to the day I graduated from high school and came back myself. Without even realizing, the conference ingrained in me the notion that college was not just a possibility–it was my next step. It felt like an expectation. If so many alumni were coming back to help the rest of us, it only meant we were supposed to do the same.
In 2008, I joined the planning committee for my first conference as a Lynwood alumna. It was one of the best experiences of my life. It felt like full circle to stand in front of a class of eager high schools students, sharing my own experiences as a first-generation college student. I felt relatable and like I could actually inspire those who may not be so sure to look at college as an option for their future.
Fast forward to now: I am on the event committee helping plan the 17th Annual Lynwood Alumni College Conference. Every year, as the day comes closer, I stop to think about why this conference means so much to me. I used to think it was fun because it felt like a mini reunion with old high school friends. While reuniting with old friends is still alluring, it’s knowing that we are inspiring our current high school students to believe in themselves that really makes all the work worthwhile. The conference has now become a tradition in our community. It has become our way of inviting Lynwood alumni to come back and give back by simply sharing their journey.
Perhaps I am still living in a bubble; Lynwood is still the place I consider to be my safe haven. But wouldn’t you like to live in a place where there is an actual invitation welcoming you back to the nest too? There’s so much power is mentorship and serving as role models- any opportunity to engage alumni should be taken as we must continue to inspire our students to believe that they are standing on the shoulders of giants.
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