By Elise Matatall, LCSW, Alumni Navigator, Warren Village
(May 1, 2021) – When I first started in the Alumni Navigator role in November 2018 it took me a bit of time to get my footing. It took me a few months to figure out who knew the history of the Alumni Association, who had the key to the staff bathroom, and to help alumni understand that I am not the inimitable Director of Family Services Elyse Montgomery (who I still sometimes get confused with over email—which is okay, I like to hear updates about people’s children who lived here ten years ago!)
Our Alumni Are Making Things Happen!
Since that time, the Alumni Engagement Network has blossomed. The program has reminded Warren Village stakeholders, such as the board and staff, that our alumni are a precious resource and tremendous ambassadors for our program. Alumni serve on our board, work in different levels of the organization, intern, and volunteer in different capacities within Warren Village. Outside of the organization, they are also kicking a** and taking names. One of my greatest joys is being out in the community and learning that someone is an alum or knows an alum doing great things. For example, earlier in the pandemic I found myself volunteering at Struggle of Love Foundation’s mobile food pantry called Sacks of Love. I often refer folks to this pantry as a food resource and wanted to see what it was like. At the end of the day, I chatted with one of the managers and came to find out that he and his mother had lived at Warren Village a number of years ago. Another example, we recently received donations of computers through a local non-profit called Community Computer Connection (C3) and come to find out that this stellar organization is currently run by a Warren Village alumna who worked her way up through the ranks and recently took over as the CEO!
Support Provided to our Network
While many of our alumni are soaring, the pandemic was devastating for tons of folks in college, in industries impacted by COVID (hospitality in particular), and so many more who needed extra help this year after many years of flying solo. With the generous support of Warren Village’s Board of Trustees, we were able to open up a one-time emergency grant application available to all alumni but prioritizing those who moved out in the last two years. Fifty-four alumni received an average of $765 per grant, totaling $41,000 in emergency funding. This was a small way to help our community members avoid disaster. The grant application itself also created connections with alumni who hadn’t reconnected with the Alumni Navigation Network yet. Although not everyone who applied received funding, most received referrals to other resources and support.
Our Peer Resource Navigators are Making the Difference
In addition to the emergency grant, we also launched a Peer Resource Navigator program during the pandemic (July 2020) to help increase the reach of services to our alumni. Our three trained and supervised Peer Resource Navigators (who are alumni themselves) moderate the resident community Facebook page, teach Life Skills Classes on topics such as scholarships and financial aid, and meet with alumni to provide emotional support and referrals to local resources. The Peer Resource Navigators help identify gaps and meet the need where possible. For example, after realizing that many “backpack drives” were canceled due to the pandemic they took it upon themselves to meet this need for the alumni community. The Peer Resource Navigators hosted an extremely successful school supply drive at the beginning of the school year that collected and distributed supplies to nearly 40 families. In trying to adapt to the times, we also hosted a Facebook Live event in the Warren Village Alumni Facebook group that garnered over 90 comments from alumni asking about resources, saying hi, and cheering each other on.
Annual Alumni Survey Informs Current Program Services
Lastly, our annual survey just launched for the third year in a row. This data helps us 1) stay connected to alumni who may not think to reach out to us during tough times, and 2) understand what gaps and barriers are present in our current programming. If you find a survey in your email, help us out by taking the time to complete it! If you’re not in the group being surveyed (folks who moved out from 2013 to 2021) but you have feedback or need support, drop us a line! You can email me or call me at 303-320-5074.
Here’s to many more years of learning, growing, and building the community we’d like to be a part of. If you would like more information on joining the Network or signing up for the newsletter, click here.
Warren Village is committed to the long-term success of our participants. Launched in 2018, the Warren Village Alumni Engagement Network provides a structured and supportive pathway for alumni to engage with and to support Warren Village in meaningful ways.