PAst students cherish the connections, relationships, opportunities ESD provides
During winter break, Sydney Goodiel ‘20 laughs and spends time with her friends from high school. Although an alumna, Goodiel cherishes her time and memories with her high school friends when she is home from college.
“I think that there are amazing friendships cultivated at ESD, or at least that is my personal experience,” Goodiel said. “I made some of my best friends at ESD as early as first grade. I do believe ESD is special in how connected the alumni are not only in the professional sense but also friendships made. I know that a good amount of ESD alumni will look out for you because of that bond you share. ESD has a variety of treasured traditions that further connect the community of students and that truly differentiates ESD from other schools.”
ESD works to make sure seniors are prepared for college and stay connected after graduation.
“[Alumni] come back in the summer, in November, during Christmas, they have their gatherings,” Senior Class Dean Marcela Garcini said. “It’s a very large group mixed with boys and girls, and I think it has become a part of their social circle. Even if they go to sororities [or] other schools, I think they come back to a community. Their friendship is really, really important for them. I think everybody comes home, and they want to look for the memories of the friendship that they built for many, many, many years.”
During the summers, ESD offers a range of activities for alumni to participate in. Upper school theater teacher Lauren Redmond directs a play or musical every few summers for alumni to watch and participate in.
“I’m so thankful that the school supports this production with a budget, rehearsal time/space and use of the amazing facilities,” OJ DeSouza ‘02, who has done ten summer productions, said. “The musicals are a fantastic way to connect and have fun with other alumni during the summer. It’s always fun to meet new alumni that graduate [from] ESD and join the summer shows.”
This year they are performing the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee from August 3 through 5 at 7:30 pm. This year is the tenth show that Redmond has directed, and to honor that they are doing the same show that they did her first year directing.
“We put [summer productions] on in about two months in the summer,” Redmond said. “I’m usually working with a core group of alums, but sometimes I get some random kiddos that maybe are home for the summer from college for one summer. I’m usually having to look at who are the people who live around here and then who might be my extras as we progress. We just take a look at what would be fun to do, what would be easy enough to do in the summer.”
Also in the summers, ESD allows alumni to come back and play sports like soccer or basketball. The gym is also open for alumni to use.
“So ESD lets [alumni] come and use the gym, and it’s a blast because it’s not only the kids [attending] ESD, it’s also the alumni,” Garcini said. “And after that, they go and have dinner and see each other again, and they come back and play probably one more time during the week or the following week. But I think that’s really, really cool. So it’s like ESD is the connector place.”
It is not just athletics that bring alumni together, but also sometimes clubs get together. Garcini meets with alumni who were part of Latinos Unidos club and gets lunch or dinner with them.
“We gather, and it’s very informal, like we go and meet on a Sunday and have dinner,” Garcini said. “We always try to reconnect with the kids that you were close to or that you had an impact on their life. So they make an impact on mine.”
Alumni can reach out to Head of Alumni Relations Asia Hawkins to come back and visit the school and old teachers. ESD also will give tours to alumni if the school has changed a lot.
“I think the biggest thing is just the sense of community, so even in my role as I meet with alums day to day, overwhelmingly the number one thing that they say as to ways they stay engaged with ESD after graduation is their community and the friends that they made while they were here,” Hawkins said. “It’s true that once you graduate, you’ll still carry a lot of the friendships with you, and that’s primarily the main way that alums tend to stay connected to each other and to the school.”
Some ESD students struggle to go from a small connected campus to a large university where they don’t know anyone. From a poll of 130 students, 24 percent said they were scared to make friends in college.
“I realize that everybody has the goal to be in a frat or a sorority, and sometimes it’s not for everyone,” Garcini said. “I know kids that are alumni that are not part of frats or sororities, and they are doing great. You have to discover, and we tell the kids this, your passion. If you play lacrosse here but you don’t play college level, you can be part of the club. We try to encourage the kids to become part of something and enjoy college as much as they can.”
Senior advisors try to focus on preparing students for life in college, as they have discussions focused on college.
“Twelfth grade [advisory] is more about talking about the important things that are coming after ESD,” Garcini said. “One of the topics that we talked about recently was bullying online. So what do you do when you see that people are chatting and posting things that are very aggressive? What should be our position in helping? So because those are the things that you are going to experience in college.”
Alumni are always welcome back to ESD, and many teachers enjoy seeing them.
“Here, we always get very excited when we see the alumni,” Garcini said. “You don’t know how happy we are when we see you guys walking and coming back. It is like you’re coming back to your home, and it’s a pleasure. So every time they see alumni, I get really happy, and I’m like, oh my God, they remember us. Hopefully, we became an important part of your lives and becoming who you are.”