Catholic Alumni Partnership creates lasting bonds

By Christina Leslie | Staff Writer, TrentonMonitor.com
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An initiative to continue the involvement of Catholic school graduates in their alma mater institutions has taken strong root in the Diocese of Trenton. The Catholic Alumni Partnership, administered by the diocesan Department of Development, maintains contact with more than 87,000 former students and has stimulated donations exceeding $72,000 this fiscal year alone. CAP outreach is taking strides to assure a student’s love and sense of ownership in a school need not end as the graduation cap tassel is turned.

The CAP aims to “cultivate a relationship” with the graduates of the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Trenton, maintains Stephen Nicholl, director of the department which oversees the program. “Some of the schools have alumni who graduated 30, 35, even 40 years ago, who have not been contacted,” he noted. “We engage them.”

Founded in 2012, the CAP aims to create a fundraising program for each school with the assistance of alumni support and bolster alumni involvement in their prior Catholic schools. The program issues four mailings per year to some 87,413 alumni from the participating 34 elementary and three of the eight high schools in the Diocese to engage them in the lives of their alma maters.

The CAP administers the distribution of the letters penned by the school principals; “we print them on school letterhead and mail them out,” said Nicholl. “This centralizes the process; the Diocese funds [it], for most schools don’t have the resources to do this themselves.” The letters include information on topics such as current school events or programs, projects undertaken by students or staff, Catholic Schools Week festivities, Open House programs and plans to mark milestone anniversaries.

Contact from alumni might prompt a call by the school’s principal to personally update an alumnus, connect with their former teachers or invite them to an event at their previous educational home. “The process meets the school where they are, and supplements their own outreach,” Nicholls said, noting schools have created alumni groups to further strengthen the bonds.

Every dollar raised [through the CAP outreach] goes to the schools.

Stephen Nicholl

At The Monitor’s press time, Jan. 15, the Department of Development reported the CAP 2015 campaign (which runs from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015) has raised $72,793.20 in donations.

The department’s web presence makes contact and community building just a few clicks away. An online database can connect alumni with their schools and enroll them for future mailings and notifications. An option whimsically named “turn yourself in” brings up a form where students can let their desire to reconnect with their former school be known, and the “CAP Alumni Notes” section features testimonials written by former Catholic school students about their experiences.

Donations to schools may be mailed or made online, either anonymously or with attribution, even company matched; an “A+ Donors” page is an honor role of generous contributors to Catholic education in the Diocese. One hundred percent of the funds raised from alumni through the CAP program are unrestricted and go directly to the designated schools; funds from alumni of one of the Diocese’s closed schools will go to directly benefit the students of the Diocese of Trenton in the form of tuition assistance.

“As an alumn[us] of one of our Catholic schools, you know the importance and value of a Catholic education,’’ the CAP website states. “Now more than ever, the Diocese of Trenton needs support from their alumni to ensure that Catholic education continues to thrive.”

Thanks to the CAP program and their own efforts, St. Veronica School, Howell, has an active alumni outreach program. “Our group has members dating back to the first graduating class in 1971,” said PTA co-president Elia Landino, noting the elementary school has scheduled alumni events to recognize the academic or professional achievements of alumni over the past four years.

St. Veronica School hosted a dinner and theater performance last spring to reinforce its “shine like stars” theme, and this past fall, it honored alumni who now serve as law enforcement officers with a Mass of Thanksgiving and breakfast. Alumni “have come back to help with Open Houses and at Simon’s Kitchen,” reported Landino, who noted both school principal Resurrection Sister Cherree Power and pastor Father Vincent Euk have reached out to the graduates via letter.

“It really is nice to see the students who have graduated and flourished, who have excelled,” Landino concluded. “Our families see them at these events and know what is good about the school.”

Brick’s St. Dominic School also credits their alumni for their school’s success. “We keep promoting a ‘tradition of excellence and a vision of the future,’” noted principal Carol Bathmann. “Alumni have made St. Dominic what it is today, the whole community has.”

The school relies upon the CAP program to send letters to alumni to inform them of many upcoming events such as the Jan. 25 Mass and luncheon reception to mark its 50th anniversary.  Plans are in the works for a summer beach volleyball event, as well as a alumni/family weekend this fall which will feature a picnic, sports activities, Mass and a dinner-dance.

“St. Dominic is such a great success,” said Bathmann, crediting her students, faculty and pastor Msgr. James J. Brady. Alumni figure prominently in the school’s half century of Catholic education; “we credit them as well,” she concluded.

For questions on the Catholic Alumni Partnership, contact the CAP Office at 609-403-7218 or CAP@dioceseoftrenton.org or visit www.capdot.org

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