A group of roughly 80 Seniors sit in Sharp Cafe, rapt, speaking with Wortie Ferrell ’88 P ’24 ’27 ’31 about living expenses. They are trying to figure out what a comfortable wage would be to live in New York. Ferrell asks the students to consider general living expenses such as rent, utilities and groceries. “And what about a 401(k),” he asks the students. “Is it something we should contribute to, and, if so, how much should we consider contributing?” He then asks the students if they can provide any examples of good debt. “Student loans might be a good example,” one student responds. “Getting a credit card, if used responsibly, can be good debt,” another says.
This informative session was part of the Senior Transition Program, an event that brought more than 40 Collegiate School alumni back to campus to lead discussions with Seniors that will help them transition into the next stage of their learning journey. Many of the sessions, like the one hosted by Ferrell, explored subjects that students will have to consider as they grow older. Other alumni offered insights that will give students an edge both professionally and socially — sessions, for example, on how to stand out among a big pool of job or graduate school applicants.
“Engaging with the alumni throughout this program has really taught us a lot about how to develop outside Collegiate,” says Hugh Williams ’22. “The program is teaching us life skills and some other things you might not pick up in the classroom. This is setting us up for future success, which is really valuable.”
In another session, Kate Stephenson ’05 organizes students around a stovetop. Seniors cut bell peppers, red onions and chicken breast as Stephenson talks about the benefits of a healthy diet. “A healthy diet can give you the energy you need to succeed in other aspects of your life,” she tells them. They’re making chicken fajitas, which, Stephenson says, is an easy meal students can make in their dorm rooms or apartments. She also gives the students tips on how to shop for groceries on a budget and how to prepare meals that will save them time.
“This program is great because it shows how much Collegiate invests in their students,” Stephenson says. “There are so many skills that students will need when they graduate, and I’m so happy to share a bit of advice. Cooking, for example, is such a great life skill that they are going to use for the rest of their lives, and learning those skills that might not necessarily be taught prepares them for so much in both the workplace and in life.”
Throughout the program, students were able to connect with alumni outside of the organized sessions, giving Seniors practice with networking and making strong first impressions. “Getting to know alumni has been really great,” Maria Bonwell ’22 says. “To see the steps alumni have taken after graduating from Collegiate has been helpful, especially as we try to figure out the next steps of our lives. We really appreciate the dedication the alumni have shown.”
The vast alumni network offers a web of support for current Collegiate students, helping lead the way on their endless learning journeys. “The transition program shows that both the School and Collegiate alumni care about the students’ futures," Molly Congdon ’03 says. “We want the future generations to succeed, and we are here to support them.”
With college and the professional world on the not-so-distant horizon, the Senior Transition Program helps students march with confidence into the future. Beyond the alumni-led sessions, a total of two weeks of educational development discussions help prepare students for their next steps. “Programs like these are what really set Collegiate apart from other schools,” says Katie Burford ’22. “I think it’s amazing that as we’re graduating the School is really trying hard to get us prepared for the real world. This just made me really grateful for Collegiate, because what we’re learning here is so valuable and it really says a lot about how much Collegiate cares.”
Collegiate remains strong because of the connections we share with each other, particularly the connections between current students and Cougar alumni. It’s one of the many ways the School’s flame endures. “Based on the smiles, laughter and flocks of students seen surrounding our alumni, I would say the two days were a huge success,” says Director of Alumni Engagement Anne Gray Siebert ’97. “Our alumni instilled wisdom and charged our graduates with ways to flourish during this next phase of life. It was clear that we are a community and our alumni are here to support and nourish our students every single step of the way.”