When I was asked to come along on the junior college trip, I chuckled to myself and thought “Me, a chaperone?”  But when I thought about it a little more, I realized it was a great opportunity to spend time with our 11th graders and build relationships that will someday turn into connections in our alumni network.

Our trip began bright and early, 6:45 a.m., as we departed for Lehigh University.  The first day was the longest, visiting Lafayette College and Columbia University, in addition to Lehigh.  Our evening ended in Times Square in New York City, trying to usher 22 students through the jam packed sidewalks back to our bus that would take us to Princeton, New Jersey.

The next morning we set out for Princeton University.  While on campus, we did a scanvenger hunt, asking students to approach faculty members and ask “What qualities make for a standout student?”.  My favorite task was asking students to find Dr. John Nash’s office.  Dr. Nash is a world-famous mathematician who developed game theory – he is forever memorialized in the feature film “A Beautiful Mind.”

During the final two days of the trip, we visited Philadelphia University, Thomas Jefferson University, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the University of Pennsylvania, making contact with Academy alumni Hannah Banks ’12 and Matthew Grandon ’08 along the way.  It was a long three days, but I didn’t anticipate how rewarding they would be.

So what did I gain from this whole experience?  First, I learned that I’m getting old and so place a high value on things like sleep and down time.  But more importantly, I gained 22 new relationships, one with each of our 11th grade students.  I know them all by their first name, I understand what career interests they have, and what they would like to study in college.  My hope is that I have become a trusted advisor.  For the Academy’s alumni network, this is a step toward a stronger and more engaged community.  One day our current students will be the alumni carrying us forward, and it is my pleasure to get to know them now.