Our Senior Alumni Manager, Jessica Adams, looks back on three years of our alumni community.

One of the most memorable conversations I’ve had during my time running the Sutton Trust’s alumni programme was with an alum who said, ‘All of the posh schools have old boys’ networks, and we need one too’. Those wise words have been something of a guiding mantra to the work we’ve done – and now, three years into the development of the alumni network, it seems a good time to step back and reflect on where things stand.

A key ambition has been to create a strong community of alums. We know that that many opportunities come through networks (not least the career-establishing internship), and much confidence can be gained through peer-to-peer support. The ambition has therefore been to create a network our young people can draw on throughout their careers for both opportunities and support. It’s a network the Trust’s young people deserve to have access to.

The second thing we have done is strengthen how alums can meaningfully contribute to the Trust’s work. Finding ways to channel the deep support alums have for social mobility has been humbling – alumni really care about those who follow in their footsteps. We are rightly proud of the statistics here: in the last academic year, alumni gave 1,249 hours to the Trust’s work, which is getting close to the equivalent of a full-time staff member.

Numbers don’t tell the full story though. It is impossible to fully quantify the value that is brought to our work by the compassionate and thoughtful alums who have generously shared their expertise by speaking to our students, working on our programmes, speaking to the media, or helping with our fundraising.

We are indebted to our brilliant Alumni Leadership Board for their work across many spheres, from highlighting the importance of thinking more substantively about the intersection between race and class (including through this powerful blog post by the deputy chair of the board, Josiah Senu), to broader thinking around the various intersections of identity and social mobility via a new blog series by Jouja Maamri. The board have also done an amazing job in helping to develop and refine our alumni events – initially regionally and more recently digitally. The group have also been an invaluable sounding board for our ideas, and it is clear to me that their collective leadership is one of the Trust’s greatest assets.

The final thing we’ve sought to do is to develop ongoing support for alums, and here we can point to some strong alumni events and opportunities for alums (and we’re particularly pleased that so many of the latter come from our funders and supporters). More broadly, exciting plans are in the works to increase this support. We recognise that the challenges around social mobility don’t stop once a young person secures their place at university, on an apprenticeship, or in their first job.

There are numerous other projects and initiatives we could speak to, including our first ever alumni awards, the recruitment of numerous (outstanding) alums to join the team at the Trust, or our online alumni network, but as I prepare to handover to the next person to take on this truly superb job, the main thing I’d like to say is a massive and heartfelt (and socially distanced) thank you to the countless alums who’ve shared their stories, strategies, and strengths with me and with the Trust. Here’s to the next few years of this fantastic community!

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