In the past week, I have spoken to 3 alumni of our therapeutic boarding school which is a college prep boarding school for at risk teens. I found the difference between the alumni interesting. One is angry and upset with his experience at the school, another credits the school with introducing him to the 12-step program which ultimately saved his life but hopes that the school has changed some practices that he found to be harmful and the third remains a strong and enthusiastic supporter. He recently was called by prospective parents and gave the school a very positive endorsement.
Three students – same school, but three different outcomes. In reflecting on these alumni, I found myself thankful for all three – three successful young men that are advocating for what they feel is right, fighting for a cause, taking action based on their principles and making contributions to their world. They are all engaged in honorable endeavors.
The first, who is upset with his experience at the school, can be veiwed as a concern, given his negative experience and fighting against the school. But in his advocacy, he is representing important principles – i.e. to stand up for what you think is right and to take time to help your fellow man. As long as he does it with an honest heart – he is as much a successful outcome of the program as the alumni who excitedly tells people how the school saved his life.
My hope for this alumni is not that he will not view us as the enemy but rather that his efforts will lead to better services for struggling teens. It is in this endeavor that we become partners, sharing the passion to ensure that all troubled teens find help and healing in safe, effective programs.
It is important that alumni have a voice in this – alumni that love the school and feel we have been instrumental in helping them turn their lives around, but also the alumni who feel that the school should do things differently, or that the practices were not helpful or effective. I encourage all programs to hear and respond to both voices. It feels good to get the positive feedback from alumni and it hurts to hear criticism. But both are necessary for effective growth.
See another recent blog on alumni feedback