In an effort to strengthen connections to current students and recent graduates, the Upper Arlington Alumni Association recently appointed two high school ambassadors.

Upper Arlington High School senior Will Reynolds and junior Abby Vitali have been named the organization's first student ambassadors.

According to Alice Finley, UAAA executive director, the two will help board members find ways to better serve the needs of current students.

They'll also work with the UAAA in an attempt to connect with younger alumni.

"In the last year, the board members have pulled out the bylaws, reviewed and updated them," Finley said. "One of the things that came out of this process was a reminder that the alumni association was created not only to keep graduates connected but also to give back to future generations of Golden Bears.

"The UAAA does a great job of hosting activities during the Fourth of July celebration, including an open house at the high school, giving awards to distinguished and outstanding alums and helping reunion classes connect with classmates. We asked ourselves how are we giving back to the next generation? What do they need that we can provide?"

Finley said the UAAA last spring examined how to support current students and young alumni by meeting with a few seniors the week before graduation.

Among ideas the students provided were that it would be helpful to connect current students with alumni who graduated from colleges the students plan to attend. They said this could help with the application process.

They also said a mentorship program to connect students with alumni in their fields of professional interests would be beneficial and could provide an opportunity for interships and jobs.

Finley said she hopes the ambassadors will continue to enhance communication with the UAAA so assistive initiatives and programs can continue to be developed.

"We explained that we were looking for students who would help us find a fresh perspective and be willing to share their ideas with the alumni serving on the board," she said. "This will not be a position where we tell them when to show up and what to do. We really want to learn from them.

"Our goal is to keep graduates engaged and connected after graduation. We don't want to wait to make these connections until they are celebrating their 20th reunion. We need Will and Abby to tell us how the alumni association could benefit current students and young alumni. They have so much to offer, even educating us on what social media platforms to use to communicate will be extremely helpful."

Finley said Reynolds and Vitali were recommended by several teachers, as well as principal Andrew Theado.

Reynolds is student council president, Spirit Club president and member of the school news show "Kickin' it Live." He is on the varsity cross country and tennis teams.

"His passion and skills in building team spirit and keeping students informed will be a big asset to the UAAA," Finley said.

Vitali is part of several "trailblazing" groups at the high school, Finley said, including the Idea Day planning committee, Ambassadors of Change and the Student Innovation Team. She also is an International Baccalaureate Diploma student, plays piano and is a cellist in the school symphony orchestra.

"Abby's innovative energy will help the UAAA advance new initiatives to bring current and past students and staff together to enhance our school Upper Arlington community," Finley said.

Reynolds said he's been learning more about the UAAA through organization events and by attending its November board meeting.

Initially, he said, he plans to help the UAAA enhance its reach via social media.

"Reaching the younger generation of alumni is very important in order to keep this organization going," he said. "The best way to reach this generation is by social media, as in Facebook pages or Instagram accounts.

"Using these platforms will get the word out about events being held and outstanding achievements by alumni."

As the year progresses, Reynolds added, he hopes to help the UAAA evolve its outreach programs and get involved in events to build networks with younger alumni.

"As a student ambassador, I see myself working to keep the younger generation of Upper Arlington Alumni involved in the community," he said. "This could be just attending the reunions that are held for each class, but mainly working on sharing what alumni are doing now.

"I want to be an example of how impactful it can be to keep Upper Arlington in alumni's lives."

Vitali said she wants to help serve as a bridge to boost future involvement in the UAAA among current students.

"The goal is for my class to know about the UAAA before our class reunions," she said. "To accomplish that, I'd like to be able to make the UAAA sound appealing for students so they participate.

"I hear so many people saying things like, 'When I graduate, I'm never ever coming back to UA.' I think those statements stem from problems that students face by being at UAHS. If we fix these problems or try to fix them, we can make UAHS a more positive place for students and that might make them want to come back and/or be willing to participate with the alumni association."

Vitali added she'll seek to make connections between current students and the UAAA by finding ways to bring the organization into school activities.

"I'd like to get the UAAA to be more involved with the school whether it's sponsoring an event or just interacting with students face to face," she said. "I think if the UAAA can become a more popular organization with the students, then students will be more likely to participate in UAAA."

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