Heart and Soul: Seniors Leave Their Mark

Lauren Mosley is the assistant director of institutional advancement at the Randolph School, an independent school in Huntsville, Alabama.

On the brink of graduating and starting a new chapter in life, Randolph School’s Class of 2015 seniors honor their time at Randolph and leave their mark.
Senior Class Gift

The senior class gift has been a tradition at Randolph for many years.  This year, seniors made their mark and raised money to support the freshman class trip

The senior class gift has been a tradition at the Randolph School for many years. This year, seniors made their mark by supporting the freshman class trip to Chicago each year.

The Senior Class Gift is an annual tradition at Randolph—and at many independent schools in the United States. Depending on student and faculty involvement, culture of philanthropy and level of enthusiasm within the community for the cause, gifts might take on many different themes, goals with many possible final outcomes. Some senior class gifts aim to leave behind tangible items for future students and teachers to enjoy, while others focus on monetary gifts in honor of teachers, coaches and other individuals who have made a difference.

Each year presents an invaluable opportunity for the Randolph School’s graduating class to make a meaningful transition from students to alumni. During their time at Randolph, students benefit from other generous alumni who give back and the class gift is a chance to “pay it forward” to help the next generation of students. Most importantly, they learn about philanthropy and how others can benefit from their generosity.

At the start of the school year, we asked the Class of 2015 how it would make its mark. How could the advancement and alumni offices help the seniors—not only to come up with a successful campaign but also to make it a teaching moment? How could we help generate support and enthusiasm for an idea that would have lasting impact? Who better to ask than the students themselves?

For the first time, a group of seniors volunteered with the alumni office to plan and implement new student and alumni programming. One of its projects was the senior class gift.  After just two meetings on the magnitude and necessity of volunteerism and philanthropy, students took matters into their own hands. The group, now known as the Cupola Club, generated one of the most successful class gift campaigns in Randolph’s history and will serve as a model in the years ahead.

Seniors wanted to create a legacy by supporting a student on the freshman class trip each year

Seniors wanted to create a legacy by supporting a student on the freshman class trip each year

Their idea, introduced by class president Owen Averbuch ‘15, was to establish a fund in support of the freshman class fine arts interim trip to Chicago. The purpose is to provide a week-long period of intense involvement in a sound experiential learning activity not available to students as a part of the typical classroom.

“When we were trying to come up with a good idea for our senior class gift, we had a lot of trouble figuring out what would be personal for our grade because we knew it had to be so to drum up the support we wanted,” Averbuch said. “Once the idea was presented to create a fund to support the Chicago interim trip, we all immediately knew that this would be the perfect goal for our senior class gift.”

Kate Noble Hall ’15, member of the Cupola Club, expressed the importance of support for the freshman class interim trip.

“In some cases, the freshman class interim trip is the last chance to travel together, and for new students to the upper school, it is their first real opportunity to bond with the class,” she said.

When discussing why seniors would personally contribute and get behind the cause, Mary Charles Stewart ’15 explained how powerful it was for “Randolph to take learning outside of the classroom to a new level with [the] interim [trip].” She added, “I felt so lucky to be a part of it, and I just want everyone to have as much fun in Chicago as I did.”

The seniors also stressed their desire to create a fund that would continue after they graduate, so they decided to make the gift a five-year pledge instead of a one-time gift.  Owing to the hard work and dedication of the Cupola Club, the class reached 97 percent participation and raised almost $7,000 in commitments, which equates to nearly $1,400 a year in support of the freshman class trip in each of the next five years.

“I would have been happy for us to get to 50 percent participation, but we blew that goal right out of the water, and I know that everyone was extremely surprised and excited about the support we garnered from our class,” Averbuch said. “It is truly amazing what we did, and I am extremely proud of my classmates because this will go a long way in helping a future freshman experience the Chicago trip and create lifelong memories.”

A display outside the college counselling office illustrated their progress. The heart stickers marked each gift to illustrate their love and generosity.

A display outside the college counselling office illustrated their progress. The heart stickers marked each gift to illustrate their love and generosity.

Heart Day 2015

Heart Day marked the final day of the campaign and a time to celebrate the success of the senior class gift. Head of School, Jay Rainey, head of the upper school, Ryan Liese, and Marshall Schreeder ’96, president of the alumni association, recognized their extraordinary accomplishment, as did their kindergarten buddies, who are Randolph’s youngest students and the senior class’s biggest fans.

Every year as part of the school culture, kindergarten and senior students are paired together and participate in school activities and special events. In a short video, the kindergartners celebrate Hear Day and share what they enjoy most about the school, why they love their special “grown up” pals and why they think it is important to help others.

Legacy Coins, a new tradition launched by the alumni association last year, were also presented to seniors during the program. At some point during the last 100 days as a student, seniors present the coin to a friend, mentor, teacher, coach, family member or other significant individual, along with a personal expression of gratitude. The hope is that seniors will think very carefully about those who have had a positive impact on their Randolph journey and reflect on what that person truly means to them. In essence, it is not just about the coin, it is more about the articulation of thanks and appreciation. It is about having a kind heart, giving back and showing others how they have left a mark.

Owen Averbuch, Latha Karne, and Sarah Averbuch, members of the Cupola Club, show off their Legacy Coins and celebrate the success of the Senior Class Gift

Members of the Cupola Club show off their Legacy Coins and celebrate the success of the Senior Class Gift

The morning was truly special and provided the school with an opportunity to show them how much they mean to the entire Randolph community.

Continuing the Cupola Club

The momentum for the senior class does not stop here. Members of the Cupola Club will serve as liaisons between the class and the alumni office after graduation. Class reunions, philanthropic efforts through the alumni fund, communication with the school and other activities will undoubtedly thrive thanks to this group. This inaugural group will also serve as a model for what the advancement and alumni offices hope to achieve with the senior class each year.

In the words of student government association president Sarah Averbuch ’15 and classmate Abby Knowling ’15 in their video about philanthropy, “sharing is caring and giving is living.” Isn’t that the basis of why we all give? To live a life of gratitude, to put smiles on people’s faces, to leave this place better than we found it? It is fair to say that the Class of 2015 has risen to the occasion, made a profound mark on the school and set the tone for future graduating classes.

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