Survey helping Geneseo High School connect with alumni

Lisa Depies
Geneseo High School

After Geneseo graduates walk across the stage and accept their high school diploma, what happens next? In many cases, school officials didn’t know.

However, a new Career Connection survey has helped answer the question “What are Geneseo alumni doing?”

The U.S. Department of Education’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has a career element to it, which left Geneseo officials in a quandary.

“How do we find our district alumni?” asked counselor Linda Van Der Leest.

Prior career day interactions had shown that Geneseo alumni were “excited and engaged when it came to sharing information with our kids,” said Van Der Leest, but the school wanted to do more.

“We needed a mechanism to connect our history with our present-day students,” said Geneseo High School principal Travis Mackey.

Coupled with that need is a newly created “Distinguished Alumni” honor school officials plan to award.

At the end of October, high school administrators began circulating a survey on social media trying to reach Geneseo High School graduates (as well as the J.D. Darnall and Geneseo Township High School graduates who came before).

In just a few months, the school has already received responses from more than 700 alumni living in 39 states and four foreign countries.

Graduates from as far back as 1952 have responded to the survey, with the classes of 2008 (34 responses), 1988 (33 responses) and 2004 (28 responses) leading the way.

The survey asks about a graduate’s post-high school path, including employment and job titles. Retirees also are encouraged to fill out the survey.

“Even though they’re retired, they sill have so much to give in terms of knowledge and networking,” said Van Der Leest.

As an optional part of the survey, respondents can share memories of their own time in high school.

“They talk about teachers who made an impact, or events like Friday night football games,” said Mackey.

More than 100 different teachers (“some names going way back”) have been mentioned in the responses already received, said Mackey.

School officials hope to eventually create a website alumni and students can access.

“We want students to be able to talk to people who walked the same hallways they do, sat in the same seats and attended the same classes,” said Mackey.

“Just in the 700 responses we’ve already received, we’ve gotten such a wealth of information, and our alumni are excited to share,” said Van Der Leest.

“Our alumni are very receptive to high school students when they ask questions and want to learn,” said Mackey.

While colleges and universities often maintain alumni databases, doing so at the high school level is unusual.

“We haven’t hear of other places doing this,” said Mackey.

Although the 700 responses are a good start, Mackey said there could “easily” be 12,000 to 15,000 living Geneseo alumni.

“Our initial goal was to get to 1,000,” said Van Der Leest.

However, with momentum and awareness, Mackey said he hopes eventually more and more graduates will take time to fill out the survey.

Though the Atkinson School District was annexed into the Geneseo district 30 years ago, the current survey is just for GHS graduates, not those who earned diplomas from Atkinson High School.

“I could see something in the future with Atkinson. I know they have a rich tradition and a lot to offer,” said Mackey.

To fill out the survey, visit Those without Internet access can contact the high school to request a paper copy of the survey.