By Nicolas Cortez and Gerardo Leon, Staff Writers
The “Adopt a Student Program” began in 2012 with a couple called simply “the honorees.” These honorees just wanted a way to donate to a Verbum Dei student and to connect with him. They donated on behalf of a student, and at the student’s graduation, the benefactors revealed that they had been financially supporting the student for the past four years.
When the program first began, benefactors were chosen at random, and some donors were confused about the letters they were receiving from students. Some were not paying the minimum amount of support. Now, the Adopt a Student program informs all donors of the program details, and benefactors are matched with incoming freshmen. The benefactors select to give $5,000 to $10,000 on behalf of a VDHS student.
“The hope is that students stay with the same donor all four years, so the donor can see that student’s growth,” said Michelle Cordova, Mission Advancement Assistant.
The donors receive three assignments annually from the student they sponsor: a personal letter (an English assignment), a Corporate Work Study Program assignment, and a theology assignment. Additionally, there is a meet-and-greet event at the beginning of the year that provides an occasion for students to meet with their benefactors for an hour after school.
“Mission Advancement approached me years ago about the Adopt a Student Program,” said John Stradley, English teacher. “They wanted each student to produce a handwritten personal correspondence that would serve to introduce the student to a benefactor.”
The letter format for freshmen was devised to offer benefactors some insight into the students’ families, their educational experiences, their hobbies and extra-curricular activities, and their goals, said Stradley. The letters of the upperclassmen were designed to provide an update on the students’ progress and their aspirations for college.
“The students see the benefactors as important, so they tend to invest themselves in these writings more than they might in other assignments,” said Stradley.
“What donors love is that they can definitely see the students growth from 9th graders to 12th graders,” said Cordova.
Donors often reciprocate and send letters to the students they sponsor; they might recognize a student’s birthday, send a Christmas greeting, and/or wish students good luck on their final examinations.
“One of the things students like about the program is that they are not obligated to support them like their parents, but they do so anyway,” said Cordova.
“The goal is that when students graduate, they understand the importance of the program,” said Cordova. “[Ideally, our alumni will] adopt students of their own when they become successful.”
Currently the Adopt a Student program has three alumni who are now giving back to Verbum Dei by sponsoring current Verb gentlemen.
The buy-in for prospective sponsors is $10,000, but if a donor is not able to sponsor at that amount but really wants to be a benefactor, a $5,000 buy-in is acceptable. The education-related expense for each Verb student is estimated to be $18,000.