In 1991 the Parkway Alumni Association (PAA) organization was formed out of a vision by Mark Lincoln (North '76 graduate), and two of his former classmates, Steve Friedman and Mark Kaltenrieder. Classmate Jan (Wall) Misuraca would soon join them in their mission. In 1993 they expanded their board to include graduates from the high schools and a few Parkway teachers totaling 24 people.
Twenty years later, this not-for-profit organization, which is a separate nonprofit corporation from the Parkway School District, continues to support Parkway reunions, grant student dreams, celebrates the success of former graduates and honor teachers who are exceptional in their job.
Jan Misuraca, Executive Director of PAA, states, "While we are a separate corporation from the Parkway School District, we are closely aligned with their school board and the administrative staff. Dr. Keith Marty, Parkway's Superintendent, is behind our mission 100 percent and supports our programs."
"Our current board is great! We have every decade of graduates represented since Parkway's founding in 1954 and representation from four high schools (South, West, North and Central) and retirees. Our youngest member graduated in 2004 and our oldest graduated in 1965. Having a board that is diverse in many ways brings great energy and ideas to the group." Jan adds.
Many years ago, the PAAs first project was compiling a directory of former Parkway students. Since its inception, every five years the Association compiles a directory that includes as many of their 70,000 graduates as possible. The PAA is working on their latest edition, which will include alumni information from the graduating classes of 1959 all the way up to, and including, 2011 graduates. When working in partnership with the Alumni Association, reunion planners have access to their data base to help make the reunions more successful.
Jan notes that reunions are still fun and popular, even with social media venues like Facebook. While attendance at the reunions may be somewhat down, she sees that as more of consequence of the downturn of the economy.
The Alumni Association also presents crystal apples and stipends to the three district-level Teacher of the Year recipients (one each at elementary, middle and high school levels) at Parkway's Appreciation Night. In addition, the Association awards three Albert Awards (funded by the Al Burr Educators Make A Difference Fund), along with a $1,000 gift, to outstanding teachers who are in their first five years of teaching.
A very successful program for the PAA is Granting Dreams. Each December, applications are available and students are encouraged to submit requests for a financial gift up to $250 or for a community resource grant. The applications need to demonstrate a commitment to furthering skills, acquiring knowledge or experience, participating in school-related activities, or those that involve the community. Last school year, 221 grants were awarded totaling over $20,000.
Since Granting Dreams began in 1996, the Alumni Association has awarded over $225,000 in monetary grants that are awarded out of 8 funds, including 7 Memorial Funds. The Memorial Funds were created by family or friends who wished to honor their memory of deceased Parkway graduates or teachers.
"Each year the families and friends raise money to support their existing Memorial Funds, which in turn are used to fund the Dream Grants. It's a wonderful way to continue honoring the memory of those former students and staff members, " Misuraca states.
"The Kurt Schoor Memorial Fund was the Alumni Association's first Memorial Fund and it is a beautiful model of how the program works. It was the vision of his best friend Jeff Altman, who wanted something to keep Kurt's memory alive. Today, The Kurt Schoor Fund is designated for grants in the area of academics. Many of the Memorial Funds are designated for grants with a specific emphasis, such as those supporting the fine arts are funded through the Andrea Cohen Fine Arts Fund."
The Granting Dreams Program is one of Jan Misuraca's favorite programs. She recounts the story of a young girl named Nicole, who had been diagnosed with diabetes. Nicole had applied for (and received) a Dream Grant to attend a sleep away camp to learn how to live with diabetes and meet other kids with the same challenges. Many years later, while still in Parkway she reapplied for a grant to attend the camp; however, her application was so that she could become a camp counselor at the same camp and help others learn to manage their diabetes as well as she does. The camp was life-changing for Nicole and she wanted to pay it forward.
"The ripple effect of Granting Dreams is the beauty of the program. We listen to children and help them find their niche and go after their dreams. It is also community building. This may be the first time some students realize how much people outside of their own family care about them and believe in them. They feel the support to take a leap of faith and it builds up their confidence to continue trying new things." Misuraca adds. The Granting Dreams program for the 2012-13 school year begins this month. Any full time Parkway student can apply, and the application can be downloaded here.
The newest program for the Alumni Association is the biennial Hall of Fame Induction, which began in 2004. Family, friends, former classmates, and former teachers can nominate a Parkway graduate.
"We are excited by the caliber of people that the Parkway schools have proven to produce,” Misuraca says, “The community should know that these people are a reflection of what Parkway is and has always been—a place where children are given strong academic preparation for whatever they choose to do, as well as a place that will care for and support them emotionally. It's also an institution that deserves its constituents’ continuing support so that future generations will be equally prepared and will find ways to be assets in our society.”
The most recent group of 17 Hall of Fame inductees were recognized at a dinner in mid-November of this year. Information on those honored at the 2012 Hall of Fame Induction can be found here.
Jan explains, "We receive anywhere from 50 to 150 applications and select those individuals who have shown a lifetime of excellence, accomplishment and recognition in their field. This year's inductees included doctors, religious leaders, business men and women, and those in the military to name a few. They live all over the United States. This year we even had three inductees who are currently living in Africa, Afghanistan and England. The oldest recipient graduated in 1968 and the youngest graduated in 1999."
For more information on the Parkway Alumni Association or to find out how you can be involved, please visit their website at www.ParkwayAlumni.org.