Written By Stina Chang
Gunn alumni Cat Volpe and Ming Ming Caressi launched the first Tea Time with Alumni program during Flex Time on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Tea Time consists of sessions in which students have the ability to talk with Gunn alumni and hear about per- spectives of life after Gunn. Offering hot tea, hot chocolate and a variety of snacks in room N-101, alumni pro- vide current students with the chance to learn about different paths after graduation while making connections and relationships. “[Tea Time] relates to a lot of things in dialogue, but it is also casual and fun,” Caressi said.
After the alumni panel in Novem- ber, current students were asked what role they thought alumni should take in becoming a resource at Gunn. Tea Time was a solution suggested by the Wellness and Openness in the Palo Alto Community collective. With junior Shannon Yang, sophomore Danny Howell and the Reach Out, Care, Know. Club, the project was soon underway. Tea Time of- ficially launched on Jan. 12 in
English teacherJordan Wells’s room, where students were split into groups and paired with alumni to just have a casual conversation and create a connection. Conversations varied from individual high school stories and college application advice to personal hobbies and interests. “The basic idea is a free- form conversation you can talk about whatever you want,” Volpe said.
According to Volpe, Tea Time was an instant success.“I felt like people were walking out of the room with a lot of energy,” Volpe said.
Students who attended the session were able to receive advice and listen to real-life stories directly from Gunn alumni. Junior Aurora Vaughan learned of another path to happiness by talking to an alum who currently attends Foothill College. “You can take a gap year; you can go to Middle College; you can go to a community college and transfer,” Vaughan said. For a junior like Vaughan, it was helpful to hear it from someone with personal experience. “I really hadn’t actually considered [those possibilities] until I heard it from someone in real life, telling me it was real,” Vaughan said.
Through Tea Time, junior Juan Santos saw how little money impacted another alum’s future. “[The alum] pursued whatever she wanted to do regardless of money,” Santos said. “I thought that was a really nice takeaway, seeing how she put one of the things that was very valuable in society second to what she wanted to do. It was really inspiring.”
Unlike other support groups on campus, Tea Time offers the development of closer relationships between alumni and current students. “I think this offers a new opportunity for a new type of connection,” Wells said.
The primary goal of Tea Time is to connect current Gunn students with alumni, making alumni a more ap- proachable resource. “[Alumni are] a group of people who understand what it’s like to be at Gunn and care a lot about Gunn,” Volpe said. “There are certain understandings and connection we have that you don’t have with anyone else on the planet.” According to Wells, Tea Time also intends to preserve a family-like relationship for the alumni who return. In order to foster alum and student connection, Wells says it is important for the student and alumni to steer their own conversation. “If needed to be a moment of venting, let it be that. If it needs to be something more positive, let it be that,” Wells said. According to Wells, alumni are aware that they are not professionals; however, they are willing to listen in the role of a friend.
Caressi added that Tea Time serves as a place for stu- dents to just hang out. “Tea Time is also simply a relaxing space where students can just let go and have a really great conversation with someone,” says Caressi. “Sometimes things like that can turn a day around in a positive way,” she said. Leaders of Tea Time ultimately hope that current students will be able to gain different perspectives of life after Gunn. Though alumni are not professionals, their viewpoints often encompass insights not necessarily pos- sessed by parents, teachers or counselors. “The alumni offer a unique perspective that isn’t readily accessible unless you have an older sibling,” Wells said.
Serving under the philosophy of providing a family relationship, Tea Time also allows alumni who return to Gunn to feel welcome. “There is still room here for you at Gunn. You’re still wanted; you’re still a Titan long after you graduate,” Wells said.