As a school-obsessed East Sider, I am always on the hunt for the scoop on our neighborhood’s schools. Usually this comes from parents, students and teachers, but of course, a school is as much its history as its present inhabitants. So when I heard that Hope High School’s alumni had formed an active alumni association, I chatted with Anthony Sanders (class of 1989) and Brian Lalli (class of 1993) to learn more.
Both Sanders, the president of the Hope Alumni Association, and active member Lalli fondly remember their time at Hope. Both attended Hope Essential School, a school-within-a-school program at Hope during the 1980s and 1990s that formed the basis of the small school reform approach that was implemented within Hope during the subsequent decade. Sanders, who attended Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School and Nathan Bishop Middle School before Hope, recalled, “Hope High School prepared me for college possibly more than necessary. Everything that we did in college I was ready for because of Hope. To this day, I write in a journal because of what I learned there, which were the core values needed in life.”
Sanders, who went on to graduate from Northeastern University and then received his MBA from Johnson and Wales, is a fraud investigator with Allstate Insurance. Along with other Hope alumni, he founded the alumni association in order to ensure that current students benefit from connections with successful alumni. “There are so many of us who are now lawyers, doctors and business owners who can go back and connect students to Hope’s traditions. We need to let everyone know that great things come out of Hope.”
The Hope Alumni Association, which is now a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, also arose from a sense that “something was missing,” as Lalli put it. “I never had a 10th reunion, and that didn’t feel right, so we started connecting with alums from across the years. And as we kept talking, we realized we wanted to do more than just get together and remember. We wanted to provide opportunities for Hope students today.” Lalli, the assistant director of residential life at Rhode Island College, grew up and still lives on the East Side. He attended Holy Ghost School and Nathan Bishop Middle before Hope, graduated from URI and is completing a certificate for advanced study in mental health counseling.
In order to provide that opportunity, Hope Alumni Association members created the Reach for the Stars scholarship program for Hope grads. The program raises funds from donations, an alumni weekend (which this year was July 13-15) and sales of Hope Blue Wave gear. This fundraising is on-going; you can make donations, buy Blue Wave sweatshirts and, if you’re a Hope alum who hasn’t yet joined up, become part of the alumni association by registering online.
The Hope Alumni Association plans to expand its involvement beyond the Reach for the Stars Scholarships and other sponsored awards for graduates by boosting alumni financial support and alumni attendance at sporting, theater and other events. Plans for a mentoring program are in the works, too. “Money on its own isn’t the answer,” said Sanders when asked about his vision for alumni involvement at Hope. “Kids want to see a living, breathing example of what can be done. I was the first one in my family to graduate from college, and I want to make sure that kids who are at Hope today can connect with people who came from where they are now. Sharing the pride that I have for Hope is what motivates me to continue to do this. Students who are at Hope now will carry that pride with them throughout their lives.”
Lalli shares Sanders’ interest in connecting alumni with students. “Young men in particular need positive male role models, and I want them to know that you can graduate and give back to your community.” And Lalli’s vision extends to the building as well as the people within. “I would love to rename Hope’s auditorium Alumni Auditorium,” he said. “It could be the East Side auditorium. We look at Nathan Bishop and see what is possible. That’s what I want for Hope.”
It’s been written before in the pages of East Side Monthly that the East Side benefits from feeling like a small town within a big city. But with eight public high schools in Providence, and many more charter and independent school options, we don’t share the defining experience of going to school together. Nevertheless, Hope High School, located at the center of our neighborhood, should also be at the center of our shared experience. So even if you did not attend Hope, consider supporting the Hope Alumni Association to keep your “hometown” school strong.