THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE SPRING 2012
Making Connections for Surprising Rewards
by Lindsay Taflas photographs by Will Wrobel
We all know how much we like answering phone solicitations. But many of us have the courtesy to hear what the call is about, and sometimes we can be pleasantly surprised.
Imagine what it's like to actually make those phone calls.
After the first few moments, the students who call during KSC Phonathon often get much more than courtesy from our alumni; they get an outpouring of good will, generosity, and a commitment to making a difference.
Last year alone, 2,107 alumni contributed $101,786 to the KSC Fund through Phonathon.
Given that 78 percent of KSC students receive some form of financial aid, these gifts have a critical impact.
But Phonathon also means much more. It completes a circular spirit that rises out of the dedication of the callers and the support, belief, kinship, and reinforcement of ideals that our alumni offer in return.
After being involved with the Keene State Phonathon Program for almost six years, I know that Phonathon is about coming together for a purpose larger than any of us alone.
When you answer your phone and a KSC Phonathon caller says hello, you are beginning to reconnect with your alma mater, or you're strengthening that connection. You are transported back to your college days and, if only for a few minutes, you may get the chance to relive a moment of your college experience or think about all that you've become since then.
The Phonathon Program employs 22 to 24 callers who have been selected mostly because of their passion for Keene State. They are eager to talk with KSC alumni and share stories of what's new at the college and talk about the achievements of all kinds of stellar students.
Everyone on campus knows that there are easier jobs for students, and many new callers enter the training program with only slight expectations about how the job will help them grow.
But once they begin to make calls, they start developing valuable job skills. They learn how to communicate with people from all generations and make connections – skills imperative to almost any good employer. They learn how to negotiate, ask questions, and truly listen, while spreading awareness about giving back and raising money for their peers.
Students' success comes from more than perfect grades or perfect essays. They succeed because of the connections they make.
Veteran callers thrive by mastering one of the arts of communication and by nourishing relationships with others. They make the most of connections and real interactions.
Callers in the Phonathon Program have a chance to make these skills a natural part of life. They empower themselves with the confidence to join the world and make positive changes.
As students they work to serve the greater good; and as alumni, they continue to do just that.
Phonathon Student Manager
"I originally wanted this job as a freshman to become more involved on campus and I knew it would be a good way to get connected. As it turned out, I became very interested in chatting with alumni, learning what they've done with their degrees, and learning where their education has taken them.
"Yes, we're looking for donations, but the conversations we have are just as important to me. After all, the alumni have helped me get where I am.
"Their support has made it possible for students like me to stay in college, and I know I'll give back, too, so other students can get the same opportunity I have had.
"After a shift I feel great!. I'm so proud of the callers and I love going home to my roommates and bragging about how much money we raised. I especially like being a student manager because I get to hear all about the wonderful conversations that the callers are having with alumni."
Kaleigh Liupakka, '13
Phonathon Student Manager
"When I first took this job everyone thought I was crazy. They thought people were going to hang up and yell at me all the time. It's really just the opposite.
"Fewer alumni say no than you might think, and many are interested in what's going on at Keene State and want to give back and support the school that provided them with so many memories and possibilities.
"Of course, I love coming to work because I love talking – and listening to the alumni's stories. Who wouldn't like a job like this?. We always share stories and have a few laughs. There's never a dull moment.
"My roommates and friends always ask me about work and they love the stories I tell them. They think they're inspiring!"
LeeAnn Clark, '11Years working at Phonathon: 4
"Being a student caller helped to give me a backbone and ask strangers for their time and money. Once I got into it, I loved helping alumni find a way to give back, and the experience has definitely shaped my career.
"After graduation I dove right into development work, as a volunteer for the United Way, calling and visiting area businesses and asking for gifts that help the neediest people in our community.
"Today, I work at a retirement consulting firm, making calls to local businesses.
"Nearly everything I know about doing this difficult but important work comes from all those calls and hours at Phonathon. I couldn't wait to join the ranks of the generous Keene State alumni – our donations make a tremendous difference for students."
Sarah Comeau, '14
Years working at Phonathon: 2
"My calls to alumni have allowed me to reach out and connect as well as be part of something bigger, and to help the school.
"I had one conversation with a Hollywood television producer who makes shows I actually watch!
"And, as a cat lover, I've learned a lot about some interesting cats and their owners.
"I also just love the atmosphere of the call center and the fun of being around positive people.
"When alumni find out that I'm an education major, they offer me great advice and some have asked me to student teach in their classrooms or call them after graduation.
"The calls give alumni a chance to ask questions about what's going on at Keene State. It's a cool job; my parents think so, too, and everyone should know that we appreciate every single dollar!"
Renee Giles, '13
Years working at Phonathon: 2
"The best encouragement I get from this job is when friends on campus thank me for doing it. They know how much alumni contributions mean to all of us.
"I love having a campus job where I can bridge the gap between students and alumni, and I also love hearing stories from alumni about how campus has changed. Do you know how many babies were born in Elliot Hall when it was a hospital?.
"And it's heartwarming to hear story after story about couples falling in love here and getting married. With every call, I'm reminded how important it is to appreciate my time here at Keene State. We should all maintain a willingness to help each other for the benefit of everyone.
"The Keene State College Fund provides students with opportunities that would not exist if it were not for the generosity of our alumni, which we will practice ourselves after we graduate.
"I try to help alumni understand how significant and appreciated every pledge is; they add up, and that's why getting the absolute most participation is important. But that's not all of it.
"On my walk home from work, I reflect on my conversations with alumni and there is always something about them that sticks with me for good."
Rebecca LeClerc, '13
Years working at Phonathon: 3
"I'm excited to get back to the call center every year because the work we do and the contributions to the KSC Fund really make a difference to so many people, including myself. But mostly I love the stories I hear.
"One alumna told me all about the Hurricane of 1938, how the trees fell across Main Street, all of campus lost power and the only light in Huntress Hall came from a single candle on each landing of the staircase.
"Another donor told me about mandatory winter swim classes and how the girls' hair froze solid while they walked back to their rooms. Not only did they have to dry their hair, they had to melt it!
"Some have been away a long time but they still want to know what's going on. For instance, 'Do you still have to dodge cars when you're running late down Appian Way?'. He was happy to hear that it wasn't a road anymore.
"Here's one thing I like about telling people I work for Phonathon:. they always say, 'So you get hung up on all the time?' and I get to say, 'Not as often as you would think.'.
"Many of our alumni tell me they worked their way through school and they know we are doing the same, so they give back to help us succeed and enjoy our experience here as much as they did."