The blend of working remotely and on campus throughout a pandemic has presented some challenges, according to Nicole Cruz. But the Sharyland High School lead librarian has been steadfast at adapting programs to fit the evolving student needs. One such program is the Alumni Snapshot Campaign — an initiative highlighting Sharyland ISD graduates, which allows younger generations a glimpse into the lives of those that have come before them.
Pre pandemic, the Alumni Campaign consisted of posters featuring former students and their school or military branch of choice. SISD would also host panel discussions, allowing current students to ask their former peers questions about their transition into adulthood.
But since switching to virtual learning, the SISD librarian had to get creative with the campaign because there weren’t many students on campus to see the alumni posters. Cruz took to social media to keep the campaign going, featuring grads on the Sharyland ISD Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
Because of Cruz’s commitment to the Alumni Snapshot Campaign, the Penny Payte McLeaish Learning Resource Center at Sharyland High is this year’s winner of the Demco/Upstart Innovative Programming Award. This award from the Texas Library Association recognizes libraries that have implemented specific and unique practices to better serve their communities.
“I’m very humbled because I get to share this idea across Texas,” Cruz said. “Really, I just hope to see other schools develop similar ideas because I feel like…for these kids going off to college, it’s important for them to stay connected and know that there’s still that support back home, that we’re proud of them and that we have their back.”
Any Sharyland student can participate in the campaign, which was an important factor for Cruz. She said she wanted kids to understand that college is attainable for anybody, regardless of background or career path.
“We try to instill in you from all your clubs and organizations and sports that it’s always good to give back to the community and volunteer,” Cruz said. “You never know who you can inspire. Maybe you had a kid that just really looked up to you when you were in high school, for whatever reason…and you may never know, but then you have a ripple effect.”
Along with a plaque, the winning library receives a $1,000 check. Cruz said the money will likely go back into the Alumni Snapshot Campaign in some capacity. Additionally, she plans to start a podcast where she can interview individual graduates on their life post-high school, and even highlight alumni that have graduated college and started their careers. In any case, the main focus is maintaining the connection between alumni and the Sharyland community.
“It’s about knowing that our students always know that even though they leave us and they are no longer present in our classrooms or in the library, they’re always present in our heart,” Cruz said. “And that we’re there to cheer them on and celebrate their successes.”