The First Ever Alumni Dinner 

Author: Kaleb Johnson | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23

Estimated reading time: 3 min.

Tucked away in the woods of Cane Creek Park, the Living Education program hosted the first-ever Alumni Dinner at the Lakeside Lodge, exquisitely adorned with a winter theme.

Choosing a peaceful location at a picturesque park by a lavish lake for the dinner, the ambience was perfect as faculty, students, and some guests gathered to commemorate five years of the program. 

On the day of the event, the current students flickered with excitement, and some stress. The time was here for this new event, and there was no precedent or previous experience. The students left from work early and loaded up the vehicles and left for the Lakeside Lodge. Alumni, too, were taking off and preparing to attend this innovative event.  

Some Backstory 

Plans were in the making for over a month before. A video of commemoration was being made. The decorations were being carefully curated and created. The refreshments and snacks were pondered, picked, and then prepared. Special Living Education-themed prizes were even ordered and organized into a raffle for the guests – all during finals, a busy time for students and faculty alike. But it was all worthwhile, as students and faculty paused to look back on the last five years of the program. 

The Alumni Dinner

The day of the Alumni Dinner, the students arrived at the lodge with an hour to prepare. Tables were rearranged, decorations adorned, and refreshments situated. The raffle prizes were bagged and ordered, with stickers being cut and mugs being set out even as the first alumni arrived. An hour turned out to be the perfect amount of time. 

Alumni and faculty came in and the event flew off. The various years mingled, discussing their different experiences in the same program. The faculty saw old protegees and again, and the alumni caught up with old compatriots. For some it was an opportunity to come into town. For others it was a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of Charlotte and engage with friends. The evening included reflective speeches by Mr. McNair and Mr. Weston, encapsulating the years of the program and the effect it was having. As Mr. Weston said, “the program is cumulative. Every year brings new students.” Every year expands that effect. 

The final piece to come together was the take down. The students—helped by some alumni—took down the decorations, stowed the food, and packed up the cars again. The tables were put back, and the floors cleaned. The take down took less than half-an-hour, and the event was a success, start to finish. 

Are Ceremonies Worth It?

Ceremonies, such as this dinner, can seem difficult, maybe impossible to arrange, but they are vital for establishing traditions. If we escape the inertia of daily life, resist that feeling of “not having enough time,” they can be done, and they leave a satisfied sense. The past did really happen, and it meant something; it still means something. For us current students, this Alumni Dinner gave us the chance to see all the years that came before us, that have crafted and refined this program. We got to see its “cumulative effect.”  

Kaleb Johnson is a student in the Living Education-Charlotte Program. He graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the spring of 2022. In addition, Kaleb enjoys writing, video-making, trying new activities (anything and everything), playing chess, and debating (it’s not arguing!) with people. He currently works in the Living Education department producing written content & videos and helping with a variety of other projects.