How can we better serve the unique and varying needs of our former residents? This is what we asked several years ago when we began the strategic planning process for our new Alumni Program. Countless ideas and opinions were explored, with one common goal: to build and nurture a community where all Casa Teresa alumni feel welcome, supported and strengthened.
Before the new program was implemented, graduates would continue to meet with the case manager they had met with during their time at Casa Teresa. The arrangement allowed alumni to extend relationships with case managers they had come to know and trust, but also presented challenges in terms of resources and time constraints. Now, a dedicated alumni case manager, Nichole Fontanoza, oversees the Alumni Program, including case management and engagement. A familiar face who has given years of service to Casa Teresa, Nichole was a logical fit to manage the alumni program and does so with honor. She also oversaw the entire transition, clearly articulating that this new program’s purpose is to better serve alumni by allowing her to specialize in their unique needs.
During the transition, Nichole took extra care to be sensitive to current alumni, understanding that this presented a change for them. She reassured alumni that the new program will provide (and even go beyond) the services they were accustomed to receiving. Managing the transition also allowed Nichole to build trust and rapport with the alumni, who kept an open mind and learned to adapt to this new program.
With alumni case management and activities now centralized under Nichole, we can better serve each alumni wherever they are in their journey. Nichole describes the mission of the Alumni Program “to be in kinship with alumni,” emphasizing that the program is designed to seamlessly continue the support they received at Casa Teresa, while respecting that each alumna has moved on to a different place. Recognizing that some alumni are less inclined than others to engage in the program, one pillar of the Alumni Program is that it can be part of each alumna’s everyday life, partnering with and supporting them during the highs, lows, and everything in between.
Social media has strengthened the program, helping Nichole remain connected with alumni even if they reside outside of Orange County. Advice from Dr. Pugh and Nurse Kerri is particularly beloved among alumni and a reminder that Casa Teresa has a place in their daily lives.
As the program evolves, Nichole hopes that alumni who are called to give back to Casa Teresa embrace the many creative ways they can make a positive impact. Our alumni are currently giving a variety of gifts to Casa Teresa, including:
- Sharing their culinary knowledge by conducting regular baking classes with current residents
- Telling their stories in a classroom setting, so current residents can understand that each healing journey is unique
- Leading Bible Study sessions
- Volunteering at The Collection, Casa Teresa’s resale boutique
- Sorting and organizing donations for The Collection
- Helping with administrative duties, such as answering the phones
These gifts do not require an abundance of time or money and allow alumni to explore their interests, make connections, and gain experience.
As the Alumni Program grows and evolves, we hope to someday achieve engagement with all (nearly 6,000!) alumni. We will continue to keep their needs at the center of all we do and are humbled by this opportunity to serve them.