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Anatomy of a Thank You

Gathering after another successful Cadet Thank-A-Thon are Teunis Verheul, Daniel Scarzello, Markeesha Gibson, Faith Funderberg, Jamie Crotty, Malik Cochran and Samuel White. Groups of Students make more than 300 thank you calls a year to let alumni know how much R-MA appreciates their donations. 

More than 75 pizzas and 1,200 telephone calls over that last three years have demonstrated some great lessons for Randolph-Macon Academy cadets and alumni.

Throughout the school year, cadets have given a few hours of their precious free time to make thank-you calls for the Development Office.  First there is pizza for dinner, then review of a phone script to practice together, and finally graduating to the landline phones.

Teenagers and phones are not the cultural norm that they once were. Today’s students find texting away on a smart phone in their comfort zone; but dialing and having a conversation, especially with a stranger, is not something that comes easy.

But once they get over the jitters and laugh away the first few stumbles on the phone messages, they are on a roll. 

R-MA senior Faith Funderberg, who has volunteered for these “thank-a-thons” since she was a sophomore, values the perspective she gets when she talks to alumni. “They describe how R-MA used to be and we compare it to how it is now,” she says. Making these personal connections across generations, she finds how much the alumni care for this school.

Fellow senior Markeesha Gibson values the networking skills she has gained from volunteering for the thank-a-thons. “I was kind of nervous the first few times. I read from the script and hesitated,” she remembers. “But with practice, it became more natural.” Now in phone interviews for college, she finds she is much more relaxed. The thank-a-thon gave her the confidence and the skills to have a phone conversation with a complete stranger.

“Also looking at the people we were calling, doctors, lawyers, colonels,” she adds, “Seeing how successful people are, it makes me proud of this school.” 

These shared experiences, personal connections and, maybe, the pizza, keep these young cadets coming back. 

“I like to volunteer for the thanks-a-thons because I feel people don’t say thank you enough,” sophomore Daniel Scarzello says. “They don’t have to give to the school, they choose to give. They deserve to be thanked for their generosity.”

Junior Teunis Verheul agrees, “These people are bettering our education. They are giving their well-earned money to the school to make lives better here in some form, scholarships, sports equipment, books. And they are happy to do it.” 

“They donate for us, every cadet here,” concurs Junior Sam White, “To make our education matter.”

Even though many alumni tell stories about when they were at R-MA, they also ask questions. Faith and Markeesha, the seniors of the group, may appreciate this the most. “They want to know where you are going to school and about your plans,” Markeesha notes. “And they give you advice which is especially great when it is from people who have been in our shoes. They know what we are going through and have had the same experiences. Even though they don’t know us, they care.”

Each student understands that that tuition does not cover the full cost of his or her education; that they are receiving a “hidden scholarship” with each Annual Fund donation. 

They appreciate that these alumni have “paid it forward” and they want to donate when they graduate.

Because they know they will get a call from a cadet, and they will have that shared connection … and talk about the pizza.