New website aims to connect Jasper alumni

Jasper High School graduates can visit GradGrid.org to begin connecting with fellow JHS alums. (Screenshot from GradGrid.org)

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

JASPER — Last summer, Jasper High School alumni Noah Bawel and Luke Hochgesang found themselves home in Dubois County post-college graduation with a few open months before they started their jobs. Rather than spend those months idly, the two decided to give back to the community that raised them and teamed up to co-found Grad Grid Jasper High School, an online network for Jasper High School alumni.

“Grad Grid is an innovative alumni engagement program,” Hochgesang said. “It’s focused on attracting talent.”

The idea seemed simple enough: Create an online platform that allows JHS alumni to connect with each other and the community. Not long into the development process, however, Bawl and Hochgesang soon realized that their vision was larger than what the two of them could set up on their own. They quickly put together teams made up of other JHS graduates and local professionals to handle development of the website and application, the newsletter, event planning and the legal and organizational aspects that come with founding a business that can last. With the teams in place, Bawel and Hochgesang travelled around Jasper to pitch their idea to local industries, organizations and the school corporation. Everyone was supportive.

School officials liked the idea of using the platform to connect current students with alumni working in fields that students want to pursue and to find possible guest speakers.

Local businesses liked the recruitment opportunities the platform offered, and several agreed to sponsor Grad Grid in exchange for access to the database. In that respect, Grad Grid is similar to LinkedIn, though Bawel and Hochgesang said their target pool is more diverse than that of LinkedIn.

“We really see this being utilized by people in manufacturing, medicine and other fields that don’t have a professional networking platform already,” Bawel said.

The businesses involved in Grad Grid cover several industries including banking, healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, maintenance and local organizations. Business involvement is part of what Bawel and Hochgesang believe sets Grad Grid apart from other alumni organizations. Grad Grid focuses on helping Jasper alumni leverage their talent rather than focusing on garnering donations.

“We think that talent is more valuable than the dollars alumni can give back,” Hochgesang said.

Grad Grid has three components all aimed at connecting people and showcasing talent. One is the alumni database that includes contact information and a career path for graduates. The database will allow alumni, JHS students and local industries to network. The second component is a semi-annual newsletter that will keep graduates up to date on what’s happening at their alma mater and in the community as a whole. The third component is semi-annual social events for graduates held in Jasper around the holidays. The first event is set for December 23 at Brew. The events will differ from reunions because they’ll be open to all alumni rather than a single graduating class.

Grad Grid launched December 2 and is available at https://www.gradgrid.org. To sign up, go to the website, click the “Join your Wildcat family today” button on the main page, then choose how to create an account. People can sign up using Google, Facebook or an email address.

If Grad Grid takes off in Jasper, Bawel and Hochgesang want to expand the platform to the other school corporations in the county. Hopefully, Hochgesang said, the expansion can happen in 2019.




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