“If it’s for Franklin then we’re all for it!” Coined in the 1930s, this motto has been at the heart of the Franklin High School Alumni Association (FHSAA) for more than 10 years. Founded in 2005, the FHSAA is a little-known yet key component of the Franklin community. Inside the small, mysterious room across from the main office, there is a crew of outspoken, humorous, and passionate individuals determined to maintain the quality, integrity, and traditions of Franklin High School.
Led by President Pam Knuth, the FHSAA board members meet monthly to discuss everything Franklin related. Old business can include projects, events, or discussions that have either come to a close or made progress since the last meeting. New business consists of proposed projects, events, and topics to address moving forward. When a new topic is introduced, the board discusses why it is important and decides how to take action. When making decisions, each member of the board has a vote. Over the years, the Alumni Association has taken on countless tasks for the improvement of Franklin High School. One of the association’s larger projects was raising funds to install the bricks on Franklin’s new gym building. “When they were designing the new school, they had a blank facade planned for the gym,” says Knuth. “We raised about 120,000 dollars through the association to help put the brick on the building.”
The funds for projects such as this are provided by direct donations from various community members and over 11,000 Franklin alumni. The FHSAA keeps track of alumni through a meticulously upkept database. The database includes nearly 1,000 Alumni Association members who pay a $15 membership fee each year. Money raised through membership fees is added to a bank account which is controlled and divvied up for various projects by the FHSAA board. In addition to specific events or departments, teachers and students can access this money to help fund projects or purchase supplies. “Teachers can fill out a grant requesting the use of donations to purchase items. The requests are funneled through our grant committee that will make their recommendations and bring them back to the board,” says Knuth. The donations brought in through the association have funded a wide variety of things, from new textbooks to a basketball scoreboard. Without them, we couldn’t pay for some of the sports teams, performing arts, and music groups.
In spite of all they do for Franklin, the FHSAA and their achievements are largely unheard of throughout Franklin’s student and parent community. “Sadly before I got involved in this, I didn’t know who was in that group. I didn’t know how much they did for the school,” says Patrick Johnston, a Franklin parent and Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) member. This sentiment is echoed by many students and parents who are unaware of the dedicated people who make up the Franklin High School Alumni Association.
However, these enthusiastic alumni aren’t in it for the recognition. FHSAA Recording Secretary Carol Blair says, “It’s the gratification that we are doing something special for the school and the students” that motivates her to stay in the association. Ten years ago, this passion was threatened when Franklin was at risk of being closed in order to consolidate the high schools of PPS. According to Johnston, the parents and community rose up to help keep Franklin a part of PPS.
“Once a Quaker, always a Quaker,” says Phil Schnabel, a board member of the FHSAA and a 1956 graduate. To Schnabel, being a Quaker represents the comradery and sense of belonging in the Franklin community. He joined the FHSAA because he hopes to extend the support and love of his high school experience to new students, and to ensure that everyone at Franklin has everything they need in order to be successful.
Schnabel has always been one to get involved throughout the school. He was Senior Class President, he was on multiple sports teams, and before he was a member of the FHSAA he helped organize alumni reunions and raffles. Recently, Schnabel has created a monthly luncheon for Franklin alumni. Each month he asks attendees to bring something to help out current Franklin students. This month, they are collecting backpacks for students who cannot afford their own.
Over the years, Franklin High School has undergone countless changes. While the most prominent of those changes is the recent remodel, many smaller ones such as the relaxation of teaching atmosphere have had a lasting impact. When Schnabel was attending Franklin, it was customary for teachers to dress more formally. Suits, ties, and professional dresses are in stark contrast to the typically casual attire of Franklin staff and teachers today. Seeing the school change and transform as students come and go is both an exciting and conflicting experience for members who hold the history of the old Franklin in their hearts. “The most difficult thing for us right now is the Quaker mascot,” Knuth says. “It’s a very tough thing for a lot of us to see the mascot change.” But, no matter how much Franklin changes, the FHSAA will remain committed to the school and its students.
Despite all the hard work, FHSAA members enjoy helping Franklin students. “Not only do we have a good time, but we have a good time trying to help the current students, and help the needs of the school,” says FHSAA member Alexander Rodriguez. Their passion is evident in everything they do, from their lively monthly meetings to their elaborate alumni celebrations. This group of graduates has seen huge shifts in the Franklin community over the years and are fired up and ready to advocate for even more.
The Franklin High School Alumni Association can attribute much of its success to the positive attitude of its members. Anything that benefits Franklin, its students and staff, the community surrounding it, or anyone who has been part of the Franklin community in the past is immediately accepted. Many members work with the association well past their retirement.
“The school board, the district, they provide the cake. And the Alumni Association, they provide that frosting,” says Johnston. Without a doubt, Franklin would not be the school we know today without the hard work and dedication of FHSAA members. It is their endless compassion towards every part of Franklin, no matter how big or small, that will keep the school and its community Franklin strong.