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(From left) Santa Monica College President Dr. Chui Tsang, Associated Student President David Chun and Dean of Student Life Deyna Hearn get their picture taken at the media booth Tuesday night following graduation. Photos and videos from the wall will be displayed on the alumni Web site. (photo by Brandon Wise)

PICO BLVD — Santa Monica College’s commencement ceremony this week spawned a new crop of alumni and administrators are hoping graduates stay in touch with their alma mater.

They’re the first group of former students that SMC is targeting for its new alumni association, reviving a branch of the college that in past lives never seemed to gain enough support as graduates went on to continue their studies at four-year universities and identified their higher educational careers with those schools.

“If you become a member of an alumni association and later donate, then you’re likely to do that more with a four-year university,” Bruce Smith, public information officer for Santa Monica College, said.

Smith added that the college does have a loyal alumni base.

Officials believe the alumni association will succeed this time thanks to a new tool that wasn’t as prevalent in its previous iterations — social media.

The first outreach efforts were seen before the commencement ceremony on Tuesday night at the gymnasium where a media wall was erected, a place where graduates were invited to take pictures and videos that would later be posted on the association’s new Web site. The alumni association also plans to use popular sites like Facebook and YouTube to strengthen its network.

Students were given cards to sign up.

“Through the use of social networking technology on the Web, we can create a space for everyone to feel connected,” SMC President and Superintendent Dr. Chui Tsang said. “The purpose right now is to start with recent graduates and build it up slowly.

“At the same time we can reach back and connect with others who have left and see if they’re interested in using this new technology.”

Alumni associations are common among junior colleges, but few are large and very active. The uniqueness about Santa Monica College is that a relatively large portion of the local community have taken at least a few classes there and identify themselves as past students, Tsang said.

The school has also produced a number of famous graduates, including NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson and Academy-Award winner Dustin Hoffman, who helped the fundraising campaign to build the Broad Stage. Local well-known figures, such as former mayor Nat Trives, have also attended the college.

Trives was honored at the graduation ceremony as one of two outstanding alumni, the other recognition going to Richard Grigg, a world champion surfer and coral reef expert. Trives was the first black president of the Associated Students.

“These are real people and it’s inspirational for our students to know (about them),” Tsang said.

The association is expected to host events and send out newsletters for its members. Membership in the group could also come with discounts for everything from movies to products. The details of the organization are still being worked out.

“The sky is the limit as to what we can do,” Smith said. “We’re working on the first step at this point.”

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