08/17/2012 12:10 pm ET Updated Oct 17, 2012

Detroit Schools Alumni Must Be Part of the Solution to Student Success

As students get ready to return to the classroom, some will be more ready to take on the next school year than others. For those returning to Detroit Public Schools this year, approximately half will graduate to pursue their dreams beyond high school. The other half will struggle to remain in school.

A few months ago, I described how state direction and government funds alone can no longer provide the kind of excellence and opportunities on their own needed for our students to excel in public education. We are in a time of great challenge, but also great opportunity.

While the Detroit Public Schools need community cooperation to achieve higher graduation rates and sustain valuable programs to help Detroit students compete, support can come from across the country. The window of opportunity is now wide open for Detroit Public Schools' community of alumni.

At the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, we have heard countless alumni -- no matter where they live now or how long ago they graduated -- talk about the strong bond they still feel to their school experience, to the city and to Detroit's students. Current Detroit students need the support of alumni who have achieved the first step of their dreams and can pinpoint that pivotal moment in their DPS academic experience that helped them succeed.

Alumni who fondly recall a favorite teacher or a fundamental lesson learned either inside or outside the classroom are stepping forward. They have a sense of pride for their DPS elementary, middle and high school experience and for the city. Theirs is a demonstration of a real spirit of hope for the city and the future of Detroit students.

Their financial commitments as well as their stories are the inspiration Detroit students need to excel in their educational pursuits and the proof Detroit students need to know that they too can achieve their goals.

Unfortunately, many who have wanted to give back, get involved and help the current generation of students lament that they don't know how. Those are requests we cannot ignore.

The DPS Foundation implemented a new official alumni network for Detroit Public Schools through its Alumni Giving and Development Program, launched officially with the development of the website, where alumni can reconnect, share their memories and give back in ways meaningful to them.

It is imperative that students in Detroit are provided with the best possible opportunity to learn and prepare for college and life as adults. Who better to help support these goals than the individuals who have already lived them?

Wherever an alumnus or alumna is living now, whatever profession they've chosen, he or she is still a product of Detroit Public Schools. The foundations for their success began with what they learned from teachers and other students in Detroit. For them, dropping out was not an option. Now, they have the opportunity to drop back in, this time as alumni.

Sharing their history, their volunteerism and their financial support, Detroit alumni are a key ingredient in preparing our Detroit students for successful futures.