Laurie Orth: Alumni Cheerleader

For Interlochen Arts Academy alumna and Alumni Council member Laurie Housholder Orth (IAA 81-84), giving back is about more than writing a check. For more than 20 years, Laurie has served as the class representative for the class of 1984, and much of her contribution to Interlochen has involved another kind of writing: writing letters and notes to her classmates, encouraging them to stay connected to Interlochen and to each other. When it comes to alumni engagement, volunteers like Laurie play an essential role in keeping the Academy’s 10,000 alumni informed and excited about all that is happening at Interlochen.

As a class representative, Laurie spends time at her computer tracking down lost classmates, updating contact information, posting updates on Facebook and, for the past year, generating excitement about the Academy’s 50th anniversary festivities. Although social media and online communication have made it easier than ever for alumni to stay connected, each class still needs a cheerleader—a role that Laurie happily embraces.

But Laurie knows that a cheerleader is there to do more than just make a lot of noise. Cheerleaders help channel the crowd’s energy to encourage the team and help win the game. Likewise, Laurie says that while she enjoys triggering nostalgia and fostering connections amongst her classmates, ultimately she wants to see that translate into more financial support for Interlochen, the place that brought them together.

“Seven out of ten kids at Interlochen are on scholarship,” she reminds her classmates. Then she makes the point more personal: “What if seven out of ten of your friends hadn’t been able to attend Interlochen?”

One way that Laurie has rallied her class to increase their financial support is by creating a class of 1984 scholarship fund. This year, members of her class have contributed $7,800. After the IAA 50th Anniversary reunion in May, Laurie stirred up a bit of class rivalry on Facebook. Not wanting to be outdone, the members of the class of 1983 created their own scholarship fund and have contributed $7,100 since the reunion. Thanks to Laurie and the members of the classes of 1983 and 1984, two Academy students will receive significant scholarship support for the 2012-13 school year.

Reflecting on her own experience as an Academy student, Laurie talks about how important it was for her to find a place where she could explore her many artistic interests and become more independent. Over the course of her three years at the Academy, she studied bassoon, theatre, dance and voice. “I loved being around other talented, focused kids,” she says.

Although Laurie has been a regular contributor for more then 20 years, it is her work as a class representative that has made an even greater impact. Through her work as a class representative, the number of donors from her class has quadrupled in the past decade. “I didn’t have tons of money to give,” she says, but she realized that by working together, her class could make a difference. Two talented, focused students starting classes at Interlochen Arts Academy this week would agree.