DISS Pioneer Set members
In February 2018, Okechukwu Onye, a former student of Dority International Secondary School, formed a WhatsApp group, DISS Pioneer Set.
The group comprised thirty-four members of the Dority students who graduated in 1997.
Immediately the WhatsApp group was formed, the members agreed to have a reunion. They also decided to visit their alma mater, Dority International Secondary School, Aba.
After much debate and compromise, Owerri was chosen as the reunion city, All Seasons Hotel as the venue of the reunion and January 3, 2019, as the date of the reunion.
On October 25, 2018, Okechukwu Onye formally informed Mrs Zovannah Onumah that members of DISS Pioneer Set would visit Dority on January 4, 2019.
Mrs Zovannah Onumah with Okey Onye and Ikenna Ohiaeri on October 25, 2018
The Coordinator of Senior Secondary section, Mr.Rufus Emerenini, was also informed.
Preparations for the reunion and homecoming moved into high gear.
On January 3, 2019, about a dozen members of DISS Pioneer Set assembled at All Seasons Hotel, Owerri to start off the reunion.
It was an emotional meeting of former classmates, some of whom hadn’t seen each other in twenty-one years.
The next day, the pioneers headed to Aba and arrived at Dority around 11.15 a.m.
In her welcome speech, Mrs Zovannah Onumah remarked that she was happy and proud to receive the very first students to graduate from Dority.
Mrs Zovannah Onumah welcoming DISS Pioneer Set to Dority on Jan 4, 2019
After series of speeches from Engineer Emole Kalu Onumah, Mr Rufus Emerenini and three members of Pioneer Set, Okechukwu Onye, Adaku Omidosu (née Onwuzuruike) and Onyebuchi Ochu, gifts and awards were handed out to long-tenured teachers and non-academic staff.
The pioneers then toured Dority International Secondary School before heading back to Owerri to conclude their reunion.
Here are 7 lessons from the Pioneer Set reunion that other sets of Dority graduates can use to organize successful reunions.
1. Start planning for a reunion as soon as the group is formed:
Most ex-Dority students have WhatsApp or Facebook groups. But if your set doesn’t have a social media group, take the initiative and create one.
Immediately DISS Pioneer Set was formed, the members started discussing how to have a reunion.
The reunion topic became the driving force of the group, influencing daily conversations and chats.
When a social media group doesn’t have an important event that members can look forward to, the group turns into a dumping ground for junk posts and forwarded messages.
Don’t wait for the perfect time to plan for a reunion, start planning for it immediately.
2. Don’t expect complete cooperation:
It’s impossible to get different people to agree all the time.
Not everyone wants to belong to a social media group of former classmates.
Not everyone likes chatting on WhatsApp and Facebook.
And not everyone wants to reunite with old friends.
We are no longer the teenagers who attended Dority, we are adults who have the right to choose who we want to associate with.
So if some people don’t want to join the group or participate in a reunion, let them be.
But most people are open to the idea of a reunion. The problem, usually, is picking a reunion date and venue that most members will accept.
The best option is to let the majority decide. And to compromise when necessary.
For example, I wanted Aba to be the reunion city of DISS Pioneer Set. Dority was in Aba and most of the members had families and relatives in Aba.
But other members thought otherwise and selected Owerri as reunion city.
I went along with the majority decision.
3. Have mini-reunions before the reunion:
A mini-reunion is a social gathering of a few alumni members. Mini-reunions increase anticipation and excitement for the main reunion.
DISS Pioneer Set had several mini-reunions before the January reunion.
There were mini-reunions in Aba, Lagos, Port Harcourt and even the United States.
DISS Pioneer Set Lagos mini-reunion
Port Harcourt mini-reunion
Mini-reunions serve as rehearsals for the reunion and an opportunity for members to reacquaint with each other.
4. Make the group interesting:
DISS Pioneer Set is truly an interesting group. Members actually chat with each other and don’t just forward junk messages.
Conversation topics in the group range from parenting, sports and politics to fashion, food and religion.
The tone of conversation in the group is humorous yet respectful.
Interesting groups like DISS Pioneer Set are like magnets, drawing members back each day.
The more interesting your social media group is, the more likely that members would show up for a reunion.
5. Select competent leaders:
DISS Pioneer Set has four leadership positions: Chairperson, Protocol Officer, Treasurer and Secretary.
It’s important for an alumni group to choose selfless leaders who can motivate members.
Okechukwu Onye, Chairperson DISS Pioneer Set
Luckily for members of DISS Pioneer Set, Okechukwu Onye is an inclusive and competent chairperson who knows how to get things done, how to present problems to the members and how to encourage members to solve problems.
Not all the group’s problems have been solved. And not every member appreciates his efforts.
But without his steady leadership, DISS Pioneer Set wouldn’t have had a reunion.
6. Contribute your time, energy and resources:
A group where members mind their business and don’t bother to contribute their time and resources will die a quick death.
One of the reasons for DISS Pioneer Set’s success is the willingness of members to contribute whatever they have, whether it’s time, knowledge, money, or physical strength.
For example, the pioneers initially planned to reward 4 Dority teachers and staff, including Mrs Zovannah Onumah and Engineer Emole Onumah, with achievement plaques.
But a member, Chizoba Ntuko (née Nwafor), thought it would be great if more teachers were rewarded. So she packaged gifts and travelled with them all the way from Canada to Nigeria.
Music teacher, Mr Patrick Umunna, receiving his gift from Promise Mazie
Another member, Ifeoma Duru, contributed money for extra gifts to teachers.
These two members didn’t wait for the group to make a decision. They took the initiative and made DISS Pioneer Set’s visit to Dority a memorable one for the teachers.
Other members of DISS Pioneer Set contributed in their own way to make the reunion successful:
Chinedu Ndukwe and Akwaugo Amadi paid the breakfast bills of Pioneer Set at All Seasons Hotel.
Onuma Agwu Ibe paid for the group’s lunch at a restaurant in Owerri.
DISS Pioneer Set dining at a restaurant in Owerri
Chinedu Onyeizu, Maryann Achebe (née Modu), Chinelo Ezeocha (née Onyeachu), Kayode Okorie, Chimdi Ifeakanwa, Chidalu Ibeneme (née Nsodum), Theresa Mba (née Ndem), Chinwendu Akintan (née Aguah) and Sandra Aregbesola (née Onumara) contributed money for the reunion even though they didn’t eventually attend.
Chidimma Ndukwe (née Mba) saved the group thousands of naira by finding an affordable supplier of reunion t-shirts.
Onyebuchi Ochu and Adaku Omidosu (née Onwuzuruike) gave excellent speeches to Dority students and staff.
Promise Mazie (née Ndem) did a great job as presenter of gifts.
Uzoma Emmanuel (née Agwu) prepared a fantastic lunch for the reception at Dority.
Adaobi Anyanwu (née Ofoegbu) had a good reason not to attend the reunion. Her wedding anniversary was on the same day with the reunion. But she came anyway, with two of her kids and her sister, Shalonda, a Dority alumna.
Positive contributions like these are important for an alumni group to thrive.
7. Don’t expect a perfect reunion:
Despite the carefully laid plans of the reunion organizing committee, there were setbacks before and during the reunion:
- A member of the group, Vitalis Muoma, died of cancer before the reunion could take place. Muoma’s death saddened group members and took some joy out of the reunion.
- The Chairperson, Okechukwu Onye, lost his father-in-law a few weeks to the reunion.
- The number of students present at the DISS Pioneer Set homecoming was a fraction of Dority’s student population. A full house of students could have benefited from face-to-face interactions with the pioneers.
- A pioneer, who was supposed to give a speech on leadership to Dority students, pulled out at the last minute.
Despite these setbacks, the reunion turned out to be an unforgettable experience.
So don’t expect a perfect reunion. Focus on the things your group can control and don’t worry too much about those you can’t control.
If other sets of Dority alumni put these 7 lessons into practice, they would have reunions that would be more successful than that of DISS Pioneer Set.