Drive-In Info Night welcomes prospective families

As cars rolled into the Monarch Way parking lot, cheerleaders with red pompoms, the school band with brass instruments, and Scarlet Ambassadors with goodie bags shouted loud and proud to welcome prospective families to Information Night. Every year, the school sets up these open house events to introduce prospective students and their families to the school in hopes of them joining the Monarch community in the future.

In order to address current COVID-19 health guidelines, the school’s Advancement and Alumni offices devised the first-ever Drive-In Information Night, which took place on Oct. 20 and 21, with two sessions each evening.

“I think people are so Zoomed out,” said Jennifer Hornbuckle, the director of Admissions Marketing and Special Events. “We’ve done so many previous sessions leading up to this that I think actually having them drive in and see the band playing, the cheerleaders, the song team, and seeing a slideshow of what our Mater Dei kids do on a daily basis and throughout the school year in a normal year [made the event awesome].”

So far, the school has been presenting information to prospective families and students during the pandemic by sending mailer postcards, emails on social media, and information in church bulletins. However, this first round of in-person informational events took place in front of the Meruelo Athletic Center (MAC) where cars parked in staggered spots to ensure social distancing and equal visibility of the stage. The program consisted of an introduction to the school’s mission and philosophy, admissions and financial aid processes, among other topics, and one of the sessions was recorded and posted to YouTube.

“We really liked how we designed the agenda where every director speaks, so I think we would take this and just move it inside the gym if we can,” Hornbuckle said. “We like the flow of how it went and who spoke and the layout. In a way, our Information Night needed a reboot anyway so it was a nice mix-up.”

During the night, presenters explained the safety procedures put in place such as the mask, ID and hand sanitation requirements, the hybrid schedule, and smaller class sizes. Though students and families won’t be able to walk into classrooms and buildings and freely ask questions, ASB President Kailia Utley said that the school’s commitment to a pre-pandemic normalcy could be seen. In fact, Scarlet Ambassadors – which are students that give tours and visit middle schools to talk about the school – were there to hand out welcome swag bags to the families.

“Info Night as a Scarlet Ambassador was as exciting since it was one of my first events interacting with families really in person this year,” Scarlet Ambassador and sophomore Kara Shen said. “Typically, my goals for Info nights is to create a welcoming environment for new families so that they are interested in coming back to the Mater Dei community again.”

The next Information Night will be held on Jan. 12, with required pre-registration for each night and spots limited to 65 cars (families) per session. Athletic Information Night is also coming up on Dec. 8. Private campus tours can also be reserved throughout the year as well as a new program called Meet a Monarch that will allow prospective students to talk to current students through Zoom.

“I hope [prospective families] get a sense of community that Mater Dei has between parents and students and I think, I’m hoping they got the impression of when you come here there is so much you can be a part of,” Hornbuckle said. “I hope we gave them a vision of what their four years can be here.”