FOR SOME PEOPLE, receiving their A-level results marks the end of one phase of their lives and the time to move on to more exciting things. But for many others, graduating is the start of a new kind of relationship with their secondary school. This is especially true for schools such as Ying Wa College. The school's Old Boys' Association has just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Members are active alumni, some of whom graduated in 1936 and are now 86 years old. Tsang Chiu-kwan, president of the association, said that alumni attended most of the activities and many people loved talking to him and learning more about the old school, which was established in 1818. The Old Boys' Association includes members of a family from which the grandfather, father and son all studied at the school. It also has a Youth Service Group which consists of sons of alumni who attend the school now. A quarter of Ying Wa's teachers are alumni. 'Not all alumni are active in the events, but whenever we ask them to help they are more than willing to do what they can. This is because of their strong emotional bond to the school,' Mr Tsang said. Joining an alumni association can be fruitful, said Ma Ching-nam, chairman of St Paul's Co-educational College Alumni Association. 'Alumni associations provide an opportunity for people to build up a bigger network,' he said. 'With 90 years of history, St Paul's has a gold mine of a network. We have contacts of more than 10,000 people, including some well-known public faces.' Mr Ma said joining an alumni association was a good way of keeping in touch with a group of people who had similar educational backgrounds but worked in different professions. His association recently organised a dinner for the school's 90th anniversary at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, attended by more than 2,500 people. Others had to be turned away because there was no more space. 'Alumni associations can play a major role in the school's improvement,' Mr Ma said. 'We have vast resources. The Alumni Association allows the mobilisation of human resources and financial resources. Our school is a good school, but we want to help make it a great school.' Alumni can help the school by donating money and providing services for students. 'The Alumni Association gathers alumni in different professions and introduces them to the students,' said Lawrence Leung Wing-kin, chairman of SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School Alumni Association. 'Students can meet people from different walks of life and seek their advice.' SKH Tsang Shui Tim Secondary School has a mentorship programme that matches alumni with students to counsel them on careers, study techniques, communication skills and work experience, so that they can learn about the working world and be prepared to enter into society. 'Our roles are different from teachers. We approach them as a friend. Students are more willing to open up to us and listen to our advice. As we have similar education backgrounds we can communicate more easily,' Mr Leung said. Fan Leung Lai-ha, advisory teacher at SKH Bishop Mok Sau Tseng Secondary School Alumni Association, said graduation did not have to mean the end of school. 'The school is always here, we always welcome graduates who come back. We want to keep in touch with them not only because we need their financial support, but because we miss them. We see them grow up and we want to know how they are doing. Alumni are very important to keeping the tradition and culture of the school [alive].' Other than finding old graduates to join the Alumni Association, SKH Bishop Mok Sau Tseng Secondary School Alumni committee also recruits fresh graduates so they can bring in new ideas and energy to the committee and help organise activities that suit everyone. Iscars Li Chin-hung, who graduated this year, is one such recruit. He said he experienced a stronger bond with his secondary school after joining the Alumni Association committee six months ago. He is now the associate recreation manager. 'Since becoming a committee member I have a much stronger sense of belonging to the school. I no longer only take from the school, but I am now serving the school,' he said.