On March 24, RPI fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa, held a press conference announcing a $50,000 micro-grant program for the Mount Ida community. The Mt. Ida community is considered the area located from Congress Street up to Bleeker Avenue, then down College Avenue. The new micro-grant program will allow for ten applicants to be chosen each year and each can be awarded up to $1,000. The programs efforts hope to raise the quality of the community of Mt. Ida.
On Friday, April 4, I was given the opportunity to sit down with Phi Sigma Kappa chapter President Jonathan Fine. One of the first questions that I asked Fine was, “Why did you pick Mt. Ida, and what is special about this area?” He explained to me that “Mt. Ida is our community and that the program is aimed to inhance our community. The micro-grant program will be able to go very far in allowing for the community around us to improve.”
I inquired why Phi Sigma Kappa decided to start the micro-grant program. He stated, “When we bought Iona [Phi Sigma Kappa’s house] on Congress Street, there was a lot of backlash from the community at the time, expressing concerns about a fraternity buying a church. So, in buying the property we promised to help develop the community around us. This is our implementation of that promise that we made back in 2011.”
Then, I asked Fine to elaborate on the exact steps that went into the creation of this micro-grant program. He said, “The process began last summer when the Alumni Board and current chapter members came together to begin discussing what would be accomplished in the upcoming year. Our alumni association is putting up the $50,000 to start the micro-grant program. Then, early on in the process, two very prominent community members had told [the current chapter members] that they would help implement the micro-grant program into the community. The idea from the beginning has always been that we want to do a micro-grant program.”
Fine was asked why Phi Sigma Kappa decided to implement a micro-grant program, as opposed to utilizing another method in order to help the surrounding community. He responded by saying, “It’s what would benefit the community around us the best. Prospect Park has a lot of supporters; a lot of people go there to help out. So, we feel that a micro-grant program was the best way to help as many people as we could, hence a micro-grant, instead of a $10,000 grant.”
I followed-up by asking him about the application process and what they were expecting in terms of the number of applicants. He stated that the application “is just a form that can be downloaded online through [Phi Sigma Kappa’s] website.” He went on to say that the fraternity has made a board to review the applications. The board will consist of active brothers, members of the Alumni Association, and active community members.
Fine finished the interview by telling me that the amount of money that they have to offer has gone from $50,000 to $70,000, due to an influx of recent donations. He went on to say how the fraternity has had to overcome some obstacles in order to complete this micro-grant, stating the many difficulties that come with giving away “free money.” Fine and Phi Sigma Kappa are looking for the micro-grant program to be a never-ending program, and are hoping that it can be a step in the right direction to improve the Mt. Ida community.