Service fraternity provides more than service to brother

Friendship, leadership complement volunteer activities

Pledging the national co-ed service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, has been one of the best decisions I’ve made during my time at Rensselaer. Now celebrating one year as a brother, I realize that joining the brotherhood has not only allowed me to fulfill my desire to volunteer in the community during college, but to also develop my previously underdeveloped social skills that had followed me from high school into my freshman year at RPI.

When I joined APO last spring, I joined for service. Although the service organization, Circle K, which I joined my first semester, provided diverse and frequent service opportunities, something was missing, and when I heard about APO, nothing sounded more appealing to me than a fraternity whose primary objective is to serve chapter, campus, community, and country. What I realize now is that what lured me to APO was not, in fact, service; it was family.

I came into college never expecting to join a fraternity. I had a negative conception of fraternities entering college, which was only further confirmed when I engaged in Greek Rush as a freshman. But what distinguished APO from the other fraternities is that APO champions three cardinal principles which govern all aspects of the brotherhood: leadership, friendship, and service. This was an immediate draw, because it sounded complete to me, reminding me of the family I had traveled 2,500 miles away from that past summer. I decided to throw caution to the wind, and, on Friday, February 19, 2016, I accepted a bid to pledge.

Initially, pledging was somewhat intimidating; that is, it was intimidating until the date of the Big Brother Little Brother Ceremony. A turning point in my pledging semester, I learned two weeks into the pledging process that my big would be Olivia King ’18. Whenever I needed advice on pledging, help with my pledging requirements, or just someone to talk to about anything, Olivia always found the time to listen. Her receptive attitude comforted me in the toughest of times. To this day, I have a great relationship with my big that I trust will endure for decades to come. In fact, it was the first friendship I gained that I am confident will last a lifetime.

On Saturday, April 30, 14 pledges were initiated as brothers. In spite of my nerves suggesting the contrary, I learned that I was one of them, and I couldn’t have been happier. The brotherhood has since come to accept each of us as equals to them, and many of us have accomplished great things since that fated day. APO turned out to be everything I expected, and more.

In my time affiliated with APO, I have made many new friends, gained new leadership skills as a chapter officer, and volunteered more than I had ever expected to in college. Elected service vice president last semester, I have been able to combine all three principles into my APO experience, planning acts of service both on and off campus, leading a service event planning committee, and gaining friends by helping pledges plan events for their requirements and working closely with the members on my committee to ensure our service program is diverse and overflowing with opportunities in a variety of areas.

APO has required a great deal of attention outside of classwork, but never have I minded giving it the attention it needs. It has done so much for me. The only option in my mind is to make it as wonderful of an experience for others as it was for me.