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The official blog of Alpha Chi Omega

Browsing category: Collegians, Collegiate Experience Volunteer Series, Global Service
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Unexpected Blessings

Morgan_blogBy Morgan Scheckel
Phi, University of Kansas

Today blessed us with our first day of service work and the Jamaican sunshine, which came with some lovely tan lines for some of us. We were able to help with different jobs, such as painting or scraping walls inside and out. My favorite part personally, however, was interacting with the children during their recesses. Even though the children had no clue who we all were, it didn’t matter to them, which I really enjoyed and appreciated. I also had the privilege of a few school girls braiding my hair. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, it was also terribly painful. But of course one of my sisters was there to hold my hand through it.

Looking back on today, I really realized how much we truly take for granted; even the slightest thing, such as a phone or even a simple playground, because these children don’t have either and they are completely content with what little they have. After today I feel blessed with my life back home in Kansas, and will truly and fully appreciate it because of the experiences I have been given this week. I can’t speak for everyone else right now, but I can say that this has been one of the most rewarding opportunities I have had the chance to be a part of through Alpha Chi Omega.

I thought I would be going into this trip with the intention of changing the lives of others, but after today I truly believe that this place along with the people are going to end up impacting mine in an even bigger way.

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The Joy in this Journey

CSGI_JuliaBy Julia Zagaja
Kappa Tau, University of Connecticut

I had been looking forward to the first day of serving in Jamaica since the moment I was chosen to participate in Alpha Chi Omega’s 2015 Global Service Initiative. I have always wanted to take part in a service trip, and I am so glad I was afforded this amazing opportunity. In the few days I’ve spent in Jamaica, so far, I can already tell that this trip will be one I never forget.

We arrived at Church Hill Primary School bright and early this morning, eager to begin our service project and meet the local school children. An elementary education major myself, ‘excited’ does not begin to describe how I felt leading up to our arrival at the school. We met the school principal, who welcomed us with open arms and thanked us in advance for our help and support. Next we entered two classrooms, where the students jumped up and greeted us in unison. At that point, the smile could not be wiped off my face, and I wanted to work as hard as I could to make a difference for these children.

The hard work began once we unpacked our tools and received different tasks to complete at the principal’s cottage, where our work will be focused for the next few days. I gladly volunteered to paint the exterior of the house and got right to work with a few of my sisters. One coat, two coats, three coats later and the difference we had made in one day became extremely apparent. Painting the house was a bonding experience in itself, and a great way to see what a lasting difference you can make in just one day.

My favorite part of the day, hands down, was playing with the school children during their recess time. The kids flooded out of the school as soon as the bell rang and were running up to me for hugs, piggy-back rides and the chance to braid my hair in no time. The hour I was able to spend with the children made my entire trip so far, and I look forward to going back to the site tomorrow and interacting with them again. Kids always have a way of lighting up my day, but these kids in particular inspire me through their appreciation and joy.

It was an absolute pleasure working in a community where any help received is appreciated so genuinely, and I cannot wait to see where the rest of this journey takes us.

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Jamaican Immersion

Maura, Maddie and Jaclyn at church today

Maura, Maddie and Jaclyn at church today

By Maura Illing
Zeta Upsilon, Case Western Reserve University

Today, our first full day in Jamaica, was full of immersion into the local culture. Our first stop of the day was to a church service. Unlike the typical Catholic mass I’m used to, this service lasts for 7 or 8 hours, although we only stayed for a little more than an hour. I was slightly apprehensive, at first, as to how the members of the church would react to us, especially since we came in after the service started and left before it ended. However, shortly after we were settled in our pews, the pastor gave the signal for offering peace to one another and members of the congregation made a conscious effort to come over and shake our hands, offer their peace and welcome us into their community. This small gesture really made me feel welcome and less like an outsider intruding on a religious service. The rest of the service was filled with singing, clapping and praising. It was empowering to witness so much positive energy in such a small room. I could tell that these people were completely dedicated to their faith and to their community and I was grateful to have been a part of it, even if only for a short time.

Day 2_025After church and lunch, we headed out on a glass bottom boat ride. Although it started out pretty rainy, by the time we got to our destination where we could swim and snorkel, the rain had let up and the sun came out. While stopped, we were able to swim into a cave, use snorkels to explore the water beneath us and just float in the water for a while. I really enjoyed this experience; not only because it was a unique opportunity to swim into a cave and see bats flying everywhere but also because it meant more bonding time with everyone on the trip! The boat ride back was full of singing and dancing and everyone was in good spirits.

Day 2_034Today’s activities were a great way to become more familiar with the Jamaican culture and get to know all the Alpha Chi’s on the trip. We ended the night with traditional Jamaican wish lanterns, which we lit and released over the ocean while making a wish. After my extremely positive experience today, I know my wish for how the rest of the week will go will come true. I can’t wait to start working on a local school tomorrow and forming even stronger bonds with everyone on the trip.

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Together in the Bond

Day 2_019

Lunch at Sweet Spice

By MacKenzie Miller
Delta Omicron, Portland State University

Getting to Jamaica yesterday seemed almost unreal. I have traveled abroad before, but never have I boarded a plane to a foreign country completely alone before. I sighed with relief as I got off the plane in Jamaica alongside five of my other sisters. Even though I had never met these women before, we share a special connection that made walking with them feel like walking with friends I had known for a lifetime!

After spending last night getting to know each other a little better, we spent today getting to know Jamaica. We spent the first part of the day in a church near where we are staying, and that was an incredible experience. So many people were gathered there to devote the entire day to worshiping God and receiving His love. It was an incredible experience that I won’t soon forget. It is things like that, spending even an hour or two in church with people who are so willing to give their worries and struggles over to someone or something else that make me so anxious to spend the next week with my sisters. We will probably struggle with some things at the work site, but I know that I have 17 other women here who I can give those struggles to and know that they will be there with open arms and open hearts to help me face them with grace.012

That is what I love most about Alpha Chi Omega. This organization is full of women who will reach out to you when you need help, lift you up when you fall and be there to bask in the glory of the world when you just want to take a moment to take it all in. I can’t wait to start on this work with these women tomorrow and see what amazing things we can accomplish when we put all of our heads, and our hearts, together.

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Service, Sisterhood and Sunshine

Yemc2By Madison Yemc; Delta, Allegheny College

Physics, snow and cold weather. These things aren’t an unusual combination when you go to Allegheny College, a small liberal arts college in Northwestern Pennsylvania. In an attempt to distract myself from a tough problem on collisions, I pulled out my phone and checked my email. As the feed refreshed I saw I received a message from Alpha Chi Omega headquarters.

“Oh my gosh,” I exclaimed, as I opened the email! I sat in disbelief, excitement and utter happiness as I read the email explaining that I was chosen to take part in Alpha Chi Omega’s Global Service Initiative to Jamaica. My physics lab partners exchanged confused glances with one another as I continued to freak out for another five minutes or so. May 16th, the day we will depart for Jamaica, couldn’t come soon enough!

From the moment I received my acceptance to AXO’s Global Service Initiative, I have been waiting for the day I leave for Jamaica with great anticipation. Now, the trip is just a couple of days away and I couldn’t be happier that I applied!

One of the main reasons I decided to apply is the wonderful opportunity to do service and help others. Service has been important to me since high school. Then, I volunteered at a hospital one summer, completed service projects with National Honor Society and taught a child with autism through a program at my local church. In college, I feared that I wouldn’t be able to balance my course load while taking on other responsibilities such as volunteering. But after I joined Alpha Chi Omega, and volunteered more frequently with my sisters, I realized that it was still something I loved and wanted to continue doing.

Over the past year, I have become more involved in the Meadville community. I helped out at Make a Difference Day, Service Saturday and Women’s Services. Each of these opportunities gave me a chance to give back in some way to the community and to help to those who needed it the most. Although volunteering, itself, was a satisfying experience, lending a helping hand with my sisters made the experience more memorable and worthwhile. I can’t wait to put in some hard work with my sisters from across the nation and see the tasks that we can accomplish as a team! I am also excited to meet all of the sisters with whom I have been interacting before the trip. They all seem like wonderful women, and I can’t wait to bond with them!Yemc1

Another reason I applied is because I wanted to make the most of my time as an Alpha Chi. I have received life-long friendships, a support system and love from Delta chapter at Allegheny College. So far, being a member of my chapter has been an honor and a privilege. It would mean so much to me to give back in whatever way I can. By taking part in the Global Service Initiative, I will gain another perspective on the world, and on volunteering, for that matter. I can share these new perspectives with the women in my chapter, with hopes that they too might be able to take-away something from my experience.

Finally, I am also so excited to experience what Jamaica has to offer! Within the first few days of the trip we will rehabilitate a principal’s cottage and then, in the days to follow, we will paint and do other small jobs at a school. I can’t wait to interact with the students there and give them the school supplies I collected before the trip. I think it will be interesting to see what schooling is like for them because I feel that I too often take my own education for granted. Also, I am eager to learn more about the Jamaican culture. Due to the fact that Jamaica gained its independence only 52 years ago, it will be neat to compare and contrast American culture to their own.

This trip is going to be a once in a lifetime, unforgettable opportunity for sure, and I am very grateful to be chosen as a participant in the 2015 Alpha Chi Omega Global Service Initiative. I cannot wait to delve into the adventures of the trip, take away what I can and most importantly help others!

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Swimming Outside the Box

GSI_VivianNeilleyBy Vivian Neilley; Theta Lambda, Clemson University

When I found out I had been selected for the 2015 Collegiate Global Service Initiative trip, I could not believe it. I’m not just using that cliché, I honestly didn’t; in fact, I started screaming when I found out. On the bus. How on earth did they choose the small town girl whose application consisted mainly of an in-depth comparison of herself to Amy Pohler? Then I thought: this is why I love Alpha Chi Omega. They chose the girl who went outside of the box. We were all selected so that we can make a difference somewhere, outside of the “box,” or our comfort zone, in uncharted waters. Now Alpha Chi is blessing me with another opportunity to venture outside of the box – and out of the country – beyond the borders of sweet, safe America. I, along with 17 of my sisters, will be travelling out to make waves in Jamaica.

This will not be the first service trip I have attended; however, it will be the first one on which I can truly reflect, now that I am old enough to do so.

In the upcoming weeks, you will read about my sisters’ and soon-to-be friends’ blogs sharing our adventures and time in Jamaica. I hope that by reading this, and future blogs, you are inspired. We aren’t just on this trip to help people, we are here to advocate for change, to inspire. We want to advocate for others to step outside their comfort zone, where the real difference is made. You could say we are the marketers for our sisters and people across the globe to provide services just as great, if not greater, than the work we will do here.

I just recently finished Amy Pohler’s book – probably the inspiration behind my application – and found this idiom: “She didn’t make the mistake that most of us make, which is to close our eyes and hope the waves will go away or miss us or hit someone else. She dove in, headfirst.” That is what we are doing, diving in headfirst.

And I’ve never been more ready to swim.

Inspired by http://www.unexpected.org/2013/05/10-things-you-need-to-know-before-going-on-a-mission-trip/
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The Perfect Fit

Alaina_CardwellBy Alaina Cardwell
(Epsilon Lambda, University of Texas – Arlington)

In the midst of midterms or finals you may not think that college is moving by very quickly. But ask almost every senior right now and they would say those 4 or 5 years went by quickly.  By the first half of senior year you are in denial that graduation is getting closer. By second semester, there is an unusual amount of anxiety to find a job. The best way to understand the job searching process is through formal recruitment we know all too well. And this time you are the PNM again.

The ICS or college recruiter profile you created that contained your grades, your high school information, extracurricular activities and community service has now been replaced with your resume – the one-page resume where you squeeze your accomplishments, past areas of employment, and list of skills perfectly tailored to each company you are applying to. You have researched the different companies on their company website to gain more information. The Jack Rogers sandals and JCrew dresses are now getting replaced with moderately sized heels and a neutral colored pant or skirt suit.

The nerves and excitement that ran through you before the start of recruitment come back for the first set of interviews. Depending on the company, you may have a phone or Skype interview first.  These introductory interviews are similar to the first few rounds of recruitment. These types of interviews are critical, you must be able to sell yourself in a short amount of time and think on your feet. If you are on a phone interview, it is important to make sure you are smiling as you are answering questions and constantly change the pitch in your voice. Unlike Skype or an in-person interview, you can’t read the interviewer’s reaction. Experts often recommend dressing like you are going to an interview so you feel like you are ready.

Countless parties later preference round is here, the most important round of recruitment. After numerous interviews at several different companies, you have been asked to return for a final interview. It is now time to iron the suit and prepare questions to ask during recruitment. You rehearse certain questions-“Why do you want this position?” or “What are you passionate about?”  You arrive 15 minutes early and have a small purse and padfolio in hand. After the interview, you send out thank you emails and thank you cards for every person you talked to.

On Bid Day, you waited anxiously for the envelope with your name scrolled on it. Your phone rings or an email waits in your inbox notifying of your job offer. Maybe you do a happy dance or send a quick tweet out to your followers with a nice hashtag #employed #finally.  All the anxiety has finally gone away. You accept the offer and prepare for the first day of work.

Just like recruitment, the job application process is mutual selection. You intentionally chose the companies you apply to, and the company chooses the applicant it feels would be the best candidate for the position. There is a job that is perfect for every individual. In your search, remember all those leadership (and recruitment) lessons you’ve gained as an Alpha Chi Omega, and let them guide you to that perfect first job.

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Join Us to Support National Hazing Prevention Week

Real, strong women don't haze

National Hazing Prevention Week

Alpha Chi Omega’s Shared Commitment is a powerful message.  In it, we promise that as members of this organization we are committed to changing the conversation – changing how women think and act about the idea of sorority.  We promise to create a more positive reality for ourselves and others.  We promise to stand strong in the courage of our convictions, have confidence in our actions and purpose in our hearts.  These words are inspiring – and create a feeling motivation for all that read them.

Alpha Chi Omega also believes that the dignity of the individual is a basic element of civilized society.   There are many ways we can relate this message to membership in Alpha Chi Omega, but today – let’s think about it in relation to hazing.

When women become new members of Alpha Chi Omega – we have already declared that they meet our five membership standards (character, personal development, academic interest, leadership ability and financial responsibility); therefore, new members do not have to earn their right to membership.  Whew! That was so easy, right?

We promised to create a positive reality for them, how do we do that?

We let new members wear Alpha Chi Omega letters on campus starting on bid day.
We make sure the goal of new member lessons is not simply to memorize material, but to understand and be able to apply it.
We make certain we are creating a culture of chapter unity – and plan group activities for all members to build positive relationships.
We create a two-way communication system between the chapter and new members where a new member feels comfortable talking to any member of the chapter.
We ensure ritual initiation is the high point of the new member period.
We emphasize pride, acceptance and understanding as prime motivators – and encourage the emergence of self-respect and confidence.
We declare that the responsibility for the success of every member falls on each lifetime member.
We constantly ask ourselves what is the purpose of this activity and is their dignity in what we are doing.

We promised to stand strong in the courage of our convictions, have confidence in our actions and purpose in our hearts, how do we do that?

Standing up to your sisters, your chapter, and your Greek community to challenge the status quo and be an advocate for change is not always easy.  But it is possible.  It only takes one person – one person to understand that all people (members of Alpha Chi Omega or not) deserve respect.  It only takes one person to decide they want to create a safer, healthier environment for their sisters that promotes the core values upon which this organization was built.  It only takes one person to initiate change in a chapter.  Is that a hard position for you to be in? Yes.  Will you probably lose sisters/friends?  Yes.  Will you make a difference for future sisters, the reputation of your chapter and Alpha Chi Omega as a whole? Absolutely.

Alpha Chi Omega is changing the conversation.  We see hazing as a form of domestic violence.  We do not promote participation in any activity that is demeaning to the individual, does not promote a sense self-worth or a positive fraternity/sorority image and does not reflect the high standards, core values and ideals maintained by Alpha Chi Omega.

This week we invite all members to be a part of the conversation by promoting hazing awareness for National Hazing Prevention Week (NHPW).  See the News and Events section for more details.

Real, strong women don’t haze.

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Collegiate Experience Volunteers Series: Redefining Risk Management

Blog 6 (RM) - Pictureby Tori Trobak
(Alpha Lambda, University of Minnesota)

The following is the fifth in a series about Alpha Chi Omega’s Collegiate Experience Volunteer (CEV) Team. The purpose of these blogs is two-fold: to increase awareness of the work of the Collegiate Experience Team as well as recruit new members to our specialist teams. To request CEV support for a collegiate chapter, please visit the Resource Center at alphachiomega.org; if you are interested in serving as a specialist, please email Jennifer Crotty.

In the past, if someone had told me that someday I would be serving Alpha Chi Omega as risk management lead specialist, I would have smiled and politely thanked them, while in my head I would have been thinking…are you crazy?!  Policies, especially risk management policies, have never been my favorite thing to talk about…a funny statement coming from a former vice president chapter relations and standards.  Don’t get me wrong, I could do it, I just really didn’t want to because it was hard.  It was hard to explain to my peers why we had the policies we did in place and it was hard to educate my sisters on those policies.  Even as a chapter consultant for Alpha Chi Omega, I dreaded having to have those tough, risk management conversations.  I always felt that I couldn’t have a REAL conversation with chapter officers.  Being a recent college graduate and collegiate member myself, I knew the challenges collegiate chapter officers were facing with policy education and implementation.

Fast forward a few years, and I could not be happier in my current volunteer role as risk management lead specialist.  And I can confidently say…I LOVE RISK MANAGEMENT.  Now, some of you may be thinking I have lost it, but hear me out.  I love my volunteer role and risk management for two reasons.

First, those REAL conversations that I couldn’t have years ago…not the case anymore.  Over the past two years, Alpha Chi Omega has embarked on a journey to change the risk management conversation.  The organization recognized that there was a need for our members to have a fun, healthy and safe environment in order to develop into real, strong women.   In response to that need, Alpha Chi Omega has developed a risk management philosophy centered on two backstops.

What are the backstops?  The backstops are two simple questions our members can lean on in the event that they need further support when remembering the goals of risk management.

BACKSTOP 1:“My choices impact my sisters, so what choices do I have?”

This first backstop encourages our members to explore healthy decision making frameworks and to consider the choices they have in different situations—making the best choice that will reflect positively on one’s self, on their chapter and on the Fraternity as a whole.

BACKSTOP 2: “Where is the dignity in what we are doing?”

This second backstop follows Alpha Chi Omega’s statement on human dignity. It specifically indicates that as members of the organization we will engage in activities and behavior that reflect positively on the organization and fraternity/sorority life as well as promote self-worth and choose not to participate in activities that degrade individuals based on gender, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability or sexual orientation.

Thanks to the backstops that Alpha Chi Omega has developed, my team of risk management specialists can now have REAL conversations with students, advisors and alumnae.  We can assist chapter officers with educating their members in a realistic way and in a way that focuses on their well-being and safety.  We can coach advisors and alumnae on how to have some of those tough, yet REAL, conversations.  The backstops have, and will continue, to provide our members, both collegiate and alumna, with a fun, healthy and safe Alpha Chi Omega experience.

The second reason I cherish my volunteer role as risk management lead specialist is simply having the opportunity to work with a team of phenomenal women.  I am so blessed to have a team committed to changing the perception of risk management and the conversation.  Even though they have only been in their roles for a mere three months, we have already seen great success come from their work with our collegiate chapters across the country.  In addition to working with chapters, the team has also been working diligently on resources and programming that will assist our vice presidents risk management with chapter education, proper event planning, how to utilize their committee and much more!  And this September, Alpha Chi Omega will be participating in National Hazing Prevention Week.  A team of risk management specialists has been working on some exciting ways for all members to get involved so keep your eyes peeled for more information coming out soon!

See…I really am not that crazy for loving risk management.  I challenge, and encourage, all Alpha Chi Omegas to join me and my team in changing the conversation around risk management.  Who knows…in the end, you may end up loving risk management too.

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Collegiate Experience Volunteers Series: Reconnecting through Finance

Blog 5 - Pictureby Tamsin Davies
(Theta Psi, Columbia University)

The following is the fifth in a series about Alpha Chi Omega’s Collegiate Experience Volunteer (CEV) Team. The purpose of these blogs is two-fold: to increase awareness of the work of the Collegiate Experience Team as well as recruit new members to our specialist teams. To request CEV support for a collegiate chapter, please visit the Resource Center at alphachiomega.org; if you are interested in serving as a specialist, please email Jennifer Crotty.

Never in a million years did I think I needed to travel half way around the world to reconnect with Alpha Chi Omega.  However, that’s what happened.  In 2009, I decided to jump at a professional opportunity to transfer to Hong Kong for 6 months.  Moving from New York City to Hong Kong provided me my first opportunity to live and visit Asia.  I had the opportunity to visit countries and experience cultures completely different from home.

Through my experience living abroad, I realized that I missed the sisterhood I created in college through Alpha Chi Omega and I was eager to get back involved.  Lucky enough one day sitting in my inbox there was an email from Alpha Chi Omega introducing a new volunteer structure.

Even though I was excited to see the e-mail from Alpha Chi Omega, I was also wary.  As a collegian member of Theta Psi at Columbia University, my only leadership experience in Alpha Chi Omega was serving as our Panhellenic Executive Board member.  I was not 100% positive of the ways of Alpha Chi Omega.  However, I was fortunate enough that Alpha Chi Omega was looking for volunteers with a background in finance.   All my worries about not knowing all of the rules and policies had gone away, since numbers are my bread and butter.

I emailed Victoria Gigoux, Lead Finance Specialist, and indicated I was interested in being a finance specialist.  It took us a couple of days to coordinate an interview since there was a 14 hour time difference.  After speaking with her for about an hour, I knew even though I was probably the youngest person she interviewed, I was the right fit for the role. Lucky for me, I was selected!

As a finance specialist, I was able to learn about the financial workings of Alpha Chi Omega and many of its chapters.  I help chapters in New York, Connecticut, and Ohio with their annual budget and any issues finance issues they may have.  The opportunity allowed me to reconnect with my own chapter as the financial advisor.  After speaking with other financial specialists, I realized that it was normal for chapters to have an advisor for every executive board member.  I immediately wanted to reach out to other New York City alumnae to help provide Theta Psi a strong support system.  Little did I know, 2 and half years later, I have started my second year as Theta Psi’s chapter advisor and am lucky enough to be supported by a large advisory board.

Being a finance specialist allowed me to connect to the larger Alpha Chi Omega organization.  I have twice attended Leadership Academy with our collegians and other advisors and had the chance to connect with my sisters at the 2010 Convention.  These opportunities have allowed me to connect with my sisters across the country.  I now know wherever my professional career lands, I have an instant network of sisters available to help make me feel at home.  I look forward to seeing all of my sisters at Convention in St. Louis this summer for a chance reconnect to sisters I have met in the past and to make new connections!