April 2, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: Giving Back

Take a moment to think of the progress American women have made over the past 150+ years. Education. Basic rights. Independence. Leadership. It’s overwhelming, not to mention humbling. During the month of March in particular, Alpha Phis everywhere remember the efforts made on behalf of women and look for opportunities to continue moving forward by giving back, following in the footsteps of one of our most influential members—and first alumnae initiate—Frances E. Willard.

Service isn’t about fulfilling a specific number of hours or showing up to a service event because it’s mandatory and you might “lose points” if you don’t. In its purest form, service is recognizing a need and doing your utmost to meet it, while encouraging others to do the same. Some of these needs are clear, while others are less so, requiring you to step outside the realm of your own experiences in order to arrive at a deeper level of understanding and compassion.

This past March, in honor of Frances E. Willard Day of Service and Women’s History Month, the Theta Psi chapter at SUNY/Plattsburgh gathered together in support of STOP Domestic Violence, a regional organization offering shelter, counseling, crisis intervention and education on abusive relationships and family environments. Setting up tables in the campus center, we were able to raise awareness for this organization. Through support of our campus and sisters we delivered much needed toiletry items and a donation to a local shelter. STOP Domestic Violence presented a clear need in our community, which, in some small tangible way, we were able to help meet.

But in our chapter, service goes beyond donating time, money or items. “Giving back” means being brave enough to entrust a piece of ourselves to something we believe in. Sometimes communities are most impacted by individuals uniting for change—aligning for a cause—especially when it’s challenging or controversial, as Frances herself demonstrated through an unwavering dedication to the suffrage and temperance movements.

This month, the Theta Psi chapter proudly stood by a movement to end bullying—not just in elementary schools, middle schools and high schools, but on college campuses as well. SUNY/Plattsburgh student Kasaydia Carter-Martinez, a TV/Video Production major, founded an anti-bullying campaign called “No More Empty Beds,” a public service video which includes more than 30 SUNY/Plattsburgh clubs and organizations demanding an end to this problem. She aims for the video to be distributed as a tool for change in public schools throughout the North Country.

Support, comfort and alleviating suffering—in whatever form it might take—are key elements of service. We have all encountered a need for these elements in our own lives, and can understand their power on a personal level. Our Vice President of Campus Affairs, Maria Peerenboom, summarizes service as the following: “We are helping to better the community we live in, but we are also bettering ourselves. You never know what kind of impact you are making in others’ lives and in the community when you give back—and no task is too small to make a difference.” 

Service means taking steps to show someone she is not alone—that where there is compassion there is unity, and where there is unity there is hope. And hope is essential to progress.

Alina Walentowicz is a collegiate member at SUNY/Plattsburgh (Theta Psi). Learn more about Alina by clicking here.

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