Leadership, friendship, and service. Those are the three pillars of a well functioning community in the eyes of the brothers of Alpha Phi Omega, the co-ed service fraternity on campus. In 2013, the DU campus became home to the Alpha Eta Iota chapter of APO and its members have fostered a community of acceptance and support ever since. During the recruitment process the only truly important question that the members ask newcomers over and over again is, “Do you like community service?” According to junior Sydney Donati-Leach, that is the one and only standard for joining APO, because everyone will be welcomed into this colorful family as long as he or she has the drive to help others.
In spite of being a rising senior double majoring in Economics and Public Policy who also holds numerous leadership positions within Alpha Delta Chi, Sydney has continuously become more involved in APO since the moment she stepped foot on campus. Her APO journey began at a retail store talking to an animated, enthusiastic chartering member of the fraternity who was blubbering on about the amazing feeling the organization creates and her passion for its mission. She gave Sydney a name to look out for at her freshman year Pioneer carnival, and as coincidence might have it the guy actually approached her with the age old question, “Do you like community service.” Moments later Sydney had made her first APO bond, “I turned around to face the guy and said yes, then he told me about a community service fraternity, and within seconds I was freaking out and shouting, “Are you Michael Moore?!” This was the exact person she told me to find, and I still love thinking about how crazy I was to meet the president I would have for the next two years.”
Throughout the past three years Sydney has held various leadership positions within the chapter ranging from pledge master to vice president of leadership, and now she is in the running to become the president upon the commencement of her senior year at DU. If she is elected, APO is sure to continue thriving on campus through Sydney’s vision of passion for the organization. Her goal is not to up the short-term recruitment numbers to gain more members on paper, but rather to foster a love for the organization within every member and making each brother proud to be in APO, “if we focus on our own passion, the numbers will come. People are passionate about what other people are passionate about, and I have no doubt that new members will recognize that in our atmosphere, spirit, and overall attitude.”
Community service is at the core of Alpha Phi Omega, and even as an economics major (don’t tell your professors, Syd!) she believes service to be of utmost importance, “When we rake leaves for senior citizens, the looks on their faces of pure gratefulness is enough payment for me. When we deliver food to the homeless in Denver, either through PB&Js or leftover Broncos game food, I feel powerful in a way because I am able to make such a big difference in someone’s life.” It is the joy of feeling like your work is of value to the community and the knowledge that you are making a positive difference in someone’s life that makes the brothers of APO so community service crazy.
Even so service is not the end all be all of the organization, and that is what makes it unique. There are community service groups all over campus, but APO is distinctive, because it harbors two other values as well: the development of leadership, and the fostering of friendships. The DU chapter atmosphere is one of comradery and community, “We are rowdy and loud and joke with each other all the time and it’s so much fun to go to chapter meetings or service events and know that I’m going to be laughing at one point.” The feeling of belonging and being included can be a rarity at college as a freshman, but becoming a member of APO can create a safe haven of acceptance and a place to be yourself.
The bonds created through APO are not just there for four years and they are not limited to just one campus, but they extend into the work life and beyond. The organization has more than 400,000 members on over 375 campuses in three different countries and it is steadily growing in size. Employers all over the nation have heard of Alpha Phi Omega and condone its values. Sydney was fortunate enough to even gain an internship because her interviewer was a member of APO and knew of the mission. The bonds created within the fraternity are great connections, and the leadership skills learned are excellent resume additives. On top of all that recruitment is so simple and open to everyone. If you want to hear more about it, or meet the dazzling Sydney in person come out to May Days on May 22nd and talk to the brothers of APO about how you can become part of the quirky and loving APO family!