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Fraternity Friday: David Yong (Phi Eta Kappa)

David Yong is a second-year civil engineering student from Sanford, ME, and currently serves as the Vice President of Phi Eta Kappa. Phi Eta Kappa is a fraternity unique to the University of Maine, founded in 1906, Phi Eta has chosen not to affiliate nationally in order to keep the tradition “close to home”. David says that “at any time there are only about 1,000 living brothers of Phi Eta, so meeting one is a very unique experience”. 

    Much like the fraternity he helps lead, David’s college experience is also unique as he is a first-generation college student. According to the nomination sent in by his fraternity, he is the child of Ecuadorian parents who came to the United States when he was ten years old. He admits that while he feels pressure to uphold standards set for him by his parents and himself, his goal is to be the best role model he can be for his younger brothers, aged eleven and four. As he is the first to attend college in his family, many of the experiences are new for everyone involved, and it has taught him a lot. 

    Phi Eta Kappa has a complicated history at the University of Maine- after being on and off campus for many years, the chapter was brought back last year with the help of David and ten other students. This has not come without immense challenges- from spending an entire weekend cleaning the house(after it was left in an unlivable condition) to regrowing a chapter, it has been a labor of love for all involved and has brought the brothers closer. The alumni own the house and give leasing opportunities to other fraternities and sororities for one-year periods. This means that at any time after these leasing periods end, a new class of Phi Etas can regain access to the house and move back in. 

Once the chapter was “re-colonized” at the university, the first eleven members of the new generation of Phi Eta Kappas were inducted by alumni members. This year, they also regained recognition by the Interfraternity Council (IFC) on campus. David says that being a brother of Phi Eta has given him a strong sense of community at college, and has provided him with some of his best friends. 

A moment that he takes immense pride in is the day they got their house back and began the work to restore it. As a member of the civil engineering program at the University of Maine, he was required to create a project on the ethics of engineering for a dinner held at Hilltop Dining Hall last year. He says learning about the ethics of engineering while studying engineering is incredibly important; many jobs leave little room for error, whether that be in equations, measurements, or materials. He and his group worked incredibly hard to create a presentation that demonstrated understanding and knowledge of this serious topic. This presentation to members of the School of Engineering faculty was another moment of pride for him.

This year, Phi Eta Kappa was the site of the first known cases of COVID-19 on campus. David says that this news came to brothers just two days before they were set to move in for the school year. However, the brothers were dedicated to turning this event around, and the few brothers living in the house completed their two-week quarantine period with negative tests. David told me that while brothers were allowed to move back in, the house was under a strict no guest policy, and this restriction has just recently been lifted from the house. 

While the fraternity does not have a set philanthropic organization they work with, they do most of their work bettering and improving the community. When David’s pledge class was initiated, they went to a catholic church in Millinocket, ME, and worked on cleaning trails that would be used by the town. They also work closely with the YMCA in Old Town, helping out whenever possible with basketball games and running events. Recently, they worked with Orono High School to clean the pools.

As David is a second-year student at UMaine, he doesn’t have a super clear look into what he would like to do once he leaves college as he understands that the future is uncertain. However, his biggest goal is to be happy with whatever he is doing and continue to work hard. He believes that with hard work there will always be opportunities and ways to improve in life.