In the fall of 2009, I started up at Geneseo. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up (I still don’t), and I certainly didn’t know how I wanted to get involved on campus…or, that I wanted to at all. I decided to run for the president of Jones Hall Council, and won, even put up against the guy who was a social charmer, and the girl with a big personality and good cookies. I made balloon animals. I’m still not sure if that’s what got me the victory.
In any case, I was “in” something. My first real group that I was a part of on campus. It created my first friendships, some that I still have today. Mindblowing.
I don’t remember where I was, or how I first heard of “Alpha Phi Omega” that semester, but I do remember heading to a required informational meeting about it. I was with two other freshmen from my residence hall, and I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I was just curious for ways to get more involved on campus, and this seemed cool. All I knew was “community service” and “anyone can join” which contradicted Geneseo’s policy of not being able to pledge a greek organization until 2nd semester freshman year. I quickly learned that Alpha Phi Omega wasn’t like the other greek organizations on campus.
I distinctly remember reading the requirements of members and pledges and thinking, “wow, this is cool. People who actually want to volunteer more than just once.” My high school experience in National Honor Society showed me types of volunteerism around my hometown, and so I figured I would keep it up. Even though I was taking on some awesome responsibility as the president of hall council, I continued through the process with Alpha Phi Omega.
In Geneseo’s chapter, at the time, after you attended an informational meeting, you could sign up for an “interview,” which was just a way for some members to get to know you (and for other reasons, I learned later). I was assured by the leader of the meeting that nothing was a forced commitment, but to sign up for an interview if I’m a little interested – I could always cancel. “What’s the hurt?” I remember thinking. If I thought it was too much, I would wait until next semester to give it a try.
Suddenly I was whisked away into the organization. I had gone to my interview, and after it was over I was given a slip of paper telling me where to be that weekend and when, no details other than “wear business casual.” I had no idea that I had taken the first steps into being a member of Alpha Phi Omega; it didn’t hit me until after I met my “big,” “family,” “twin…” I was lost but excited.
If I recounted 8 semesters, 4 years, worth of memories, friendships, and headaches with Alpha Phi Omega, this blog post would be unbearable to read. Fate pushed me into Alpha Phi Omega (and a little bit of ignorance), but never once did I regret it. My closest friends in college were from the organization, and it shaped my four years at Geneseo beyond ways I probably even realize. I was given the chance to volunteer in an incredible number of ways for causes and concerns I didn’t even know existed. I met a network of people on my campus and across New York who shared these ideals. I even met someone in Israel who was from a neighboring in chapter, because I happened to be wearing a shirt with letters on it that day.
I can’t say that I left college with the same warm fuzzies about Alpha Phi Omega as I did when I was a freshman, of course, because I was the grumpy “senior,” who was too close to the organization and let all the personal drama get in the way of why I stuck around in the first place. I crossed the stage wearing cords representing hours of service (counted and uncounted), friendships built, dedication to the organization, and really what shaped my entire Geneseo career, and then I said goodbye to it. All at once.
It wasn’t until much later that I was introduced to the opportunity of being involved in Alpha Phi Omega past graduation. It was something I considered when I was a student, but by the time I had graduated, I let my career and new situation take the forefront, forgetting about ways to give back to my community. Through an interesting twist of events, I met alumni in Albany, and was then introduced to all the options available to me as an alumni, helping out the organization that was a part of my own college career.
Why do I volunteer? I do it because I want to. It puts me in new situations, new places, and meeting new people. It’s selfish, really, that I want to volunteer because I want those experiences. I want to meet others that work towards causes that are also important to me, I want to see what the world outside my own is like, I want to paint a house or work at a food pantry or teach children new skills. I want to have these experiences, and hopefully, inspire those around me to do the same.
And now, I get to come back to the organization that shaped me and work alongside students who are going through those same experiences. I have the chance to build connections with these future volunteers, and volunteer alongside them. I couldn’t be more thankful for that opportunity!