Guest Blog by Noelle Hobbs
How Greek Life Can Help Students Understand Philanthropy
Greek Life as we know it today first began when a man was refused admission into a literary society, so as a Greek scholar, he began a society of his own, using Greek letters to name it: Phi Beta Kappa. In a similar fashion, in 1851 the first secret society for women was founded, named The Adelphean Society, which promoted the “the mental, moral, social, and domestic improvement of its members.” Lastly, multicultural sororities and fraternities were born to ensure the success of minorities, such as African American sororities, entering colleges and universities and seeked to provide a “cultural blend of the American culture and the need to celebrate and embrace such differences.”
Each group felt a sense of exclusion, so they decided to create a group where people like them would feel welcomed and could be proud of their differences. They established values for their members to live out and focused on scholarship, service, leadership, and friendship.
The Importance of Philanthropy in Greek Life
Each sorority and fraternity has an international and/or local philanthropy they support through donating money or directly volunteering. Instead of each organization trying to support all nonprofit organizations, the organization focuses on one or a few to support. A national philanthropy is something that all of the organization’s chapters support, whereas a local philanthropy is specific to a nonprofit that is in the area of that chapter, allowing them to create strong relationships within the community.
Some organizations may have a national event that each of its chapters completes in, for instance, all Alpha Omicron Pi chapters participate in the Strike Out Arthritis event for the Arthritis Foundation. However, each chapter may customize this event to best fit the needs of the community. For local philanthropies, each organization may create an event, like a dodgeball tournament or taco dinner, where all ticket proceeds go to their focus philanthropy. Many chapters even have Philanthropy and/or Service chairs on their executive boards who plan these events or find other service opportunities within the community for the chapter to participate in.
Big Idea: How Greek Life Members can Connect to Younger Students
Greek Life members provide a resource for incorporating Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in the classroom through character development, modeling and mentorship. As these sorority and fraternity members are attending a college or university, they can provide insight on their personal experiences, academic knowledge, and how joining a fraternity or sorority has had a positive impact on the communities they participate in as part of their daily life.
Activities for Elementary School Students
Philanthropy is a word that may be unknown to many students. Teach students the meaning of philanthropy and have Greek Life members share what philanthropy means to them and the philanthropies their Greek organization supports.
Have Greek Life members volunteer in your class and pair up with a student and read to/with them. Afterwards, students can do a service-learning project like carrying out a book drive to benefit children in their community.
Being in a sorority or fraternity is all about working with others who may be different than you. Have a member or members read the book The Seven Chinese Brothers to students to help build understanding of personal strengths and cooperative work. Members can share their personal experiences after the reading and students can share their experiences as well.
Have students research local nonprofits, or use the sorority’s or fraternity’s nonprofit, and create a poster raising awareness of the nonprofit or organize a service-project to volunteer directly with them.
Activities for Middle School Students
Sorority and fraternity members make many lasting friendships through their organizations, but making friends isn’t always easy. The Greek Life members can talk about their own experiences with making friends and tips for connecting with other students.
Have students brainstorm and write down what words define them and their skills. Then, invite e-board members of the sorority or fraternity to speak about the positions that they currently hold and the characteristics and qualifications that they need to hold that position. Students can brainstorm what positions they would run for if they were in that sorority or fraternity, based on their skills and personality.
Identify each student’s passion using the Map Your Heartbreak activity, and pair the students with members of the sorority or fraternity who shares a similar passion and work together to create solutions for problems in the world.
Each sorority and fraternity have group values as an organization, and each member has personal values. Have members explain what their values are and help younger students to create a list of their own personal values. They can create a collage with magazine images that represent these values or write a short reflective essay.
Activities for High School Students
With college on the mind of many high school students, give Greek Life members the chance talk about the college they currently attend, the opportunities it provides through clubs, what it is like to join a sorority/fraternity, and volunteer opportunities that are available in that college’s community. This can help introduce new colleges and activities that students have not previously considered and they can ask questions (something very important as students consider life after high school).
Invite members of Greek Life who are pursuing various majors at their college or university. Have each member set up a table with their name, major and any minors they may have, and have students go from table to table, asking questions and taking notes on possible fields they might want to study.
Many sororities and fraternities have “big sisters” or “big brothers” who act as a mentor to younger members as they navigate through Greek Life and through college. Ask local sorority and fraternity members if they would be interested in a similar mentorship or tutoring program for high school students.
Organizing Greek Life Connections
To get started creating these connections, research local colleges and universities to see what sororities and fraternities are in your area. Your students (middle school and high school especially) can do this work! Most organizations can be found through a simple search on the college or university’s website and provide contact information. Each organization’s philanthropies should be provided, but if not, search the sorority and it will be stated on their national website. If you need help choosing an organization to contact, try asking what students care about and choose a sorority or fraternity based on the philanthropy that sorority or fraternity cares about.
Sororities and fraternities provide a powerful resource for younger students. Both have organizational goals of giving back to the community and being an active participant in community. By partnering with these organizations, you will be able to help create a stronger community where students are both learners and givers. Through exploring the concepts of philanthropy, leadership, friendship, and scholarship, classroom and community connections will help prepare students to make a positive difference in the world.