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Students Find More Than Service Opportunities with APO

Joint ESF-SU fraternity offers chance to build connections

Megan Barrow ​and her

When ESF junior Deena Lucas decided to join Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity, she had no idea what she was getting herself into.

She said she decided to pledge during the spring 2013 semester because she had heard that the organization, a co-ed non-PanHellenic fraternity open to both ESF and Syracuse University students, offered opportunities to serve the community and make friends.

But APO has had a much deeper impact on her life than she ever expected, she said.

"Through APO, I have found a group of friends that go to both SU and ESF and really understand me," said Lucas, an environmental education and interpretation major. "They are also reliable, have many of the same interests as me, and are genuinely good people."

Many other ESF students say they join APO to do more community service and develop their leadership skills, since the organization's cardinal principles are leadership, friendship and service.

Every Sunday at 4:30 p.m., members gather in the lecture hall on the main floor of the Syracuse University Life Sciences Building to discuss the week's coming activities, which often include not just community service projects, but also opportunities to get to know other APO members better. Called Fellowships, these events can range from a gathering of members and pledges who meet for bubble tea on Marshall Street to weekend retreats.

"It really opens you up to some unique opportunities," said environmental science major Megan Barrow, a junior. She said skydiving was one of the most daring activities members had organized. Some of her favorite community service activities have included caring for rehabilitated horses and passing out candy to young trick-or-treaters at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.

She added that she enjoys opportunities for APO members from Syracuse University and ESF to attend events with students from APO chapters at other schools. Barrow attended a bi-sectional conference in Binghamton in November. Sectionals are multi-day events in which many APO chapters from various universities in a region interact and share plans to improve their respective organizations.

Although many ESF students find APO to be a lot of fun, time management is a challenge for many, considering the requirements for staying active in APO include 28 hours of community service and a "leadership role."

Barrow's "big" (APO's term for mentor), Armando Villa-Ignacio, said keeping up with all of the requirements of APO can be a challenge but it is manageable for those who know how to organize.

"I write everything out and put it in my computer," said Villa-Ignacio, a senior majoring in conservation biology. Although he was working two part-time jobs and taking 17 credits when he pledged APO, Ignacio said he did not find it too challenging to keep up with everything.

"I am the type of person who thrives being busy," he said.

Autumn Elniski also said she likes staying busy with APO. She recently hosted a fellowship that involved a Zumba class. She added that she also likes planning events for her current "little," who is a "perfect match."

"I like that you get to meet such a wide variety of people," said the fifth-year paper engineering major.

Junior Jon-Eric Miller's executive position within APO as vice president of rush and retention is to try and select people for APO who seem like they will get along well; especially with their chosen "bigs."

"You have to be prepared for some people to be unhappy no matter what you do," said Miller, a chemistry major. "But I loved seeing all the potential pledges and I can't wait to see how they all turn out as brothers."

Audrey Byrd, the position supervisor and shift leader with the Rescue Mission of Syracuse food services, said she hopes that there are more APO brothers as dedicated to service as the current volunteers. Many current APO members come to the Rescue Mission at 6:30 a.m. to help prepare and serve breakfast to members of a homeless shelter in downtown Syracuse.

"Our volunteers are a godsend," Byrd says. "Without them, sometimes I don't see how we could make it."

- By Shannon Hazlitt, SU '14