I spoke with junior Kyle Anderson, president of Alpha Phi Omega fraternity recently. Here’s what he had to say:
Why did you choose to join APO?
Coming into my sophomore year, it was kind of a choice I was sort of leaning back and forth over the summer — actually APO wasn’t even a part of the picture — it was between Student Ambassadors and SafeRides and I was thinking, you know, I appreciate what they do for our campus and I love how they are able to serve our community in a special way, I just don’t know how much I really relate to their mission or how much I would fit into that idea. And so, it was kind of after I made the decision that I didn’t think I really fit into either of them, that I found out about APO and what they did for our community here on JMU’s campus and then also the greater Harrisonburg areas and so I fell quickly in love with what they were doing and like, what they were trying to accomplish and what they were trying to make available to students, which is just a variety of different service projects and leadership opportunities ‘cause I have seen OPAs, different MYMOM LCs … who have also been in APO and they’ve really flourished and so I thought, you know, if this is where people are going to learn and serve, then this is where I also want to be.
What is the mission of APO?
APO is founded off of three cardinal principles, which is: leadership, friendship and service and so we try and provide opportunities for all of our members to grow and participate in each of those three areas … So our mission is to sort of enhance and engage the lives of those in the organization and then also … enhance the lives of those we serve and so we’re hoping that that is accomplished through those three cardinal principles.
What’s the application process like?
If you were interested in rushing for APO — anyone on this campus is available to from freshman to senior — so, basically, you’ll come to one of our two smoker sessions at the beginning of our rush process. From there, you get a little bit of information and background about APO: what they do, who we are and how we’re tied to a larger, national organization and then from there, there are events — maybe two or three events every day — service projects, fellowship events that you would then attend and sort of get to know brothers more … We’re really hoping that the rushers share more about themselves, their service experiences, who they are, what their character is, so that we get a better idea of who they are and how they might fit into this organization. After two weeks of attending four fellowship events, one service project and then our philanthropy night — our advocacy night — they will then attend something called ‘Blue and Gold,’ which is like our final culminating event, kind of recapping the past two weeks and what it might have meant for them and what it means to us to have them come out. There they’ll receive their interview time for the next morning and then it’s a process of — I think it’s gone as long as 19 hours — where the entire brotherhood is in a room listening to these interviews one after another, where they just come in, talk a little bit about themselves, we give them a couple of questions and then it cycles on through until the very end, where we go back and discuss what we saw in potential brothers and what we’d like to see and then a period of voting occurs where we select our members.
How many people normally come out for APO rush?
In the past two years, we’ve had — with both of fall and spring rush — I think one of our largest semesters has been about 250 people coming out for rush and then I think this semester was a little bit smaller at about 125.
How many people do you normally accept in a pledge class?
It can vary from semester to semester, so far in the past two years that I’ve been a part of it, we’ve been averaging about 23 to 25.
How many total people are in APO?
We have, I believe registered, we have a hundred. We have about 95 members total. That’s including the 27 pledges that are currently in here and then also about 20 members who are either associated or inactive for various reasons — either academic or because of other scheduling conflicts.
How often do you meet?
Our chapter meetings for our fraternity are Wednesday nights and then there are committee meetings that … also meet either weekly or biweekly and then social or fellowship events that also occur throughout the week.
What made you want to be the president of APO?
I’m seeing that the composition or, like, the makeup of our organization is just individuals who want to make a change in their community, who want to contribute to the betterment of the environment around them and so I believe that is a great breeding ground for positive change and for influence and so I’m hopefully — the position I ran on is that everyone in this organization and everyone on this campus really, like, already has all the tools they need to make a change in their own lives and everyone else’s lives and it’s only tapping into those resources and making known that the change can actually occur. So, what I’m hoping to do through this position — or what I’m hoping to get out of it — is that I can show or convince people that they can change other lives that it’s good and positive and that they can also make a positive in others as well, whether through, service, through leadership positions or just being a good friend.
If someone was on the fence about rushing APO, what would you tell them to change their mind?
I came into APO not really having any experience in service at all, like, I was not a huge volunteer in high school or beforehand or outside of it in college, but I knew I wanted to learn and I wanted to sort of expose myself to, like, a greater world out there and so if you’re looking for new experiences, friends who want to have meaningful connections to not only each other, but also the world around them, if you are looking for a position of leadership that doesn’t entail a title, that still carries weight, that still has influence, I’d say APO is the perfect breeding ground for that where we can impact people just by the time you spend with them, showing them the effort of showing up and serving with them.
Overall, what do you want the readers of 22807 to know about APO?
I would say much of the service … or the volunteer hours or the time that our members give in APO doesn’t come through the fraternity, which I think is pretty incredible. So, we average about 200 hours of service a week through all of our members and so that comes out to be some huge amount at the end of the semester. Each active member is required 30 hours of community service. Typically, everyone goes well above and beyond that. We only count a certain number of outside of fraternity service hours and time and time again I have seen people who have gone and volunteered at a service project that we provide, whether it’s Ride with Pride — which is horseback riding for children with special needs — whether it’s Special Olympics — which is dealing with sports with adults with special needs — Skyline Literacy — which is where the citizenship courts for refugees and immigrants — whether it’s Stone Spring Elementary, which is where I’m placed with children in the classroom, everyone that seems to have had a special connection with these service projects often go on to make personal connections of their own in those areas and volunteer on their own outside of APO time, which I think is so incredible ‘cause these are people with some of the largest hearts who just wish to be a part of the community and wish to impact and make people know that they’re loved and cared for and that’s beautiful.
Photo by: Amanda Harner