Student Org Spotlight: Alpha Phi Omega dedicates itself to serving the community

finding intersectionality together

Anh Nguyen | Associate Artist

Alpha Phi Omega, founded on the core values of friendship, leadership and service, is a nationally recognized fraternity dedicated to community engagement. APO’s chapter at Tulane was established in 2007 and has since maintained its commitment to addressing the needs of community members in the New Orleans area.

According to APO President Meghen Boyer, one of the greatest benefits of being a member is the ability to help out people in the community that cannot address their needs on their own.

“For me, I get to go out on a Saturday and volunteer my time to those who cannot give up their time,” Boyer said.

Sophomore Sarah Gerstel, pledge master of APO, is in charge of educating new members about the fraternity’s traditions to help them become better adjusted to the program. For Gerstel, one of the greatest benefits of APO is that it allows her to stay more connected to the community outside of Tulane.

alpha phi omega
Courtesy of Sarah Gerstel
Students volunteer making cards.

“One of the biggest things for me is breaking out of the Tulane bubble because I feel like I frequently spend a lot of time on campus, and it’s hard to break out of that,” Gerstel said. “This is a really good way to actually get to know locals from New Orleans and support causes that they care about.”

APO facilitates community service opportunities through the many partnerships it has with service organizations throughout the city. Gerstel and Boyer said they believe that one of the greatest advantages of having these partnerships is that they allow for students to have easier access to community service opportunities.

“For APO, we already reached out to those partners, and we have consistent partners,” Boyer said. “Sometimes they reach out to us, and it’s so easy to sign up for the events.”

Some of APO’s partnerships include the Villalobos Rescue Center, Animal Rescue New Orleans, Habitat for Humanity and Youth Rebuilding New Orleans. Members of APO have the opportunity to sign up for service events conducted by each of these different organizations. For Boyer, the Villalobos dog walking especially stands out because APO members are able to give the dogs exercise they would otherwise not have.

Being a core value of the fraternity, leadership serves as a guiding principle for members of APO. Gerstel believes that having a variety of community service opportunities can be a powerful way to cultivate leadership skills.

“Everyone has an opportunity to take on leadership because when you’re doing a community service project, there’s room for everyone to step up and do something good,” Gerstel said. “No matter if you have a position or are a general member, everyone has the opportunity to cultivate their leadership skills.”

APO’s organized activities are not solely limited to community service. The fraternity also conducts bonding events, such as retreats to Audobon Park, pool parties and s’mores over a campfire. However, APO seeks to organize more bonding events in order to make its members more cohesive.

“We do a lot of community service, but we want to become more close-knit as a chapter since we all pretty much have the same values and interests,” Gertsel said. “So we want to grow our membership and make all of the members closer by doing a lot more fun bonding events.”

Gerstel said she believes that APO’s chapter at Tulane has a great amount of untapped potential and seeks to expand the organization’s presence on campus.

alpha phi omega
Courtesy of Sarah Gerstel
APO students volunteer at a service event.

“Because APO is the only community service fraternity on campus and Tulane is the number one community service school in the country, there’s a lot of potential for growth and expansion,” Gerstel said.

The process for joining APO allows for open access into the fraternity. Any student at Tulane can join by attending the fraternity’s pledging ceremony and initiation ceremony. Once members are accepted, they must complete 20 hours of community service per semester to maintain membership.

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