On September 27th, Eta Omega’s Priscilla Rivera joined the ranks of nearly 87,000 Court Appointed Special Advocates. As a CASA, she will speak for America’s most vulnerable children: those in foster care. Rivera first heard about CASA through Theta and she says she “fell in love with everything that CASA is about and I made it one of my personal goals to become a CASA. From personal experiences, I know how strenuous it is to be in a position that you did not choose to be in. I feel that I can relate this to foster care children because they did not choose to be in an abusive home or in a home in which they are neglected.”
Rivera completed the five-week training before becoming an official CASA, which consisted of combined online and in-person training. She says, “I had a great time getting to know the people in my CASA class as well as people who trained us. It truly was eye-opening to learn about the foster care system and what my role as a CASA will be.”
According to the official CASA website, nearly 700,000 children experience abuse or neglect annually. Rivera says, “As you may or may not know, when a child goes through the foster care system, they are exposed to numerous amounts of case workers, social workers, and attorneys. However, a CASA may be the only person that still stands with that child at the end of their journey in the foster care system. Some CASA’s stay in touch with their child even after their case is closed. A CASA’s consistency is the key to those life-long differences for that child and it means the world to them.”
Barbara Smoyer Peterson is a Theta alumnae that recently received a service-learning grant from the Theta Foundation which enabled her to attend a conference held at the Cambio Center at the University of Missouri. There Peterson, who is an adjunct professor at St. Charles Community College, learned about being a linguistically and culturally competent teacher. While the Cambio Center focuses on making a welcoming environment for Hispanic immigrants to the region, Peterson said that the concepts taught at the conference can be applied to students of a multitude of backgrounds. Peterson says that the concept is important because there has been very little patience with non-native English speaking students in the classroom setting.
At the conference, she gained inspiration for her anthropology course and the English as a Second Language course she is starting this year. Within her anthropology course, she hopes to implement what she calls a “language road map.” This idea stems from an activity that took place at the conference, where participants were asked to draw their linguistic repertoires. Peterson adapted the concept into a timeline, where each mile marker indicates a different age. Onto the road, students can place cars that represent when, and to what extent, they learned a language. For example, a student who learned Spanish at home as a child could put a certain color of car on the first mile marker. If they then learned English in kindergarten, they could put a car for English at that later mile marker. The activity will show people a new way to look at linguistic diversity. Peterson said, “Instead of talking about how they don’t speak English, talk about why they do speak Spanish.”
This understanding of linguistic diversity is important because it affects many non-native students. Peterson says, “Let’s be more sensitive to the culture of students and how students speak, how they learn and the self-esteem issues that are tied into when you get to school and find that people laugh at the language you speak at home.”
In a similar vein, the conference brought up Gloria Anzaldúa’s quote, “So, if you want to really hurt me, talk bad about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity—I am my language.”
Peterson says that if she is lucky enough to have a student that speaks another language, she’ll see it as an asset. Just as it was for Peterson, the Theta Foundation is a great resource for learning opportunities for alumnae and current students. For more information, pleasevisithttp://www.kappaalphathetafoundation.org/about/
This summer, Thetas Alli Ladage, Carly Vordtriede, and Nina O’Connell travelled to the Emerging Leaders Institute at DePauw University. Alli Ladage and Nina O’Connell share what ELI was and how it impacted them.
What is ELI?
Alli: ELI takes women who have leadership potential and gives them confidence and empowers them to act and make a positive change.
Nina: ELI stands for the Emerging Leaders Institute. It is essentially a seminar for Thetas interested in becoming more useful, skilled, and courageous leaders. It brought together 60+ leading women from all over North America, including Canada. It helped us analyze how each chapter interacts with its school community and allowed us to brainstorm ideas for possible actions we could each take to improve Theta in our home chapter.
What was the most memorable part of ELI?
Alli: The most memorable part for me was when they asked us to write down what was holding us back from doing something and so many people said confidence or the fear of failure.
Nina: The most memorable part for me while I was at ELI was we played an activity that involved every Theta. We responded with "always, sometimes, or seldom" to questions about how our chapter behaves on campus, and it was very eye opening to see how each chapter reacted differently to each question. It made me realize that some chapters have the same problems we do, and that some chapters deal with situations I've never even thought about.
What were you surprised by during ELI?
Alli: ELI surprised me because it formed bonds between me and sisters that lived across the country in four short days. We still talk to each other everyday and check in.
Nina: I was pretty surprised that not all of the facilitators were Thetas. Half of them were males and the other half have worked with Theta before but were never Thetas themselves.
What was ELI's impact?
Alli: ELI impacted me because it gave me a lot of confidence and redefined my definition of leadership. Going forward, I'll use what I learned at ELI to strive for positive change and to give others as much confidence as possible because that's what people told me was holding them back.
Nina: I felt that ELI has allowed me to become a courageous and heartfelt leader, and to always share my ideas even if I don't think people want to hear them; because if I think that I have a good idea then someone else might too, and if not then we can work together to come up with a better solution to the problem we are facing. I believe this ideology will also follow me throughout other aspects of my college career and hopefully beyond. Overall, I found ELI to be an eye-opening experience that also allowed me to make friends with Thetas all across America and Canada.
Natalia Ziemkiewicz is a rising senior in Theta. She is from Chicago, Illinois and is studying Biomedical Engineering. Here is her Theta story.
Both my freshman and sophomore year I was interested in registering for formal recruitment, but both years the weekend recruitment fell on I had prior commitments and was unable to do so. I didn’t know Theta was even a sorority on campus. However, my knowledge on sororities changed over winter break my sophomore year. I was traveling to Honduras with Global Brigades to help plan and later work on implementing water systems into various Honduran communities. The trip was a SLU-Mizzou trip, and it was only after our flight was delayed and we were stranded at the St. Louis airport that we all began to talk and discuss our college experiences. It was on this trip that I met Rachel Neuhalfen, a Theta who graduated this past year. While stuck in the airport she told me all about Theta and how it had changed her college experience for the better, making her step out of her comfort zone and helping her build relationships that thrive to this day. As the hours passed, we began talking to the group of women from Mizzou, and almost all of them were also a part of Theta. Over the course of a week we all bonded and I learned about all their favorite Theta experiences. Although their experiences influenced my perception of Theta, what really inspired me and made me want to join Theta was how different but alike each of these individuals were. They were all strong, funny, independent women that wanted to change the world, but they all had their unique traits and I could see how these differences brought them together and made their relationships stronger. After the trip to Honduras, classes started and a girl in the same program as me, approached me and asked about whether I would be interested in attending a few informal recruitment events. A few weeks into second semester of my sophomore year I attended an event and this further solidified my want to be a part of an organization that was bigger than myself. I was hesitant to go at first because I didn’t know anything about sororities, only what I had seen in movies and I didn’t want to believe that those movies were accurate representations. I attended the event and all the girls that I met were genuine, they even remembered me after the event and said hi to me in passing on West Pine! It was the genuine smiles and strong personalities that led me to Theta.
Theta has definitely made me step out of my comfort zone. It has pushed me to my limits, and taught me that I am always capable of more. I have taken on more leadership positions, become more confident in myself and my work, and I have learned to always ask questions. Theta has given me the opportunity to form relationships with women that I would not have otherwise met. For example, my twin, Liz Cary, and I are more different than alike, but she has become one of my best friends and my go to when things aren’t right. I met individuals with different dreams and wants, individuals that I can talk to for hours while losing track of time, and individuals that have shown me what a support system is. Theta has given me a home away from home, I mean walking down West Pine and recognizing so many smiling faces is an amazing feeling, everyone is so nice and wants to talk to you, genuinely wanting to know how your day.
I would say my favorite part of Theta would be the dysfunctional family I am a part of. We’re all so different but when we’re together it’s like time has stopped and it’s some of the best moments I’ve had at SLU. Random lunch/dinner dates or just chilling and talking, whenever I’m with them I can be myself and we can laugh at just about anything, it’s great. My little. Emily Look, is one of my favorites, she’s just great and quirky and I love her. Other favorite moments in Theta include food dates with Madison Streb, or dancing with Daniela Feliciano. There are so many good memories with the women in Theta, it’s hard to pick a favorite when the only memories I’ve made have been good.
Empower to me means to lift someone up, to make them feel confident and sure of themselves. Empower means to support someone until they know that they are worth more than they believe and that they have so much potential. Empower is a word that symbolizes many of the women that I have befriended in Theta, they are continuously reminding me that I can accomplish my goals and that my dreams can become a reality.
Good news! Finals have come to an end, so we can finally take a breath of fresh air and get out of the library. But first, a reflection on why we were there in the first place. Scholarship is an important ideal in our chapter and sorority, which is made self-evident each semester by all the Thetas seen studying around campus. Last semester, 18 women in our chapter received 4.0 GPAs and 102 women received above a 3.5 GPA. Since it is something worth celebrating, we honored all of them at our scholarship banquet. Our scholarship director, Brielle Bright, said, “Scholarship being Theta's highest aim means that I always have someone to motivate me to do my best in school, since that's why we're in college in the first place. Bettie, Bettie, Hannah, and Alice created Theta to be a support system for college women, and academic was definitely part of that.”
There are many reasons why we value scholarship. The overarching reason is that higher education is what we are here for. College is a time for discovery, exploration, and service, but at graduation we are handed a diploma for what we learned. So, congratulations ladies of the Eta Omega chapter, way to complete (and complete well) what you set out to do.
April 6th was National Alcohol Screening Day. This is a day that raises awareness not only about harmful drinking practices, but for other mental health issues like anxiety or depression. Many know that anxiety is a major issue on college campuses, as is alcohol abuse. However, this day can also connect at risk individuals with a variety of treatment options. If you would like to complete a mental health screening, http://howdoyouscore.org/ offers a free and anonymous way to do so.
As a sorority, Theta also works to ensure the well-being of our sisters. Kate McCollum, our Chief Operations Officer, says, “I think one of the best resources Theta offers its members is the Sister Supporting Sisters Mental Health Initiative. Its mission is to encourage dialogue about mental health and create a safe environment for members to discuss mental health challenges. As part of this initiative, Theta has a 24-hour phone line called Talk One-2-One. Any member of Theta can call this line to discuss a wide range of issues, including stress, anxiety, mental health, and alcohol and drug abuse. Members can talk to a counselor through this line for free and it will be kept confidential.”
If needed, we hope that everyone takes this opportunity to reach out for help. As a part of Theta, we are all sisters supporting sisters.
Last Wednesday, our chapter had the opportunity to hear Judy Schechtman speak to us about approaching leadership as women. Judy runs leadership workshops, along with owning her own private practice for social work. She spoke of how leaders do not need to be 6’0 tall men, who speak authoritatively in front a room, but can be anyone, in a variety of fashions. Leaders can be introverted and quiet, and they definitely can be women.
This talk resonated with me and many women in the room. Some girls shared that they have been told that they are not tall enough, or that their voice isn’t deep enough. Judy shut that down, with wit and practicality. She stressed the importance of having confidence in ourselves and carrying it out in our speech.
One example of a woman with, in my opinion, incredible diction and confidence is Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, who gave an insightful TED talk titled, “We Should All Be Feminists.” While I think that it is beyond doubt worth listening to, there is one excerpt that I found especially relatable. It describes something akin to what Judy Schechtman said she’d experienced before, when she was leading a leadership conference with her male business partner and was automatically introduced as his assistant. Adiche says:
“I have a friend… who took over a managerial position from a man. Her predecessor had been considered a ‘tough go-getter’; he was blunt and hard-charging and was particularly strict about the signing of the time sheets. She took on her new job, and imagined herself equally tough, but perhaps a little kinder than him… Only weeks into her new job, she disciplined an employee about a forgery on a time sheet, just as her predecessor would have done... The employee complained to top management about her style. She was aggressive and difficult to work with, the employee said… It didn’t occur to any of them that she was doing the same thing for which a man had been praised.”
That last phrase describes part of the problem we have with women as leaders. We expect them to bring about a “women’s touch,” which perhaps they are not apt to do. These slights at women leaders are remarkably relatable to most women, and perhaps especially to sorority women. I once had a professor make fun of women in sororities by imitating them using a high-pitched voice and vapid facial expression. He did not make a swipe at fraternity members, while at the same time asking the class which members were in sororities, as if to bring his joke to life. Of course, this isn’t a major injustice. However, these stereotypes against women, leaders and sororities are things that many do deal with.
This assumption that women, or sorority women, may inherently not be good leaders makes one of Judy’s points even more poignant. She said that if given the opportunity, she encourages us to help fellow women climb up in their careers. In other words, she urged us to build each other up. What I thought of first, was that emboldening each other is an important aspect of our sisterhood.
I’m so happy that I can be sisters with ladies that I know will bring me up instead of tearing me down, all the while accepting me for who I am. Our voices are not too high and none of us are too short. We are all leading women.
Here is the link to Adiche’s TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg3umXU_qWc
On February 19th, Theta had our main philanthropy event: Cakes for CASA! CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. These individuals work with children going through the court systems. In addition to supporting CASA, the Eta Omega supports Voices for Children. CASA is Kappa Alpha Theta’s national philanthropy, while Voices is Eta Omega’s local philanthropy. Voices also works to help children in foster care.
Our event Cakes for CASA is a fun way to raise money for these commendable causes. Chris Cakes keeps pancakes flipping through the air throughout the entire event, and event-goers can have unlimited pancakes (if they can catch them, that is). This year we also had a Capella group Bare Naked Statues perform.
In total, over 600 people came to our event. We are happy to report that we raised over $5,000 for our cause.
Thank you to all who came, and a special thanks to our Theta sisters who planned the event, we couldn’t have done it without you!
The time has finally arrived, family weekend is upon us! While Kappa Alpha Theta has planned a number of exciting things to do, like touring the chapter room, bowling and brunch, there are many more things to do in St. Louis. Katie Lienemann wrote about her favorite places to go, so bring your family along and have a great weekend!
Here are some exciting places to go with family during the weekend. Each St. Louis neighborhood has a different character and is filled with many restaurant choices.
The Eta Omega chapter wants you to have an “Extra” great semester! On January 31st, we sent out members to pass out Extra packs of gum.
Here are some more helpful hints for having a great semester at SLU:
We are the Eta Omega chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta at Saint Louis University. We were established on November 9th, 2013. We have over 180 wonderful sisters that are alike in many ways but all with unique interests. Our blog will highlight many of these.