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Collegians Blog

Posted On: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 08:00 AM, by Allie Drifke
Allie being sworn in as a CASA advocate.
Twenty-five years ago, Kappa Alpha Theta set out to create the widest influence for good by partnering with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). CASA became Theta's new philanthropy, but no one could imagine just how influential each organization would be for the other, especially at Gamma Pi/Iowa State!

Gamma Pi Chapter is home to five—yes, five!—CASA volunteers. Each chapter member works with CASA for a different reason, and each experience is different, but their sisterhood bonds them together.

Junior Hannah Yokiel recently began volunteering at CASA of Story County, Ia., and hopes to be a CASA intern in the future. This experience has given her the opportunity to job-shadow an organization that provides others with social support.

"My college experience focuses on social services, and volunteering with CASA is a great opportunity for me to be more involved and give back to the Fraternity's philanthropy," said Hannah. "I have learned a lot about CASA from my Theta sisters who are actively involved as CASA advocates. Sharing a passion for CASA with my sisters makes volunteering a more meaningful experience."

Jessica Taylor, a sophomore who is a CASA advocate for Polk County, Ia., pledged Theta because of her previous experiences with CASA.

"I was inspired by my grandma to become a CASA. She was a guardian ad litem in Minnesota for 10 years, and always told me amazing stories about children getting to better places," said Jessica. "Being a CASA influenced my decision to become a Theta because I was a CASA prior to even attending Iowa State. It made choosing Theta a lot easier for me because Thetas support what is such a worthy cause to me."

Senior Maddy Neerhof is currently in the process of going through training to become a CASA advocate.

"I'm drawn to CASA because they allow for people who genuinely care to help children who can't always speak for themselves," said Maddy. "I love the idea of a child always having someone 100 percent on his or her side when needed most."

Jane Morrison, a senior, completed training to be a Story County CASA advocate this past July.

"The first time I was informed about CASA was during formal recruitment, and I was instantly intrigued," said Jane. "Being a part of Theta and having my sisters' support helped push me to apply after my 21st birthday and go through training soon after. During training, two really cool things happened. First, I met a fellow Theta from the University of Iowa. Second, I realized that being a CASA was not going to be either easy or as expected."

Senior Allie Drifke was recently sworn in as an advocate for Story County CASA and also works in the office as an intern.

"When I began college, I knew that I wanted to work with children," said Allie. "I have always had a passion for helping others, and after I joined Theta I realized that I wanted to work in social services because I wanted to help children in need. I know that without Kappa Alpha Theta I would not have realized my full potential, and I would not have become a CASA advocate and intern. Every CASA volunteer can agree that the feeling of helping a child find the right home cannot be put into words. And every Theta sister can agree that CASA means so much more to us than just a philanthropy."

Hannah Yokiel put it perfectly when she said, "This experience is more than volunteering—it is life-changing knowing that you impact a child and his or her future."

Allie Drifke and Jane Morrison, both Gamma Pi, are graduating from Iowa State University this spring.

Posted On: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 08:00 AM, by Raychel Shipley
L-R: Beta Phi Chief Recruiting Officer Catie Metcalf and CEO Raychel Shipley
Like many large universities, mine is known as a party school. Students at the university wear the label like a badge of honor—and admittedly, many members of the Greek community do, too.

As college students, we think we're invincible. We push the limits and test our bodies just to see how far we can push them. Luckily, because we are young and healthy, the consequences of our actions are rarely severe or scary. But the harsh reality, I've come to realize, is that we're on a fast track to disaster if we don't slow down.

This is a problem for women like you and me because we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves. When we were initiated into Kappa Alpha Theta, we promised to live every day honoring the Fraternity's values. To act in a destructive manner is to compromise the reputation and integrity of our beloved sisterhood—one that has been thriving far longer than any of us have been alive.

My chapter has come a long way in the past four years, but last semester, the strength of our chapter was tested. The unfortunate and harsh realities of college pressures hit us hard: Many of our members struggled with emotional issues, and our Panhellenic came under fire for less-than-safe social policies. As our sisterhood was strained, we searched for answers. Now, more than ever, was the time for us to remind our sisters of what it means to wear Kappa Alpha Theta letters. In a campus with a frequently unhealthy social climate and lots of social pressure, it was up to the Thetas to emerge as leaders and advocates for change.

As an exec board, we thought the best way to convey this message—a starting point—was to do our own version of T.J. Sullivan's "You're Always Wearing Your Letters" speech. This message is serious, yet lighthearted and sincere. It's simple, but the meaning is real.

We premiered our video at a recent chapter meeting. While I watch it and giggle at the goofiness and personality of our chapter, it is my hope that we can inspire other chapters that face similar adversity to think about the true meaning of sisterhood and loyalty to Kappa Alpha Theta.

It might be a small start, but it's a step in the right direction in order to combat years of unhealthy habits. It was a rough semester, yes. But because of it, our sisterhood is stronger than ever.

Raychel Shipley, Beta Phi/Penn State, is the chapter’s chief executive officer.

Posted On: Monday, January 12, 2015 08:30 AM, by Kylie Sturgis
Delta Eta at the WildKAT Chase 5K
Delta Eta/Kansas State has a connection with the Sunflower CASA Project, Inc. in Manhattan, Kan., that goes above the norm, and has made a difference in the lives of Thetas and CASA volunteers alike.

This year at our 18th annual WildKAT Chase 5K run, our chapter raised $15, 515—an all-time high for our chapter! The women of Delta Eta continue to be the largest donor for Sunflower CASA, which has propelled a much deeper relationship. (Watch our video from last year's race.)

Samantha Moore, who served as our service and philanthropy director last year, was invited to sit on the board of directors for Sunflower CASA and has done so for the last year. "Because of the importance of confidentiality, it can be challenging to connect with CASA in a direct manner," she says, "but we strive to increase our involvement each year. Our improved relationship with the CASA volunteers and staff has brought a whole new meaning of philanthropy to our chapter."

Our chapter has found several unique ways to make a significant impact for the organization, while at the same time respecting the boundaries that are set up to protect the children that CASA serves. Some of these ways include making valentines and donating Christmas gifts for CASA kids, using a bear-stuffing event during recruitment week to not only create a gift for new CASA children but to also raise awareness about CASA's mission to many different young women, and also encouraging chapter members to get more involved in the Sunflower CASA.

Currently, three of our members serve as volunteers, with many more alumnae serving as volunteers in the Manhattan area. One volunteer, senior Kindall Shenefield, enjoys being on both sides of this important partnership. "One of the most rewarding parts of being a CASA volunteer is the opportunity to see firsthand how we are Thetas are able to make a difference in the lives of children," she says. "What we do has meaning."

Delta Eta also has one member who is joining Sunflower CASA in a developmental internship and has been working with both the chapter and Sunflower CASA to build a stronger relationship. Mattie Loder, a senior majoring in accounting and nonprofit leadership studies, has been working with Sunflower CASA for a semester and believes the association between Theta and CASA is an essential part of her development as a leader. "The strategic partnership between Delta Eta and Sunflower CASA is important, and I am very grateful to have the opportunity to strengthen that relationship and add value to both organizations and further their missions." Read more about what she is doing.

Mattie, along with the women of Delta Eta, are constantly striving to further the value of Kappa Alpha Theta for the widest influence for good by continuing to better their relationship with CASA and, in turn, bettering themselves.

Kylie Sturgis, Delta Eta/Kansas State, served as the chapter's communications director last year.

Posted On: Tuesday, December 16, 2014 08:30 AM, by Mattie Loder
Mattie Loder
Delta Eta/Kansas State
As a non-profit leadership studies minor, I am required to complete a 150-hour internship with a non-profit organization. I had never heard of CASA until I went through recruitment my freshman year. I knew that when I visited Delta Eta Chapter on Service and Philanthropy Day during recruitment, I wanted to learn more about this amazing organization, whether I became a Theta or not. When it came time in the spring of my junior year to start applying for non-profit internships, Sunflower CASA (the local CASA chapter) immediately came to mind. I contacted them, and within a week had obtained an internship for the fall semester.

Since my internship began, I have started several new initiatives in the Manhattan area, including raising awareness on campus by chalking on the sidewalks (a common form of communication at K-State), sharing facts about our mission and about our effectiveness over the past 30+ years. I have held multiple informational sessions, called "Conversations with CASA," in several of the surrounding communities of the Manhattan area to reach potential friends, donors, and volunteers. I have completed a grant application for a project that Sunflower CASA operates, giving me the opportunity to share the effectiveness and impact of our local chapter with the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation. I have also helped market and assist at some of our fundraising events, which have given me an opportunity to further share my passion about CASA with community members and have some fun while doing so.

One of the most important things that I have worked on during my internship is strengthening the relationship between Delta Eta Chapter and Sunflower CASA. Delta Eta has several members who serve as CASA volunteers and is the single largest donor to Sunflower CASA in Riley County. This year, we hosted our 18th annual WildKAT Chase Superhero 5K to benefit Sunflower CASA. Between that event and our spring philanthropy, Cravings for CASA (a dessert bar with a few carnival-type activities), we raised more than $19,000. We also hosted a social event for Delta Eta members and CASA volunteers and their families to mingle at a Halloween-themed mixer. We are hoping to make this an annual event and are expecting even better attendance next year!

My experience as an intern has helped widen my influence for good, strengthened my leadership skills, cultivated my creative abilities, and met some of the needs of Sunflower CASA. The collaboration that has now existed for 25 years between CASA and Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity is very special, and I believe that it is mutually beneficial. The executive director of Sunflower CASA Project, Inc., is herself a member of a Greek organization and is always expressing her gratitude towards not only Delta Eta but also Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity as a whole. She understands the importance of the partnership at both the local and national levels and has taken the time to communicate her gratitude and compliments to our Fraternity president, Laura Doerre.

I am looking forward to what the future will bring following my internship here and to sharing with others what Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity and CASA mean to me.

Mattie Loder, Delta Eta/Kansas State, is a senior accounting major with a minor in non-profit leadership studies. After her May graduation, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in accounting from Kansas State.

Posted On: Monday, September 29, 2014 09:30 AM, by Celia Bressler
Celia (center) and other Service Trip attendees.
As I boarded my plane to New Orleans for Service Trip 2014 this past July, I was nervous and excited. I knew none of the 19 women I would be spending my time with for the next few days, but I knew it'd be a great time. Yes, we were sisters, but we were all sisters who had never met before, from all over North America.

Almost none of us knew much about the culture of New Orleans before we arrived. On our first night, we were asked to think about our assumptions about New Orleans before we had a tour of the city and began our service. The city is basically a "melting pot" of cultures, and during the tour—in our air-conditioned van—we began to see all of the history and different people lining the roads and sidewalks. It was mind-blowing to think that all of the huge beautiful, colorful houses had still been preserved throughout hundreds of years and the devastating Hurricane Katrina. One thing we started to pick up on was that although the hurricane shook the city's morale, its citizens remained strong and began to rebuild their city bigger and better than ever. Although most of New Orleans has recovered and been rebuilt, Katrina's mark can still be seen throughout the city.

Our tour guide asked us if there was anything specific we wanted to see. We were all exhausted, and the Starbucks we were passing looked extremely appealing, but we also wanted to see the Lower Ninth Ward. So I responded to our guide, "Starbucks and the Lower Ninth Ward." This is where we began, as we called it, to "check our privilege." We were able to drive around in the nice air-conditioned van and get some expensive coffee before going to see some of the dilapidated houses that were still untouched since Katrina. (Note that we didn't go to Starbucks; we instead decided to "check our privilege.")

Each day of service had something new for us, such as using pens for paintbrushes, that reminded us how lucky we are to wake up and be able to choose from three pairs tennis shoes instead of having none. At the end of every day, it was so rewarding to see how thankful the people were, and how proud we were of what we had done.

On one of the last nights, we were asked to write in our journals about how we would take what we've learned back to our chapters and what we would do when we got back. I'd love for my chapter to become more involved with CASA. I enjoyed my time at the local CASA office wrapping presents, knowing that when a little kid unwrapped it, he or she would smile.

It's easy to get wrapped up in studying and socializing and forget about what's outside of the "college bubble." This trip opened my eyes to see what's beyond the surface, and it was even more amazing having 19 other sisters with me who shared the Fraternity values. It was such a privilege to go on this trip, to help others, and to represent Kappa Alpha Theta in the city of New Orleans, as a group of leading women.

Celia Bressler, Zeta Eta, is a sophomore at Wofford College.

Posted On: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 09:00 AM, by Zeenat Yahya
Zeenat painting a house during Service Trip 2014.
I had the opportunity to spend a week this summer participating in the Kappa Alpha Theta Service Trip in New Orleans. Prior to the trip, I had no idea what to expect. This whole experience was out of my comfort zone, but I was so excited to embark on the journey to New Orleans, and meet sisters from all over the U.S. and Canada.

From volunteering at a local CASA and learning more about what our philanthropy really does, to helping out The ARC, an organization that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I was able to give my time to those who needed it, and grow as a person at the same time. These experiences taught me to really appreciate the little things in life, and really understand what privileges I was given growing up from having a proper environment to learn in to simply appreciating the home I grew up in.

Throughout the trip, I saw how many lives we were able to impact by simply just giving our time. It was also empowering to present Kappa Alpha Theta in a positive manner, and break any negative stereotype of being a member of a Greek organization.

As a result of this service trip, I've developed a better understanding of what service really means, and I want to continue giving my time and potentially become more involved in philanthropy and service efforts. As a Theta, I will hold this experience dear to my heart. I was able to understand who I was and the impact I could have on my community by being the leading woman that Theta has taught me to be.

Zeenat Yahya, Zeta Nu, is a junior at UC Davis.

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