When some students are just beginning to figure out their major, several members of Virginia Tech’s Panhellenic sororities are already learning what it takes to be a campus and community leader.
Junior Panhellenic, a program for women in their first year of belonging to one of the 12 sororities governed by the university’s Panhellenic Council, offers new members the chance to serve in leadership roles that are not often available to them, as well as the opportunity to meet new people and become engaged in a community that is new to many of them.
The Panhellenic Council is one of four student-run councils that govern the university's Greek organizations and is advised by the office of Fraternity and Sorority Life in the Division of Student Affairs.
Each sorority governed by the council elects one Junior Panhellenic delegate from its pool of new members at the beginning of the year. The delegates are then elected to specific posts within the program and will hold those posts from January to December.
Delegates are responsible for planning several social events for new members from the 12 sororities, but one of their most important tasks is planning and executing a community service project. Each year they choose a different charitable endeavor, and the delegates handle everything from fundraising to completion.
It is part of what attracts many women to the program and to sorority life, in general.
“I really like that with Greek life, we get to participate in so many service projects and help so many people, and I have gotten to do that even more within Junior Panhellenic,” said 2011 Junior Panhellenic President Jamie Cabaleiro of Cary, N.C., a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering. “We’re going to make a difference in people’s lives. Maybe it’s just a few people, but it’s going to put a smile on their faces and make them feel better.”
Junior Panhellenic has positions available for each delegate, and philanthropy chair is the position responsible for deciding which service project the group will take on for the year. The 2011 Philanthropy Chair Lindsay Day of Spotsylvania, Va., a sophomore majoring in horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said she chose a project this year that she believed would benefit both the group members and communities nationwide — sending care packages to U.S. soldiers overseas.
“There are so many soldiers over there who have no one to send them anything. Some soldiers have families, but these soldiers have nothing,” she said. “When you hear a story like that, you want to know how you can help.”
Day said she gathered the names of 10 soldiers stationed abroad, and the group recently sent out care packages and thank you cards to them. Items were donated by sorority members, and shipping funds were raised through the sale of a T-shirt designed by the group’s T-shirt Chair Kira Clayborne of Clifton, Va., a junior majoring in marketing management in the Pamplin College of Business.
The Panhellenic Council’s Director of New Member Education Sheridan Tupman of Fairfax, Va., a senior majoring in apparel, merchandising, and management in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, said she has watched the new members grow through working on these projects over the course of the year from women of different backgrounds into good friends and strong future leaders.
“The most rewarding thing would have to be seeing these women start off not really knowing each other, and then seeing how close they are now,” she said. “To see their leadership growth, their respect for one another, and their camaraderie is awesome.”
A new group of Junior Panhellenic delegates will be elected once new pledges have been inducted into their respective sororities in the spring. Formal recruitment began in January. Those who are interested must register on the Panhellenic Council website.
As her tenure with Junior Panhellenic winds down, Cabaleiro said she has learned a lot from her experience with the program and that it has afforded her a new perspective on sorority life at Virginia Tech.
“People always have stereotypes about Greek chapters,” she said. “But this has really gotten rid of that because I know that when it comes down to it, each chapter has women in it who are amazing.”
Written by Jennifer Gibson.