The simplicity of a grin while working with students with disabilities can affect fraternity members forever
That’s the measure of the effect students at a local high school have upon Omega (Purdue) chapter members. A smile, a hug, a high five, a song – they make a difference on college students who volunteer in classes serving high schoolers with moderate cognitive intelligence.
The fraternity celebrated those joys along with financial support from Circle of Giving grants from the Ability Experience on Nov. 12 at a local school board meeting.
School board members recognized fraternity members who presented a check for $11,500, which represented grants from The Ability Experience, Pi Kappa Phi’s national philanthropic effort supporting people with disabilities. A portion of the chapter’s annual philanthropic fund-raising plus some extra cash support was given to Lafayette Jefferson High School to support programming in special education classes.
President Nathan Longo told the school board of all the things chapter members do to support people with disabilities in the classroom and in the community. He said the emphasis is on setting a standard of servant leadership at Purdue.
But it’s the direct interaction with students in the local high school classroom that has a lasting impact.
“What makes all the work, the event planning, the fund-raising hours all worth it for the Ability Experience is seeing the smiles on the faces of all the students at Lafayette Jefferson and knowing what we do truly makes an impact,” Longo told the board.
Jack Russell, a chapter member who regularly volunteers at the school, agreed.
“Just seeing those smiles on those kids’ faces when we walk in in the first five seconds – the impact we can see on their faces, does so much for us,” he told the board. “It’s really a truly humbling experience. It’s memories like these that our brothers share.”
Russell, an ROTC student from Little Rock, Arkansas, says he’s been changed by his interaction with students who have disabilities.
“These kids will have more of an impact on me in my life, and all my brothers lives, than we will ever have on their lives,” he said. “That’s truly a humbling, humbling thing to know that in college us brothers found that light on a rainy day that we all wish to find.”
Several days each week, chapter members travel four miles from campus to the high school. They assist the special education teachers and make a difference.
“With the presence of the Pi Kappa Phi brothers it continues to be a blessing,” said Alyssa Montgomery, special education teacher. “It’s a truly wonderful experience for my students to interact and learn from each of your brothers. They definitely get excited when they come into the room.”
The fraternity has volunteered in the classroom since 2007.
“Because of your donation, my students participated in several community outings, but most important are the everyday necessities needed for my life skills classes – just being able to purchase food items and basic toiletries,” she said. “So, gentlemen I sincerely hope we continue to build on this wonderful partnership because the impact of the fraternity’s donation truly makes a difference in our community and most of all for my special needs students.”
Annually, the school board gives the fraternity time at a school board meeting to thank the members. To a person, board members go out of their way to say thank you collectively and individually.
Superintendent Les Huddle echoed that sentiment.
“I want to thank you for your continued support,” he said, “not only financially, but also for the classroom support.”