by Katya Hrichak '17
Since Dickinson welcomed a chapter of Alpha Phi Omega (APO) in 1989, many students have found that it fits their desire to get involved not only on campus but also in the Carlisle community. APO, a coed national service fraternity, promotes leadership, brotherhood and service throughout the college and surrounding area. Although the group is considered a fraternity, APO is not recognized as an official social organization and accepts both male and female members, separating it from traditional Greek organizations on campus. There are about 60 current members, but by rushing every semester and inviting alumni to continue their participation after graduation, APO’s membership is always expanding.
APO members volunteer with organizations both on and off campus, including the Salvation Army soup kitchen, Claremont Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Furry Friends Network, YWCA and Bosler Memorial Library. “We do a lot with everything we can possibly find,” says APO President Emily Gamber ’17, which enables APO students to bridge the gap between college and community.
“Fundamentally, community service helps people, but it’s more than just an exercise of labor,” says Nicholas Rejebian ’17, APO member. “When I participate in trail cleanups at Kings Gap or gleaning at Project SHARE, it is inevitable that I will come into conversation with someone from the community. Those conversations can be powerful.”
In addition to completing service and honing leadership skills in the process, APO members participate in social events that bring the whole group together. But according to students who have been involved in the organization since their first semester on campus, the socializing is less of a requirement and more of a reunion.
“APO is home and it is family for a lot of us,” says Gamber. “I joined APO because I was having trouble finding my place in college. My first semester, I felt like I hadn’t made any stereotypical ‘lifelong friends.’ I was looking for more of a community and for more of a commitment. Within the first few weeks of joining APO, I had found both.”
Rejebian echoes Gamber’s sentiments. “I joined APO because like many first-year students, I wanted to find a group of people that I felt comfortable with,” he says. “Staying in APO taught me a lesson about building community: You can either give up and walk away, or do your best to make every interaction you have count.”
Some members of the group might not have realized how important these interactions were until last semester, when APO Sergeant-at-Arms Lauren Lau ’19 passed away.
“I don’t think any of us realized it as tangibly until this semester, that we are a family, that we do support each other,” says Gamber. “[Lau] really meant a lot to us.”
“Lauren will be missed,” says Rejebian. “As an organization, APO will remember Lauren with the highest praise and honor, and seeing the impact her passing had on APO, I speak confidently that we will not forget her.”
Published April 5, 2017