Alpha Phi Omega works to help city

Every Sunday at 8 p.m., members of The University of Detroit Mercy Eta Pi chapter of Alpha Phi Omega finish their weekly fraternity business meeting with a song.

Then, they leave room 114 of the chemistry building with a renewed purpose to their commitment to service.

Although many initially come to Detroit Mercy for academics and athletics, these young men and women look beyond to life outside McNichols campus; neighborhood blight, vacant lots, closed-down schools and neglected parks. 

In an effort to be a change in the community, Alpha Phi Omega lends its services to help transform these sites and revitalize the surrounding communities.

Haleigh Ethridge, current APO chapter president, said she never expected to find herself in a leadership position contributing true change in Detroit communities going through revitalization.

“The most important thing is the knowledge that we are making a difference and helping,” said Ethridge. “Detroit is going through its rebuild and knowing that maybe we get to have just a tiny little part of that is huge.”

Alpha Phi Omega is a national coeducational service organization founded by Frank Reed Horton on Dec. 16, 1925. Its main principles are leadership, friendship and service.

The business fraternity allows for the development of leadership skills through volunteering on campuses and in communities worldwide. 

According to the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity website, the fraternity provides more service than any other collegiate service organization with more than 400,000 members on over 375 campuses.

APO is not like traditional Greek organizations. Members don’t have to pay dues, and there’s no hazing. 

To join, you need to be students enrolled at the university and attend two rush events at the start of the semester.During the pledge period, you must complete 10 service hours and attend all pledge meetings. 

Once a member, you are committed to 15 service hours every semester and must attend all member meetings. 

Members can suggest service opportunities as well as take part in projects initiated by others.

Alpha Phi Omega offers uniquely personal and original community service experiences for all students. Tavala Luciow, a sophomore pre-med major and APO pledge educator, understands the importance of active service, and not just throwing money at issues. She acknowledges that it’s not only a way to make real change in other people’s lives but in your own as well. 

“It (service through APO) is going to be a big part of your life no matter if you try or you don’t, you can get so much from it depending on how much you put into it,” said Luciow. “I’ve put a lot into APO and I’ve gotten so much more than I ever thought.”

    Through APO, Luciow has met people like the owner of Motor City Blight Busters, a non-profit organization that is a part of the revitalization and preservation of the Detroit community. 

Additionally, she met some of her closest friends and even roommate through APO. 

Although service is the primary focus of the organization, the opportunity to make strong connections is invaluable. 

For Tiffany Tieu-Ngo, a sophomore biochemistry major and APO member, she found that just meeting one person in APO could create many more connections.

 “Once you get to know one person in one group you know everyone in that group soon after, so it’s good networking and seeing a little bit of everything that the university offers,” she said.

The opportunities to reach people beyond your comfort zone is what drove The Rev. Tim Hipskind to become an advisor for the fraternity. 

Hipskind sees the true benefits of active service that an organization like APO offers to students, and its impact to connect them to their own spirituality.

“Service has a unique way of getting you in touch with people that you might not otherwise meet on your own,” he said. “I think there is a religious dimension to that to love everybody, but we can’t love everybody if you don’t know everybody.”