When asked why I chose to “go Greek,” I can think of a lot of reasons. And no, the only reason is not just the super cute apparel. (However, I will be the first to admit that I am a shopaholic…) The majority of my direct and extended family are members of various organizations. I grew up hearing about their fond memories of college, and how they loved being a part of a community of like-minded individuals that extends beyond their four years on campus.
When I went through primary recruitment during the Fall of my first semester, I was both nervous and excited. I was so impressed by how passionate every chapter was about their philanthropy. Throughout the weekend, I talked to so many amazing people, yet I knew that ZTA was my home. Giving back to the world and being there for others is exceedingly important to me. And, the Greek community not only strives to make meaningful connections with others, it strives to make an impact on the greater community through philanthropy and service. We live our mission. That last sentence is why I went Greek, and specifically how I fell in love with Zeta Tau Alpha.
As a member of Zeta Tau Alpha, our philanthropy is Breast Cancer Education and Awareness. ZTA is partnered with the NFL, American Cancer Society, and Bright Pink. Throughout the year, we do various fundraisers and events to support the fight to end breast cancer and educate others on the disease.
We have a Think Pink Week every semester, a time jam-packed with events and pink ribbons. If you’re walking on RIT’s quarter-mile (the main path to go to classes on the academic side of campus), there is a 99% chance that someone in letters will come and talk to you about our philanthropy, ribbon in hand. In the Fall and Spring, we have events called “Fondue for the Fight” and “Nug Night” respectively, where we open our house on campus to the entire community for a fun and food-filled evening. Let’s be honest with ourselves, can anyone say no to chicken nuggets? I certainly can’t! We also partner with local restaurants, sell apparel and baked goods, do t-shirt and sticker contests, have information sessions, and even do virtual challenges. This has become more apparent in the pandemic we live in currently. Every year, we volunteer at Rochester’s annual Making Strides Walk. Sisters do everything from checking in participants, handing out memorabilia, and even walking alongside survivors and their families, as well as other supporters. In recent years, members of our chapter have had the opportunity to go to an NFL game to hand out ribbons during Crucial Catch events. Lastly, we have also worked with our sports teams on campus to do “Pink Out” games as well.
At chapter every week, our Philanthropy Director gives information on the disease itself. It is extremely important that we understand all aspects of our philanthropy. Whether it’s knowing what abnormalities to look for in a breast exam, or what your personal risk factor may be, we do our best to educate ourselves and others. We also discuss what to say and how to be tactful with our words when discussing this topic. Empathy is everything.
Why I "think pink"
When asked to describe what our philanthropy meant to them individually, these were some of the recurring words submitted by members of my chapter. To them, our philanthropy is “bonding,” “hope,” “inspiring,” and “perseverance.” Our philanthropy is important to us. In fighting for something that matters, and we grow together as a chapter and as sisters. It’s not just one week in October, because we “think pink” every day of the year.
In joining a sorority or any Greek organization, you join something bigger than yourself. If you are considering going Greek this year, I wholeheartedly am telling you to go for it! And when you (hopefully) do, really reflect on what each organization’s philanthropy means to you. And, if you’re already wearing letters, I challenge you to take a step back and think about what else you can do for the cause you support.
When you find your “home away from home,” you join a lifelong sisterhood. In ZTA, we have a saying, “it’s not just four years, it’s for life.” And that is a true statement. We build each other up, hold each other accountable, and work to give back. We are there for each other. One of the things that attracted me to ZTA initially was our incredible philanthropy. I’ve witnessed first-hand what cancer can do to people and their loved ones, and it’s something that no one should ever have to experience. The more we talk about it, the more awareness we raise. For me, that pink ribbon on my backpack is more than just a ribbon. It’s a symbol of strength and hope. It’s a reminder of the people who have both lost and fought for their lives, and how I personally can be a better citizen of the world by working to fight for the cure. And let’s remember y’all, think pink!
Xx, Mary Lena Taylor
RIT, Zeta Tau Alpha