UNH Alpha Phi Omega: Dedicated to Service and Leadership
After a long day of travel and preparations for deployment to the Middle East, all U.S. Army Capt. Steve Ostrander wanted to do was grab a bite to eat and find a place to lay down before leaving for a nine-month deployment from Pease Air National Guard Base in November 2013. But after he exited his plane and walked through the airport, he met several UNH students from Alpha Phi Omega and suddenly, these New Hampshire strangers became familiar faces to this Texas soldier.
Members of Alpha Phi Omega’s Theta Zeta chapter at UNH greet U.S. Army Capt. Steve Ostrander, a fellow APO brother from Texas, at the Pease Air National Guard Base in November 2013.
UNH APO received thank you notes from students at Moharimet Elementary School after volunteering for their winter carnival.
Members of Alpha Phi Omega’s Theta Zeta chapter volunteer at the End 68 Hours of Hunger event serving the Oyster River community.
Members of Alpha Phi Omega’s Theta Zeta chapter paint flower pots with children at the Growing Places Childcare in Lee.
Nearly 15 years before, Ostrander had joined Alpha Phi Omega (APO), the nation’s largest co-ed service fraternity, as an undergraduate at Texas A&M. And now, all these years later, the APO bond was creating new friendships for him with a group of UNH students with whom he would stay in contact while deployed. Goodie boxes from the students soon would follow.
“It was such a surreal and amazing experience to randomly run into people that you have a common bond with that share the same value system thousands of miles from home and based upon a decision that was made over a decade ago,” Ostrander said.
APO is a national coeducational service organization founded on the principles of leadership, friendship and service. It provides its members the opportunity to develop leadership skills as they volunteer on their campus, in their community, to the nation, and to the organization. With more than 400,000 members on over 375 campuses, APO provides more service on more campuses than any other collegiate service organization.
“What an honor it was to meet such a great man that is such a testament to the brothers we should all live up to be. He was such a fun-loving man to converse with for the hour we had with him. After all the brothers left, I got a text message from him thanking us for such an amazing experience before he left for oversees, and I assured him that we would be in touch from his New Hampshire brothers,” said Kala Frye, a member of APO’s Theta Zeta chapter at UNH.
Volunteering as Pease Greeters is just one of several service projects for UNH’s more than 100 APO members. Considered one of APO’s larger chapters, Theta Zeta members also work with Relay for Life, which is the group’s largest service project. Last year, UNH APO raised $10,700 for Relay for Life, according to UNH APO President Vivian Pham, which was the most raised of all teams. They also were the top fundraising team nationally across all APO chapters.
In addition, in the last six month UNH APO has volunteered with Waysmeet Center food pantry, Mill Pond Dam Centennial, Touch a Truck, Ghosts on the Banke, Portsmouth Music Hall, Friends in Action cooking night for people with intellectual disabilities, Moharimet Elementary School, Newmarket Mother and Son Dance, Newmarket Halloween Haunt, Dover Children’s Home, Dover Apple Harvest Festival, and Portland’s Preable Soup Kitchen. UNH APO also has collected fleece blankets for My Friends Place in Dover, Jeans for Teens, can tabs for the Ronald McDonald Foundation, prom dresses for low-income high school students, and warm clothing to the Somersworth Youth Haven and the Rochester School District.
“I joined APO because I wanted to find community service opportunities and meet new people, but it has become one of the most important and memorable parts of my college experience. I have made some of my best friends and experienced events such as Pease Greeters that have made me feel more connected to the community and to the nation than I ever imagined I would. I love being able to pass a fellow brother, say ‘hello’ each time I walk across campus and feel that I am part of a close knit and valuable network of students who are always willing to help out,” UNH APO member Amanda Condon said.
In addition to service, APO focuses on leadership development. This spring, Theta Zeta chapter will host a two-day leadership conference at UNH that will draw more than 300 APO members from colleges and universities in Northeast. As part of the conference, members will collect stuffed animals to donate to hospitals and places that work with children who are ill.
“Alpha Phi Omega opened doors for me as a freshman who just wanted to be involved on campus but turned into something more than that. I had opportunities for leadership roles within an organization that made me feel accepted and respected by my peers and have made some of the closest bonds with people who I can now call some of my best friends. As a junior, I have to say that APO will be one of the highlights of my college career, and I look forward to what’s to come in my last year in college,” UNH APO member Emily Smith said.
Written by Lori Wright an alum of Louisiana State University where she was active in LSU’s Alpha Epsilon chapter of Alpha Phi Omega.