Student groups powerfully unite to 'break the silence'
Photos by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor
Learning a lot along the way about each other, two student organizations at Pennsylvania College of Technology combined their efforts to raise awareness of sexual assault and donations for Wise Options, a program of YWCA Northcentral PA that provides emergency shelter and services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking.
Sigma Pi Fraternity partnered with the Human Services & Restorative Justice Club to host the recent “Speak Out Social” in Penn’s Inn in the Bush Campus Center. At the start of the event, held to mark April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it was announced that the groups raised $1,750 for Wise Options. The students attained the contributions by reaching out to potential donors and sharing information packets.
“Working on such a meaningful event has been a transformative experience for our fraternity,” said Dennis M. O’Donnell, president of the Sigma Pi chapter at Penn College. “We aimed to defy the stereotype of a ‘frat’ by demonstrating our commitment to serving as active and compassionate members of our campus and city.”
The aviation maintenance technology major added, “Survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse often suffer in silence due to the traumatic experience, feeling unheard or ashamed. With this in mind, we created an event to empower these survivors, to show them that what happened wasn't their fault and to spark much-needed dialogue about these sensitive issues within our campus and beyond. Listening to the courageous survivor statement of speaker Gigi Kilroe and other survivors who shared their stories was an important reminder of the value of giving a voice to those who feel voiceless.”
In addition to Kilroe, who is a local advocate and author, Shantay Hall, a member of YWCA’s medical advocacy and prevention education team, spoke at the gathering that was attended by a range of campus and community participants.
Sigma Pi’s collaboration with the HSJ Club began one year ago with the objective of creating a philanthropy event to benefit the YWCA. The two groups met regularly to plan their benefit and share leadership skills and organizational objectives.
“We had no idea what a great learning experience this would be for both organizations,” said Krystle J. Richardson, president of the HSJ Club. “We created so many memories along the way.
“The HSJ Club and Sigma Pi have taught their own components of their missions to each other and shared so many educational experiences from creating and planning an event, to team-building exercises, and sharing network connections between us.”
As an extension of their partnership, O’Donnell has now joined the HSJ Club, serving as treasurer.
Richardson says she hopes the two organizations will continue to work together, building leaders and making campus “stronger than ever.” O’Donnell added that the groups “look forward to making next year's event even more impactful."
Prior to the Speak Out Social, O’Donnell and Richardson were interviewed by WNEP-TV.