Sometimes a Five Star College Project, a college goal, and a chapter’s need for increased membership and leadership come together — and something terrific emerges.
That is exactly what happened when the college president, the foundation office, the community, and members of the Sigma Delta Chapter at College of the Mainland in Texas put their heads together.
Meeting Many Needs
According to alumna Dalel Serda, who was serving as an advisor for Sigma Delta during the fall of 2016, the chapter was presented with several challenges at the same time:
- They needed a College Project to meet the requirements of the Five Star Chapter Plan.
- Chapter officers felt their numbers were too small to accomplish their goals — more members were needed.
- With most of the surrounding area of the college below the poverty line, the $85 membership fee was a barrier to eligible students.
- The chapter needed a way to cultivate new leaders, so their initiatives could continue.
When chapter officers and advisors approached their administration about ideas for a College Project, they had a need too – increased enrollment and a desire to create a positive impression of the college in the community.
New Member Scholarships
Then another amazing coincidence happened. The Foundation Office at College of the Mainland had extra funds to share with Sigma Delta. All of the money had been contributed by faculty and staff at the college, and the idea of creating a member scholarship was born.
“Getting people more involved is always one of our officers’ goals,” Serda said. “Our chapter team felt it was important for the students to show their commitment to Phi Theta Kappa.
“They were concerned about the scholarships just being an easy way of obtaining membership.”
So, a provisional membership program was created to allow scholarship applicants to explore involvement with Phi Theta Kappa.
In the fall of 2016, 45 eligible students applied for member scholarships, 27 were presented and the chapter had 85 new members — bumping Sigma Delta’s overall acceptance rate to 20 percent.
The chapter held some of the money in reserve so they could offer more scholarships in the spring. They will evaluate the program yearly to see if they are able to renew it, but it is something the Foundation hopes to be able to continue.
High School Outreach
With a fresh group of new members to help with initiatives, Sigma Delta now had the workforce needed to complete a successful College Project. Scholarship recipients were asked to complete one hour of volunteer work for the project, with the hope that this would lead to more involvement in the future.
Serda said the idea of outreach to high school students stemmed from the college’s desire that they focus on ambassadorship.
“A local junior high school had students who needed an additional push to go to college, so they reached out to COM,” said Chapter President Kaci Maris. “PTK is always ready to jump on something like this, so many members signed up to go.”
The chapter wanted COM’s enrollment to increase — and they saw that happening through middle school and high school outreach.
“We partnered with middle schools and high schools here,” Serda said. “The members went out and talked with those students about the value of the college experience and the Phi Theta Kappa experience.
“It also gave our provisional members an opportunity to exercise their roles in the community.”
Chapter members are also staying in touch with some of the younger students through social media, continuing to serve as role models as they continue their educational journey.
“The younger kids were really excited,” Maris said. “The junior high teachers want them to come back — they’re interested in setting up meetings with college counselors to come and talk about collegiate high school.”
Meanwhile, in Georgia…
High school outreach is becoming more of a trend nationwide as emphasis is being placed on college readiness.
The state of Georgia now has the Move on When Ready (MOWR) program for high school students, and colleges are responding to the demand.
“As a college, we have someone in admissions tasked with recruiting and supporting dually enrolled students”, said Amy Hancock, Georgia Region Associate Coordinator and advisor at South Georgia College. “Our college has been intentional about inviting students from the area high schools for campus tours especially designed for them.
“We also have professors that teach in the high schools for MOWR credits as well as them coming to the college campus.”
This spring two members of Kappa Sigma Chapter at South Georgia College actually graduated from college BEFORE graduating from high school.
“We have an information table at preview day events, which includes many of the students who are interested in dual enrollment,” Hancock said. “We also present PTK stoles to seniors at their high school honors night.
“We feel this is a way for the juniors and sophomores to see one of the benefits of joining.”
Marisol Rivas joined the Kappa Sigma Chapter while still attending high school. She learned about Phi Theta Kappa through an email invitation, and a friend who was already a member talked her into it.
“What really interested me was all the activities they do, and, of course all the community projects that are done,” Rivas said. “I decided to join because I wanted to get more involved with the community and have an opportunity to receive scholarships.
“I did gain a lot of knowledge as far as working with others and became more confident in myself.”
A Bright Future for Members and Chapters
And so far it looks as if the future of both chapters is in good hands. With the exception of Maris, all of Sigma Delta’s chapter officers came from the high school collegiate program.
“Our hope with the high school and junior high visits was to let these kids know they can go to college,” Maris said. “Education is so important. We wanted them to know that COM and PTK believe in them.
“We want people to excel. Everybody deserves that chance.”