The Beta Pi Theta Chapter at Miami Dade College – Hialeah Campus in Florida is truly “the little Phi Theta Kappa chapter that could,” after greatly increasing its membership from about four to around 160 and jumping from zero stars to four stars currently in the Five Star Chapter Plan – all in less than a year.
Although the chapter was chartered in 2007, its setting on a small campus kept it from really growing. But, two key things happened for it in early 2013: Dr. Kelly Kennedy became the new chapter advisor, and Jeffrey Romeu became chapter president.
Both Kennedy and Romeu are competitive, and they both enjoy a challenge.
“I like to see organizations grow; I like the challenge,” Romeu said. “And, the objective of Phi Theta Kappa is such a good objective. I saw a lot of potential there.”
Romeu was inducted in 2012 and was one of only about four active members. The prior chapter president encouraged the now-21-year-old to seek a leadership position within the chapter. As he became president, Kennedy came on board as advisor. She had previously been one of five advisors at Miami Dade College’s North Campus chapter; and, upon relocating to the Hialeah campus, she had been hoping to get more involved with the chapter.
“We just dove right into it,” Kennedy said. “Now we’re up to around 160 members.”
The chapter started by working with college administrators to send out an email to all eligible members. Then, a follow-up email was sent containing a passcode so the student could accept membership online.
“The best things we ever did were allowing students to accept online and to pay with a credit card,” Kennedy said.
The Hialeah campus is small, with only one main academic building, so there aren’t as many eligible students as there would be at other larger colleges and campuses. It’s also located in a poorer neighborhood, which means many eligible students do not accept their membership invitation simply because they cannot pay the fees.
Despite these two hurdles, the true game-changer in the chapter’s membership numbers proved to be good, old-fashioned promotion of the organization.
“We put posters on every floor of the buildings on campus,” Kennedy said. “We set up a Facebook page. We had faculty members promote it in their classroom.”
The chapter also garnered about 800 signatures during a Commit to Complete event, lending further visibility to the chapter. And, the chapter displayed the results of its Honors in Action Project in the campus library, which also generated buzz and interest.
“You have to have a special group of kids, which I know we all do,” Kennedy said.
Romeu is among that special group of kids. He’s a first-generation college student who is also president of the Student Government Association. Kennedy swears he will rule the world someday.
Romeu was recently selected to work in the U.S. Department of State as an intern for two years, one in Washington, D.C., and the second in a foreign country in an embassy or consulate office. He was one of only 18 students chosen from more than 15,000 applicants across the United States.
“Serving as chapter president and being in Phi Theta Kappa has taught me a lot about team building, and I’ve learned how to delegate,” he said. “And through our community service projects, I’ve learned even more that it’s not all about me. It’s about the difference we can make in the lives of others.”
The quick growth of the chapter – their promotional efforts were seeing results in as little as two months – led to the creation of an eight-member officer team known as the Executive Board.
“It’s been a very surreal year,” Romeu said. “It will be amazing to look back and see what all we accomplished.”
Among those accomplishments is the jump to a Four Star Chapter. Kennedy said the chapter is hoping to ultimately be named a Five Star Chapter for its efforts in 2013 and said they are just waiting to hear from Phi Theta Kappa Headquarters that they’ve reached that goal.
The chapter also completed an Honors in Action Project and participated in the Honors Case Study Challenge. They attended their first regional meeting in early 2013, and they are finalizing plans to attend their first Annual Convention in Orlando in April.
The chapter has begun holding events with chapters from the other Miami Dade College campuses, and they all support each other’s fundraisers.
“Fellowship is one of the most important things,” Kennedy said. “If the students like the things we’re doing, they’ll want to do even more, and it makes others want to join.”