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Not Your Typical Fraternity

Alpha Phi Omega offers students an opportunity to give back.

Community conscious students join Alpha Phi Omega’s Rush week. The co-ed, national fraternity is all about service in the community.

In the lower level of UMBC’s Mardi Gras themed bar, Flat Tuesdays, the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity hosts one of their rush week events. Students who wander in are not there for beer and member bids; instead, they come for fun, games and mocktails. Not a typical fraternity, APO is a national, co-ed, service-oriented organization.

Anyone interested is welcome to join APO, and the Rush Week festivities are laid back. There was an “Acts of Kindness” scavenger hunt, where students were encouraged to compliment a stranger or give someone a high five. Rush activities also included cupcake decorating, a PB&J making competition, and the “Mocktails and Games night.”

About twenty students gather for sugary, non-alcoholic strawberry daiquiris and piña coladas. A stack of Jell-o “shooters” sits next to the mocktails — an array of lime, blueberry and cherry gelatin in one ounce, plastic cups. The group is playing the infamous card game “Cards Against Humanity,” where players try to match cards to make hilarious phrases and sentences. The game has a reputation for being offensive, but sometimes can be innocuous. One winning hand reads “Tim Allen must overcome his fear of the Care Bear Stare in order to save Christmas.”

Felicia Baney, a senior majoring in financial economics, is the president of APO. Baney discovered the fraternity during Involvement Fest in fall 2013 and liked the idea of giving back to the community. She pledged that fall and was president by spring. There were eight members at the time Baney pledged, but through promotion and outreach APO now has 25 active members and is growing.

The eager pledges are offered a number of ways to help their community. APO has worked with a long list of charities including Art with a Heart, which offers visual art classes to vulnerable children, youth and adults in Baltimore. They have also helped Project Linus, which makes blankets for critically ill children. Additionally, the fraternity hosts activities such as environmental cleanups and marathons.

A good third of the students at the game night are sporting black APO t-shirts. Greek letters representing their fraternity’s name are printed across the front. Ardy Sowe, a junior double majoring in biology and anthropology is new to the group. He has a unique personal style, with a gold septum ring, and a classic, brown, leather satchel. Not yet a member, Sowe came to check out what APO is all about.

“I’m interested in helping out the area where I’m from and associated with,” the soft-spoken Sowe explains. Sowe previously worked on UMBC’s environmental task force, and is now looking for a broader way to help the Baltimore area. He is glad he checked out APO.

“Everyone’s open and friendly,” Sowe says. “I feel like I’m made to fit in.”