The Founding Story as told by Founding PreSlugdent, Wendy Seng
Written on June 30, 2009
December 5, 2009 AGN’s re-chartering ceremony
“We started off as a big group of random people. Now, I can call these people my friends.”
– Marissa Santos, Founding Class
This is certainly my favorite quote to describe the founding and transitioning of our chapter here, at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
My name is Wendy Seng, and I am the first PreSlugdent (word combined by President and our beloved mascot, the banana slug). Summer is at it’s prime of 2009 as I reminisce about the journey our members have gone through to charter. It has been a year-long and rigorous progress for us. We still haven’t received our charter yet, but I have faith that we will see the day when the national office officially proclaims us as an official chapter. I believe the history, as well as the first year of chartering members who made this history, deserve its respect to be recorded and remembered. What’s that phrase people always start telling stories with? Ah yes..
Once upon a time, there was a group of 34 people from different subgroups of the campus of U.C. Santa Cruz to form the Founding Class. There are a couple of reasons why these people came together to form APhiO on this campus: some depledged other fraternities/sororities because they did not quite agree with their pledging process, some wanted to find a source to serve others, some wanted to make their college experience and $24k a year worthwhile, and some just wanted to see what it felt like to have those letters on their chest. Whatever the reason, these founding members have stuck together through thick and thin, from service to service, to successfully charter APhiO on UCSC grounds.
Here’s my story. I depledged a sorority after 7 weeks due to disagreements with their process. I heard about APhiO from friends at UCI. With ambition to create an organization where people can have a sense of belonging, I curiously ventured on the APO website. On June 4, 2008, I sent a “How To Start a Chapter” form to the national office. I know, it sounds corny and I didn’t believe anyone would respond back to me, but I had an inkling of hope that something would happen. That something did happen two weeks later. Region X director , Franklin Brodsky, e-mailed me that he would look for a sponsor for our interest group. Ecstatic that I got a response, I spread the word to my friends (mainly my ex-pledge sisters: Jessica Jung, Tyla Tran, Joanne Park, and Cherrylin Cawit). Word of mouth spread fast like wild fire. I received Facebook messages from several random people about their interest in joining.
I didn’t hear anything for almost a month. The hype died down until I received notice that they had a prospective sponsor for us, Reed Musselman. He didn’t fully agree to sponsoring us at first because he wanted to be sure he could commit to this huge responsibility. After about a week or two, he hopped on board. I thought he was going to be some old guy who told us what to do, but he definitely turned out to be the opposite. Reed is like one of us, but he makes a lot more money (haha). He never commanded us to do things. His chill nature allowed us to truly feel that this chapter was OUR chapter. We were/are extremely blessed to have Reed as our sponsor, advisor, “Dad.”
That Summer of 2008 was the start of our journey. I made a Facebook group for all of the interested members called “APO @ UCSC” to keep them updated with our efforts. Jessica Jung, Allen Vanevery Jr, and I met up with Reed for the first time at the Denny’s on 1776 Powell St. in Emeryville, CA to discuss the chartering process over some milkshakes and soup.
Our first service event ever was with Gamma Beta, San Jose State University (later to be our brother chapter). I picked up Austin Ngau, Chip Hayashi and Allen at Fruitvale Oakland’s lovely BART station. The funny part was that we all barely knew each other, but took a chance to meet at a BART station in Oakland to do a service event. It shows how early dedication started for our chapter. We met up with Reed and some Gamma Betans in San Jose. They had their cool letter shirts on and were extremely friendly to us. We walked about five blocks to the service event at an elementary playground. The scene was extremely hot! We had tasks all over: some cleaned dishes, helped children workshops, carry things, rake rugged leaves, etc. After raking leaves in the scorching heat, I was exhausted. The main service was coordinating low income families to getting necessary supplies and toys. Each family was given a certain amount of play money to buy these things. I held a little girl’s hand to pick out which toys she wanted. Before we entered the realm of toys, her father sacrificed most of his play money to her and told her to get any toy she wanted (he said this in Spanish but I understood!). A parent’s sacrifice for their children reminded me of my own parent’s sacrifices for me. This was when service became much more to me, it became a reflection of my own life. I clenched the little girl’s hand and smiled. She clenched mine back and excitedly torpedoed me towards the toy aisle.
Later that summer, Reed, Chip, my friends from Rho Rho and I met with the extension chairman, Scott Heinecke, at California Pizza Kitchen in (once again) Emeryville, CA to discuss our chapter’s future. He was extremely excited for us. His positive and exuberant energy pumped me up.
Summer 2008 was the beginnings of the beginnings of Alpha Phi Omega at UCSC. School started in the Fall and the rest is history.
Update: December 5, 2009 marks our chartering date. After a year and 5 months, I am proud to call us Alpha Gamma Nu. We are more than a “random” group of people; we’re ambitious leaders, great friends, unselfish servers and overall extraordinarily amazing people. When we leave, it is important for future generations of AGN to remember how hard their founding members fought and served for them. This is our history. This is our chapter. We are APhiO. We are AGN once again and here to stay.