At this Minnesota sorority, members believe all women are family—and family takes care of its own.

BY JESSE MINTZ

 

When sorority recruitment started on the University of Minnesota campus, Kayla Kahl had no idea what to expect. Her image of Greek life was limited to what she’d seen in movies and on social media: parties, matching outfits and the ubiquitous sorority girl pose.

But then she learned about their community work. Each sorority had a cause—some worked with the Make a Wish Foundation, while others fundraised for Alzheimer’s research or poverty alleviation.

Kayla wanted to find her cause and with the help of Alpha Chi Omega, she did.
“Our motto is Real Strong Women,” she says of the sorority, the pride obvious in her voice. “It’s one of the biggest reasons I was excited to be Alpha Chi Omega right from the start. It ties well into our focus of promoting […] awareness and healthy relationships.”

 

Now entering her Junior Year, Kayla has seen an evolution in the university culture. Rocked by the dark realities of campus life and consent issues across the country, the women of Alpha Chi Omega are showing that Greek societies are at the forefront of promoting a supportive, inclusive culture based on strong, healthy relationships.

A major focus for the sorority has been raising the conversation about what healthy relationships on campus look like. They’ve organized events, held talks, fundraised for the local organization the Women’s Advocate, and distributed materials to educate their fellow students about consent.

“We feel it’s really important to support this conversation on campus because it’s so relevant and affects so many people,” Kayla notes.

The conversation came alive at the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event in April organized by a coalition of sororities and fraternities. Hundreds of students marched solemnly through campus wearing red ribbons as a sign of their commitment, while carrying a banner signed by each participant with their pledge to transform the culture. The march ended at a stage in the middle of campus where students shared their personal stories.

 

“It was solemn and serious,” says Kayla. And when it was over, “students reflected on what it meant. It was a safe space to share, and we all learned through it. Sometimes it’s just about being present and listening, validating other’s experiences.”

Back at the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house, the learning continues. Kayla lives there with around 45 of her sorority sisters. It’s not always ideal—sometimes it get too loud, and she could use some more privacy. But the sense of community fostered there is a powerful salve for any problem Kayla faces. She has a support network and relies on the knowledge that the women right next door are going through similar stresses, be it exams or difficulties navigating campus life. As she explains, “It’s a sisterhood not just meant for connections or fun. It’s about a group of women interested in the same idea and ideals, the same sense of possibility.”

And giving back forms a big part of those shared ideals, enshrined in the DNA of Alpha Chi Omega with events all year to support local organizations striving not only to create safe spaces for women, but also to positively influence campus culture. “We’re [taking] steps towards a better culture. You can’t deny what’s happened on campuses, but people are dedicated to having a stronger community, a stronger sense of support for women,” Kayla asserts. “And many sororities and fraternities are working towards that goal.”
 

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