A Helping Hand

Some students already knew Greek life at Nicholls State University would be different. Others were wary of stereotypes and avoided it until friends brought them in. Whatever path they took to get involved, the only regrets are not getting involved sooner.

Greek Life is one of the first things people think of when considering the social aspect of universities. Whether that thought is positive often depends on perspective. Greek life brings brotherhood and sisterhood, networking through alums and community service. It also brings to mind hazing, substance abuse and bad grades.

Because of these negative stereotypes, participation in Greek life around the country is decreasing. Nationally, it’s a decrease of about 4 percent.

At Nicholls, however, the numbers are rising. Sorority members increased by 13 percent, while fraternity membership increased by
about 18 percent.

Members of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority pose for a photo.

“Greek life has been a lot more than what I thought it would be, and I’ve enjoyed every step.” – Remy Lodrigues

Meeting and Breaking the Stereotype

When nursing major Remy Lodrigues came to Nicholls, he initially had no intention of pledging to a fraternity. He just wasn’t interested in what television and social media had taught him about Greek Life – the nonstop party. He signed up for Rush Week only to meet new people.

“During that week, they proved me wrong – it wasn’t like the stereotype,” Lodrigues says. “Greek life has been a lot more than what I thought it would be, and I’ve enjoyed every step.”

Concerns about joining a sorority caused human performance major Tabatha Tabb to take it a step further than Lodrigues. She avoided Greek life completely during her freshman year. It took befriending people involved in fraternities and sororities to realize things were a little different at Nicholls.

“Knowing them, and finding out what they did, and that philanthropy was a huge thing,” she says. “I thought, ‘I want to be a part of that,’ and they took me right in.”

Abby Wayne was hesitant to join because of peer pressure to conform. On other campuses, Wayne says you can often spot a member of Greek Life because of how they dress or act.

“I thought I was going to have to conform my personality, but they really celebrated how different I was,” she says. “I found that people
were very diverse.”

That is not to say all the stereotypes are not true. You really do make friends, often for life.

“I know who’s going to stand in my wedding and who’s going to be there at my funeral,” Lodrigues says. “It’s that close of a bond.”

The networking is real, too. For Lodrigues and pre-med major Brady Levron, it started before they have even left college. They both work for Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, and a fraternity brother helped connect them with the right contacts. And they believe that networking will extend beyond college, when it is time to get a job.

That networking also helps while you are in college. Culinary arts and graphic design student Kayla Freemon says meeting sisters nationally and members of other National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations have helped her earn scholarships.

During the pandemic, Greek Life has had to get creative in making sure its students socialize safely. Phi Mu Chapter Chair Grace Anne Clement says her group has held virtual sisterhood events that include fun and engaging events.

“They have held virtual spa nights, paint parties, game nights and more,” she says. “They pre-package all the supplies needed for the events and girls pick up their goodie bags for the Zoom. We can still have some meetings and events in person as well. The only difference is that we are wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart, which we have all adapted to at this point.”

Clement admits her chapter is more to her than just something to do, as her sisterhood has helped her throughout the pandemic. The sorority posted topics about mental health and offered a space for the women to talk out how they were doing.

“When we were separated for so many months, these girls were the people who I was FaceTiming and calling everyday, having socially distant picnics with, and even the girls who dropped coffee off at my doorstep when I had a long school week ahead,” she says. “Although we have to be separated physically, our sisterhood has never been stronger. This pandemic has made us thankful for the times we do get to be together and the sisterhood we have in front of us today.”

“It is very important that we as a sorority and NPHC goes that extra mile. It is also important that we all make sure that we continue to help the community even after that undergrad life.” - Kayla Freemon

GIVING BACK

Giving the community a helping hand through philanthropy and service is part of the appeal of Nicholls Greek Life.

Year after year, fraternity and sorority members take part in more than 24,000 service hours and donate more than $130,000 to local and national philanthropies.

Freemon says service was a big draw for her joining Greek Life. Sigma Gamma Rho’s service activities include working with Swim 1922 to help Black women and girls learn to swim, Operation Big Bag to help children with school supplies and helping locals register to vote.

“It is very important that we as a sorority and NPHC goes that extra mile,” she says. “It is also important that we all make sure that we continue to help the community even after that undergrad life.”
Fraternities and sororities often have a charity connected to their national organization, but they also look local. Wayne says it is the local charity that often holds a special place in their heart. For Delta Zeta, they support The Bridge to Independence and the Bayou Children’s Museum.

Raising money also did not stop for the pandemic. Phi Mu put on a virtual bingo that raised nearly $14,000 for the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans.

“Every woman of our chapter played a part in making this event the best it could,” Clement says. “We promoted the event, got donations from local businesses, and reached out to our friends and families for donations as well. Phi Mu’s love for our philanthropy is something that we all have in common and are passionate about.”

It does not always have to be about money, either. Sometimes giving back is just lending a helping hand. Lodrigues says Sigma Alpha Epsilon requires 70 service hours per year, while other chapters at different universities only require 25.

On an international scope, Delta Zeta contributes to Homeruns for Hearing, which supports hearing aids in countries where most cannot afford them. The event brings together not only the Greek life organizations, but other campus groups as well, including Nicholls Veterans.

“It is probably my favorite thing DZ does,” Wayne says. “It’s a softball tournament, and I’m not at all athletic, so we’re just out there having a fun time goofing around. But for a good cause.”

Speaking of bringing the community together, that is what Greek Week is all about. But it is also a time when groups can raise some serious money. Songfest alone has raised as much as $6,000 in
one year for charity.

“I think Songfest is probably my favorite event of Greek Week,” Wayne says. “Every Greek organization comes together and puts on a dance and routine. It brings everyone together, and it’s a great time.”
Tabb adds, “And it’s not just the day of. I love the practice that goes into it. It really brings you closer together with your sisters just spending time together and goofing off. I think the practice is my favorite part of Songfest.”

It is also another example of how Greek life helps you grow as a person, Levron says.

“It’s one of the things I will always remember about my college experience,” he says. “I can’t dance to save my life. They stick me in the back and I just try to figure out how to not look too stupid. But it gets you out of your comfort zone and that’s important.”

Maintaining a GPA

A big part of Lodrigues’ hesitance in joining Greek Life was because he knew he was going to be a nursing major.
Nursing is a competitive program, and he did not think partying with fraternity brothers would help him to walk across the stage to accept his diploma. Yet, Lodrigues admits he was wrong about that, too. Nicholls Greek students regularly boast a cumulative GPA higher than their peers.
Remy says fraternity brothers hold each other accountable. The academic chair will develop a plan for you if you are struggling, and your other brothers are there to cheer you on.
“So we know when we have to buckle down,” he says. “We might have a big event coming up or it’s finals week, so we’ll say, ‘Let’s all get together now and study, because we know later we won’t be able to do it.’”
Freemon also finds that the Greek community comes together to help one another, and it is not just people in your chapter. And if she needs more time to study, she can call upon those people to help share the load on managing the different events.
“If I need anything, all I have to do is make one call,” she says. “And it doesn’t even have to be in my chapter, I can call someone outside of my chapter, and now still have that type of help. So it’s never just me by myself doing everything to the point where I’m so involved in this that I can’t get my work done.”
Lodrigues says being involved forces you to learn time management skills.
“If I hadn’t been involved, I don’t know if I would have ever learned about finding a balance because I would have just spent more time watching TV or doing something else,” he says. “I know I have a limited amount of time to get my school work in, so knowing I want to participate in this or that event, I know I
can’t procrastinate.”

IS IT FOR YOU?

Greek Life may not be for everyone, but Levron says you owe it to yourself to at least go through Rush Week. If you are worried about the stereotypes, about sacrificing your GPA or who you are as a person, you may be pleasantly surprised.
“If you’re uncertain about it, put your foot in the door,” he says. “At the end of the week- long process, you don’t have to say yes, but you would definitely do yourself a disservice to miss out on that opportunity of going through Rush.”
Greek life has helped Freemon grow as a person, so she recommends people give it a chance. Growing up, she had always been shy and getting involved helped her become more social and a leader.
“I no longer consider myself just a regular student, I consider myself a leader on campus. Being able to work with so many people, so many organizations, higher up people, I never thought that would be in this position,” she says. “I never thought that I would meet so many women who were so positive and would support me for the rest of my life.”
Tabb says she regrets not getting involved sooner, but joining late encouraged her to push herself to be as involved as she could.
“If you come to college, I encourage you to join something to get the most of the experience,” she says. “If you want to meet the most people, and become more involved on campus, join Greek Life. It will put you out there and you will learn so much more about yourself than you can just in the classroom.”

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