Logical or not, the one thing I swore I'd never do was join a fraternity or sorority. Nothing against those who do, it just didn't seem like my kind of scene. I wouldn't say that I like the quiet life, but I do enjoy a varied life, and everything I saw of fraternities and sororities screamed repetitive--not to mention indoors.
Well, three years in and wouldn't irony love the fact that I'm part of a fraternity. Well, I suppose it's only mostly ironic. See, we say fraternity/ sorority as if there's only one kind, but there are several. Each branch has its own distinct personality, and recognizing that, I stand by my original decision not to join a social fraternity; it's just not my treat.
What it is and What it is Not
APO is not a social fraternity but a service fraternity, and in the eyes of UVa, a CIO. The focus is on helping people rather than knowing people and building connections. The core principles of APO are leadership, friendship, and service, and members of the group seek to exemplify these values in their daily lives as well as through their service.
Every Saturday, the group gets up bright and early to visit various sites throughout Charlottesville and Albemarle to help Free Paint Projects, Quest, Loaves and Fishes, the Lewis and Clark Center, and many others. From a purely practical standpoint, members learn a lot about painting, sanding, building, and planning, but the main focus is on improving and being involved in the community.
Every semester the incoming pledges put on a large scale service project for the communities of Charlottesville and Albemarle. They choose it and plan it based mainly on the principles of need and permanence. Then they execute it along with current brothers and graduated brothers who can make the trip back. Past projects include the Skate Park at McIntire and the renovations at Greenbrier Elementary School.
To be clear, APO does not haze; not only would it be against APO's charter, but it would also violate UVa's own policies on the matter. APO also does not use any of its fraternity money (pledge dues, brother fees, etc.) to purchase alcohol. Again, the focus is on service, so our money goes to buying things like tools and paint and paying National Chapter dues.
In my mind, the importance of any group lies in whether it serves a function, especially when it fills a niche. Much like Write Club that fills the void from a lack of creative writing options, APO gives an outlet for both service and social events. Most groups are either one or the other. To find out more about APO or a chapter in your area (each chapter runs slightly differently depending on its choices, though they all have the same core), go to http://www.student.virginia.edu/~aphio/
If you have any questions about fraternity/sorority life, or social, service, and honor fraternities, please feel free to email me. I won't pretend to be an expert on the subject, but what I can't answer, I can surely direct you closer to the person who can.