With the spring 2013 semester in full swing, the Brothers of Omega Delta Phi are currently balancing their academics while giving back to the community in various ways.
Many entities upkeep their Adopt-A-Street area. Many participated in MLK marches in their communities. Many visited elder families during Valentine’s Day. Furthermore, many are engaged with their local school systems through the Young Knights Leadership Academy (YKLA).
The YKLA program recruits underrepresented young men to be future leaders. Established in 1999 by Alex Alvarez, a founder at Michigan State University (Alpha Beta Chapter), the Young Knights Program focuses on aspects such as mentoring, career and leadership development, and philanthropy. The goal of YKLA can be best exemplified by its motto “Develop to Uplift, Uplift to Impact.
Evanston Township High School
The brothers at Northwestern University (Alpha Alpha Chapter) currently work with Evanston Township High School students ranging from 9th to 12th grade. Their presentations on college admission and college life help the Young Knights consider making education a bigger part of their lifestyle. In addition, these brothers have sponsored campus visits to their university.
“We feel that as college students, our impact would be greater on high school students who are getting ready to make the decision to attend college and pursue a profession,” Oliver Ortega said service chairmen for Alpha Alpha chapter. “It’s also easier to relate to kids at these ages because we are just a few years older than them.”
Ortega explained further on his experience with the students. “I’ve been very proud of the students we’ve interacted with and it’s been a great joy seeing them grow and develop,” he said. “I hope that our presence and activities have truly made a change in their lives.”
Over the years, the YKLA has expanded to many entities across the country and so has its focus. Initially intended for high school men, many entities have branched off to establish the Young Knights programs at elementary and middle schools.
Will Rogers Elementary School
This semester the brothers from University of Texas at San Antonio (Alpha Delta Chapter) established YKLA at Will Rogers Elementary School mentoring third graders.
With the help of Alpha Delta brothers, Edwardo Castillo and David Bernal, along with the third grade bilingual teacher, Jesse Barragan, they are striving to make a difference at the elementary.
“I was able to see firsthand the lack of positive male role models in our community,” Barragan said. As an alumnus of the Epsilon Chapter at Arizona State University, Barragan saw numerous benefits in helping establish this program at Will Rogers. He feels that for some of his students this opportunity would have a positive impact on them.
“Through Young Knights I knew that [the students] would have a stable positive mentor that could really push them and motivate them to strive academically and socially to reach their fullest potential.”
For brothers like Arturo Arrendondo, the YKLA program has been very fulfilling. ” The bond we have with the kids is amazing, they look up to us just like their older brothers” he said. “As soon as we get there every Wednesday afternoon the room just lights up, and we’re just as excited to see them!”
Pierce & Webb Middle School
At UT Austin (Chi Chapter), the brothers lead two middles schools Pierce Middle School on Mondays and Webb Middle School on Tuesdays. The focus for their activities is based on the principles of achieving academic goals, strong community involvement, as well as collaboration and leadership.
Jesus Meza, the organizer for YKLA at Chi Chapter, believes that this is a great age group to be in the YKLA program because they are “highly impressionable” at this stage of their young lives.
“At this age they learn more from the program than they would if they were younger or older,” Meza said. “The benefit they receive from learning these tools at this age is they will carry these tools on into high school. If they successfully apply these tools in high school their chances of attending a college or university are greatly increased.”
Meza also mentioned that the program has been a great outlet to relieve stress and voice opinions.
“The Young Knights enjoy going over topics their schools don’t usually cover as well as spending time with older male role models” he said. “We don’t have the opportunity to see these kids mature into young adults but I’m sure we have a positive long lasting impact on them.”
Young Knights Program Exemplifies ODPhi
While it is uncertain which age group positively benefits from the Young Knights Program the most, it is certain that the brothers of Omega Delta Phi encourage and celebrate diversity of minds in the program. This allows for these brothers to be actively engaged in their local school systems striving to “uplift” and “impact” young minds, while exemplifying some of the values of ODPhi including diversity and academic success.
“This program works to develop young boys into leaders on campus, which is the same thing that our brotherhood strives to do with our brothers,” Barragan said. “Finally, this program provides an opportunity for kids to learn the qualities they need to become better members of our community, which is an essential part of Omega Delta Phi’s mission.”