Written by Rachel Shaffer, Membership Experience Specialist
For many undergraduates, this was the first time in their membership experience that Convention had been held in person. For many alumni, this was the first time in many years that they’d seen their peers, friends, and brothers. For all, it was an opportunity to connect and be bound by the fraternalism of Sigma Alpha Mu.
For one undergraduate attendee, Pedro Reyes (Tau, ‘19), this was his first time attending the Sigma Alpha Mu Convention and an eye-opening experience to how vastly different the University of Alabama community in Tuscaloosa is from many other campuses that have Sammy chapters.
As you can see from the photo from opening night, the Tau Chapter’s exemplary efforts earned a tremendous amount of recognition for Pedro individually, and his chapter; however for Pedro, his recollection of Convention and humility were caught up in the following evening. ”My favorite part was the second night and the awards for alumni and friends of Sammy,” shared Pedro. “It was my first realization that I am a part of something so much bigger and I will be a part of this for the rest of my life. It was a beautiful recognition for people who have had a lasting impact who still have a fundamental love for the fraternity.”
Pedro shares that fundamental love of the fraternity and has been motivated as an undergraduate member to share the beneficial power of fraternity and sorority involvement with the University of Alabama campus and the surrounding community. The University of Alabama has nearly 70 Greek-lettered organizations across four councils. Many of those chapters have signature events that they are known for on an annual basis. For many years, Sammy was a smaller chapter on campus and was looking to carve out a name for itself.
Pedro recollected, “Last year, I was Philanthropy Chair. We were saying if we want to grow as a chapter, we need a staple that people will know us by.” This led to the Sammy Safebox initiate started Fall 2021.
The Sammy Safebox benefits the Tuscaloosa Safe Center (TSC) which provides resources and support to survivors of sexual assault at no cost. Tuscaloosa Safe Center has been around for 40 years and Sammy was the first fraternity to ever reach out to partner with them. Pedro’s trailblazing vision and strong initiative led the first year of the Sammy Safebox to fundraise $9,000 and acquire over 35,000 items for TSC. The goal this year is to reach $30,000 and 70,000 items. The money raised helped to hire a part-time nurse who provides care to survivors who visit TSC and Pedro met her in-person last month.
Through its inaugural year, Sammy Safebox continues to provide support to survivors and the chapter is currently in the middle of coordinating the second year’s worth of activities. By providing this initiative, Sammy started to gain respect and recognition from larger chapters on campus and have now been invited to participate in larger philanthropic events with other organizations.
For Pedro, it isn’t necessarily about recognition. He was not expecting Convention to be highlighted with so many awards for Tau. He saw Executive Director, Andy Huston (Minnesota, ’01), at Convention – whom he hadn’t seen since he was a freshman – and Andy remarked, “look what you’ve made happen in four years!” Pedro started his time at the University of Alabama wanting to create the biggest impact as an individual and did not always have the sense that fraternity was for him. His freshman tour guide was a member of another fraternity and Pedro wasn’t certain he would end up joining but found a place in the Tau Chapter that felt right.
His impact as an individual and on the fraternity is remarkable. As Pedro approaches graduation, he is mindful of transition and passing the torch to the next group of students who can make things happen. “The biggest thing is I like to create a plan five and ten years out. That is my approach. It was brought to my attention at the beginning of the semester. After May, I do not get to have influence over where the chapter goes. I have goals for this chapter, but I am not the person who moves the pedals anymore. It is about providing the chapter with the right resources they need to find their passions and to make things happen.”
Pedro likened Sammy to the little engine that could – no one expected them to accomplish this and they somehow made it happen and are prepared to make it even bigger and better in the years to come. He also says other chapters can be doing just as much. “Every chapter can be doing this. We are not doing something that magical. We are making sure our brothers have a lot of passion for this and making sure our brothers are seeing the overall impact of the work.”
“We are making sure our brothers have a lot of passion for this and making sure our brothers are seeing the overall impact of the work.”Fra Pedro Reyes (Tau, ‘19)
Thinking back to his freshman tour guide who told him to join a fraternity when he was uncertain. Pedro thought, “I am never gonna be a fraternity guy who says for life and I’m literally that guy now because I fundamentally believe this organization has changed my life. It has the potential to do that for every member while they do what they are passionate about.”
What comes next for Pedro after college is to be determined, but he knows he wants to remain connected to the Fraternity. He has ambitions of a career in law. He would love to see Sigma Alpha Mu grow to other campuses in the South, and will continue to help people in all aspects of his life – a cornerstone of his time prior to and in Sigma Alpha Mu’s Tau chapter.
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