Rice, beans, and deep conversations.
The nights spent preparing for barbecue fundraisers are the most memorable to Delta Zeta sorority sister, Cathalina Osornia. She never thought she would find a support system and lifelong friends while seasoning chicken at 3 in the morning.
There are 15 Greek organizations at UTRGV, the majority of which are social chapters that do not limit membership to a specific major and provide social opportunities that promote personal growth and community service. Greek organizations have storied histories, each with their own unique tradition and code of honor, which members are made to uphold.To Osornia and many other Greek members, their organization is a lot more than just cheap barbecue plates.
Clarissa Laura Rodriguez, president of the largest sorority at UTRGV and a pre-medical student, recognizes the difficulty students outside the sorority have understanding Greek society.
“It’s difficult to understand [sororities and fraternities] from the outside looking in,” Rodriguez said. “And it’s difficult to explain from the inside looking out.”
The Delta Zeta sorority has 40 active members and six pledges that are to be initiated this year. As a part of the National Panhellenic Conference, an umbrella organization founded in 1902, they are one of 26 women’s sororities
in the country. As a social chapter, they host events, fundraise for both local an national organizations, and work on interpersonal networking by establishing “better connections” and communication with one another, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, Delta Zeta president, joined the sorority as a freshman and claims that it has been an enriching experience that has helped her in her professional and social life.
“It has highlighted my best attributes but also has decreased things that I should be getting rid of,” she said.
The sisters’ focus on philanthropy by raising funds to support the Starkey Hearing Foundation, an organization that donates hearing aids to people in need, and the Painted Turtle Camp, a California-based program that allows children that require special medical attention to attend a camp session free of charge. Delta Zeta sisters also gather donations for Valley View Middle School and the Driscoll Children’s Hospital.
Each sister must complete 40 hours of community service and 50 hours of donation volunteering per semester, in addition to their fundraising and group efforts.
The sum of Delta Zeta’s philanthropic efforts is best defined in its creed which Rodriguez proudly recited from memory.
“To those whom my life may touch in slight measure, may I give graciously of what is mine,” she said.
The 2015 winner of UTRGV Sorority of the Year, Sigma Lambda Gamma, has 22 members who also strive to uphold the goals and integrity that their organization promotes. Their national philanthropies include fundraising for breast cancer awareness and the federal TRiO outreach programs, which help disadvantaged high school students achieve higher education.
Julissa Rios, SLG president and a nursing major, said that since her sisters first began fundraising for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 2014, they have tripled the amount of donations. In Fall 2015, they were able to donate $2,600 to the Texas Oncology Center, which is one of the few facilities in the Rio Grande Valley that is able to treat breast cancer patients.
Of more than 130 other fundraising entities nationwide, their chapter raised the most monetary donations.
“Sigma Lambda Gamma’s efforts towards [their] philanthropies are continuously growing and as a chapter [they] cannot wait to see their development and significant impacts [they] will have on [the] communities of the Rio Grande Valley,” Rios said.
The Sigma Lambda Gamma sisters aim to become young “Women of Distinction,” Rios said, who “encourage young women like [them] to dare to dream their biggest dreams and achieve their highest goals.”
Delta Zeta’s and Sigma Lambda Gamma’s membership has increased exponentially in the last two years. For more information on their future events or fundraisers, their respective Facebook pages are frequently updated.