By Lauren Filippini (Alpha Chi, Butler University), editor
Note: This story was originally published in the fall 2020 Lyre magazine and has been updated, as of November 2020, to reflect the efforts of the students this fall semester.
The Mental Wellness Advocate program is now a reality at the University of Iowa, thanks to efforts by Chloe Olszewski (Sigma, University of Iowa) and a team of Panhellenic women.
Chloe and other members of the university’s Panhellenic Council attended the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values (AFLV) Central conference in early 2020, where they participated in the CAMPUSPEAK PITCH competition. For this “Shark Tank” style competition, teams proposed solutions they believed would make a significant and long-term impact on issues facing college students. Chloe, joined by Madeleine Ackerburg (Chi Omega Fraternity), Audrey Patterson (Delta Delta Delta Fraternity) and Sheyanne Koethe (Zeta Tau Alpha Fraternity), focused their pitch on mental health programming – and walked away with the competition’s grand prize!
“We chose this topic because as leaders within the Greek community, we recognized a real need for day-to-day support for our Panhellenic sisters,” Chloe says. She explains that everyone faces challenges in their personal, academic and professional lives, which can get in the way of achieving their full potential if they don’t get help.
“No one should have to face the struggles of life without support, love and friendship, and how lucky are we that we belong to organizations that have all that and more in our founding?” she says. “Now our collective challenge is using that founding and core beliefs to build a support system that can cater from chapter-wide matters to more personal ones.”
At the PITCH competition, the University of Iowa team shared its goal of creating a Mental Wellness Advocate program to encourage empathic communication and comfortable support in the university’s Panhellenic community by training peer mentors for each chapter. The $15,000 prize provides CAMPUSPEAK resources to train advocates and provide them with tools and knowledge to address mental health challenges in their chapters. Advocates serve as liaisons between individuals, the chapter and university resources. This fall semester, advocates completed the CAMPUSPEAK Name Your Story training, began supporting their chapters and members, and even hosted a Mental Health Week! Chloe and her team stay in touch with advocates using Zoom videoconference calls since they cannot meet in person due to the pandemic.
“We all know life can be stressful and overwhelming, sometimes to the point that we don’t know what to do or where to go to receive the help we need,” Chloe says. “The Mental Wellness Advocate will be known as the person in their member class who has those answers and can walk the fine line between being a sister and mentor, a person who can listen to the struggles of their sisters and help them reach out for the help they need.”
Chloe says working with her team of Panhellenic women has been one of her favorite college experiences.
“The ability for each of us to still wear our chapter’s badge but also represent our community as a team was incredible,” Chloe says. “I really think it solidified the idea that we as Panhellenic women can and should be lifting each other up. We are all Panhellenic women trying to change the world, so why not do it together?”
Chloe also knows her Alpha Chi Omega experience was instrumental in her team’s success. She drew inspiration from MyJourney, the Fraternity’s collegiate member education program based on our values of wisdom, devotion and achievement.
“The MyJourney programming was a great starting point that I brought up to members of our group,” she says. “The opportunity to check in with your member class in an intimate setting and allow each other to be comfortable enough to share how you are truly feeling is an aspect of being in a sorority I never thought possible.”
And Chloe herself has been changed by the Alpha Chi Omega experience.
“Alpha Chi Omega has given me more than I could ever have dreamed for,” she says. “The women I have been so honored to call my sisters truly inspire me every single day, and the experiences have led me to where I am and to become the strong woman I am today.”
Collegiate members and alumnae members who have achieved the Life Loyal Roll receive The Lyre magazine. Learn more about the Life Loyal Roll here.