Feature

Belonging and Empowerment for Life

By Niki McCann (Zeta Sigma, Missouri State University)

As a college freshman, sorority life was something of which I had only a silver screen knowledge. In high school, I was a super involved student, graduating first in my class. I did any activity that extended my school day so that I didn’t have to go home because being at home wasn’t always easy. Throughout my tenure, I attended three different high schools and lived with multiple combinations of relatives. Living with my parents was not an option, and I felt like there was nowhere I belonged. My teenage years left me unsettled, unsatisfied and lost, questioning my worth. Despite the variability of my home life, I had dreamed of attending a four-year university. In 2010, I entered the Alpha Chi Omega house at Missouri State University during recruitment as a first-generation college student, alone.

Niki (right) at her chapters’ bid day in 2010

The connections I made in high school activities had given me a reason to stay at school when times were uncertain. I knew I had to find a community if I were to be successful at Missouri State. My concept of sorority women held roots in stereotypes, but I thought I could at least make friends during recruitment. Walking into Alpha Chi Omega was different from anything I expected. Sisters from varied walks of life, walks of life like mine, surrounded the room. My chapter came with quick connections that made a campus nearly 10 times the size of my hometown feel just as familiar.  My sisters saw my value and helped me see it in myself. Through seasons of worry, study abroad trips, bad breakups and late-night frozen custard, my sisters never left me. I belonged.

With sister support, I learned to view my background as an empowering origin story. My sisters encouraged me to excel, lead and grow. The skills I gained from serving my chapter on the executive board helped me earn a Fulbright grant to Germany and a solid job after graduation. A supported woman is a force to be reckoned with, and Alpha Chi Omega gave me – a lost, first-generation, 19-year-old college student – the support and assurance I needed to reach my full magnitude.

My involvement didn’t stop at graduation – I’m just as involved as ever. Alpha Chi Omega has been the gift that keeps giving. As time has gone by, Alpha Chi Omega has been a lifeline of mentorship sprinkled with a surplus of opportunities to build connections and community. I’ve been able to advise, facilitate events and volunteer with collegiate and alumnae chapters. Even in times of change, Alpha Chi Omega was on standby. In 2017, my husband and I relocated to Indianapolis, Indiana. My first night with the Indianapolis sisters was only weeks after we moved. Playing Euchre, I met a group of friends who’ve since made Indianapolis feel like home. These friendships led to involvement in the Beta Beta alumnae chapter, the 2020 Young Alumnae Award and recently the province alumnae chair role for Indiana. Plus, my Zeta Sigma bestie and I still catch up at least once a week.

The Beta Beta (Indianapolis, IN) alumnae chapter at a Founders’ Day event in 2019

Joining this sisterhood helped me realize there’s so much more to life than how it began. Alpha Chi Omega gave me a place where I belong, no matter the time or place. I’m a true believer that with my sisters beside me and my letters in front of me, I am unstoppable.

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