Greek Organizations To Offer Big Brother/Sister Program

Volunteers pose for a photo following the parks cleanup earlier this fall.
Volunteers pose for a photo following the parks cleanup earlier this fall.

OSWEGO, NY – A SUNY Oswego fraternity is making a big impact, giving back to its community.

“We realize the potential of how much help we can provide as a fraternity,” said Christopher Marin. “And, want to give back to the community. We are trying to help those in our community who require extra assistance.”

They recently completed a cleanup of Montcalm Park and assisted members of the neighborhood with a variety of chores.

Now, they have created the Sigma Tau Chi Task Force to continue their munificent efforts.

The fraternity, with the help of other Greeks, is organizing a Big Brother / Big Sister program to help lower the dropout rate and increase the graduation rate at Oswego High School, according to Marin.

Christopher Marin, at right, explains the program to members of the Common Council recently.
Christopher Marin, at right, explains the program to members of the Common Council recently.

“During the park cleanups, we have had neighbors thank us for the cleaning. The biggest thank you comes in the form of local recognition,” said task force member Chris Varga. “It feels great to have people refer to me as a member of the Task Force because I know that the community really appreciates what we have to offer.”

Another member, Shawna Harvey, president of Aephi, added, “All the girls are really excited for the Big Brother/ Big Sister program. We can’t wait to start helping out in the high school!”

Aephi is a sorority that is involved in the program.

“I have asked Shawna (Harvey) to help me coordinate the sororities that will be volunteering. As of now, we have more than 100 volunteers. However, we do not know if we will need all of them yet,” Marin said.

“I don’t think any of us would be happy with our graduation rates, or dropout rates,” Acting Superintendent William Crist said recently. “We are looking for ways to make this a better district. We want to go from a good district to a great district.”

Marin said the Sigma Tau Chi Task Force can help the district achieve that goal.

“The goal of the task force is to raise the quality of life throughout our community. We have completed three park cleanups in the last month and helped many neighbors with simple tasks such as raking a front yard to putting items away in storage,” he said at this week’s Common Council meeting. “The task force’s newest endeavor is our most ambitious yet. It has been brought to our attention that Oswego High school is plagued with a 15 percent dropout rate.”

Several Greek organizations, with the support of the SUNY Oswego Student Association and with the help of several Oswego city police officers have, mobilized to create a Big Brother/ Big Sister mentoring program, he explained.

“We intend to try and convince these students that there are many practical advantages to staying in school and continuing their education beyond 12th grade. We feel that the best way to succeed in our endeavor would be to make ourselves readily available to them,” Marin told the councilors.

“The concept of this program was very well received by one school official who described to me an enormous lack of parental guidance that many students are faced with at home every day. This lack would have a direct negative impact on a student’s mental and emotional health,” he continued.

The task force’s goal would be to provide these students with an outlet (through the YMCA) to have fun and be surrounded by students, such as Marin, who can give them guidance on social issues that they may be facing at home or in school, he pointed out.

The fraternity brothers will be working in collaboration with volunteers from the police department.

“I believe that the combination of students and authority figures will prove to be a successful catalyst in stemming the dropout rates,” Marin said.

This program will also give students the opportunity to meet police officers on a more personal level and this can lead to an overall decrease in illegal or violent behavior, he added.

The task force needs help from members in the community to ensure the success of this initiative, he said, adding, volunteers and donations will be greatly appreciated.

“We are looking for food and beverages to supply the students with during sporting events. We are looking for finger foods (pizza, etc.) and preferably water/ Gatorade/ Powerade but will accept any other beverages,” he said. “We are also looking for anyone interested in becoming a first-year sponsor of this program; we are looking for a corporate sponsor.”

Their alderman, Connie Cosemento, has really been a great source of support for this program, Marin noted.

“I had a meeting with Mr. (Pete) Myles (OHS executive principal) and he approved the program. Now we’re just setting up the logistics of the program,” Marin told Oswego County Today. “We hope to get businesses to contribute because it will show how the local community is getting involved and it would be a great way for them to advertise to the community.”

Marin said they hope to have the program running once a week.

There will be tutoring services as well as sporting events for about an hour. It will also serve as an alternative to detention, he noted.

“Optimally, we will be able to set up vouchers with community buisnesses for certain events. One thing I want to happen is two for one movies for the mentoring program. If a big brother or big sister pays for a ticket, then the little brother/sister can go for free,” Marin said. “High schoolers are poor (as are college students); and this would also help promote buisness for the theater.”

The task force needs donations to help make the program enticing to the younger students, he said.

Once parents and community leaders/businesses are aware of what the fraternity is trying to do, they might be more willing to help out and even donate, he said.

“We hope to provide a positive influence for the students. We believe that students are bored and may just be looking for something to do. This is how negative influences can corrupt our youth. They are able to fill the void because they are actively engaging in illicit behavior and not leading productive lives,” Marin pointed out. “Hopefully, students will now have another choice to fill their time, sporting events and free tutoring services at the YMCA through this program.”

Anyone interested in helping out, or for more information, cancontact the task force at 917-697-7688.