In movies, sororities are often stereotyped to be groups of blonde, skinny girls who can’t tell their right from their left. Their only goals are to party and gain a massive social media following. However, this is not the case. Their weeks consist of meetings, while their weekends consist of community service. With countless leadership and networking opportunities, there is a bond between sisters, which senior nursing major Amanda Li Furnari, sister of Alpha Epsilon Phi and Sorority Woman of the Year, holds close to her.
Furnari majors in nursing and minors in nutrition. The vigorous program was challenging and trying at times for her, but she pushed through. Balancing her major, minor and sorority life was even more challenging.
“It wasn’t easy,” Furnari said. “There were a few times where I really debated whether or not if I should remain a nursing major.”
This past year, she came to a crossroads. As she looked back at her junior year, she questioned her knowledge and abilities. But at the end of January and beginning of February, she had begun her immersion in a hospital outside of Plattsburgh. Between this immersion and her summer internship, she was able to interact with a different demographic and was able to experience how hospitals work in the downstate areas.
“Nursing is not easy and they don’t make [the program] easy for a reason,” Furnari said.
Even with her busy workload from her major and minor, Furnari knew something was missing.
Furnari had done it all in high school: cheerleading, lacrosse and multiple honor societies. After coming to Plattsburgh State, she had decided to take a look at sororities on her campus because of recommendations from friends and family in Greek life.
“I never saw myself as a sorority woman,” Furnari said. “I cheered from seventh grade to senior year [of high school]. I was done with women.”
After attending rush events for three organizations on campus, she found that Alpha Epsilon Phi had stuck with her the most. After her first semester of being an official sister, Inter Sorority Association vice president and president at the time encouraged her to get involved with the ISA. Soon enough, Furnari was slated for the ISA board and served as a general vice president.
Molly Schoder, senior nursing major, has been with Furnari during her time in AEPHI and became an influence in her life. They met during Furnari’s first semester at PSUC in history class. She asked Schoder about Greek life and Schoder encouraged her to come to an AEPHI rush event.
“My experiences with Amanda have been extremely unique throughout our time together in AEPHI,” Schoder said. “It has been an honor to watch her grow as a woman and leader on campus and within our sisterhood.”
What Schoder is most proud of Furnari for is her receiving the award for Sorority Woman of the Year. She described Furnari as extremely intelligent, driven, caring and compassionate and knows that these qualities will make her a strong nurse in her future.
“Amanda will drop absolutely anything to lend her hand when you need it the most,” Schoder said. “She is one of the most reliable people that I know.”
In order for Furnari to have won the Sorority Woman of the Year award, she had to complete an application. It included five sections, along with a sixth section for a 500-word essay that focused on campus and community service, personal character, academic achievement and honors, fraternity leadership, interfraternal spirit and the value of her fraternal experience.
Through AEPHI, Furnari worked her way up from philanthropy chair in fall of 2017 to vice president of risk management and social responsibility in spring 2018 and new member educator in fall 2018. She revamped these positions and made them her own, keeping her sisters in mind.
While holding positions and balancing her school work, Furnari was inducted into three honor societies: Gamma Sigma Alpha, Rho Lambda and Order of Omega. She became vice president of Gamma Sigma Alpha last semester to this semester.
She also became a co-facilitator for future fraternal leaders last year, as well as becoming a co-site leader for alternative spring break from March 16 to March 23. In this roll, Furnari led nine fraternity and sorority women in service-based activities in Pursglove, West Virginia, at The Shack.
“That was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Furnari said. “If I could stress to anyone that wants to really give back and doesn’t have a plan for spring break that’s in our community to actually do [Alternative Spring Break].”
While it was exhausting and a lot of hard work, it was rewarding for her.
During this one-week period, Furnari and others participating met at before and after school programs, hung out with the kids for a few hours. They did of maintenance work, painting and manual labor such as moving various items, mopping and waxing floors, and working outside.
Besides her community service hours earned during Alternative Spring Break, Furnari participated in Relay for Life, Up ‘Til Dawn, Day of Caring, the Plattsburgh Half-Marathon, Move-In Day for PSUC, Shine On! and completed 20 to 30 hours through AEPhi.
With all of her accomplishments, both in her sorority and academic aspects of her life, her mother, Cindy Furnari is endlessly proud of her daughter’s perseverance.
“Anything she has wanted she has pursued vigorously and has always succeeded,” Cindy Furnari said. “She has been unstoppable, and we are beyond proud of her.”
Cindy Furnari describes her daughter as a bright, happy and caring young lady who will go far in the world.
“Amanda is very passionate about many things and has always strived to be the best at everything she tackles,” Cindy Furnari said.
Amanda Furnari is adopted from China and said she tells everyone as it is a part of her.
Furnari was found at only two-weeks-old in a dumpster of a train station. She was soon rescued by a police officer and put into the Blue Sky Orphanage in China. After nine months, her parents adopted her and brought her home with them.
“I was a literal butterball,” Furnari said. “I was very chunky because orphanages don’t have a lot of time and a lot of hands. Babies had to just lay there.”
At 9-months-old, Furnari was the developmental age of a 4 or 6-week-old child.
She did not have the strength to hold up her neck. She did not have the ability to crawl. She did not speak. Amanda Furnari never cried when she needed anything and was just overall behind as a child.
Growing up, her parents contacted a tutor who allowed her to excel, catch-up with the rest of her peers and put her back onto the right milestones for her age.
Her cheerleading coach from high school, Lauren Bunyan Gould, passed away two years ago and was an inspiration in Amanda Furnari’s life. A quote Gould always mentioned is one that Furnari lives by.
“Don’t dream your life, live your dream.”