At the end of last week’s Student Association Senate meeting, the Plattsburgh State chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi earned the right to ask students to donate their Dining Dollars to benefit one of five of its philanthropies.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, commonly abbreviated as RAINN, partners with sexual assault service providers across the U.S., working to prevent sexual violence and helping survivors of sexual assault.
“Every semester, one organization is allowed to ask the student body for Dining Dollars for their philanthropy,” Speaker of the Senate Veronica Marchello said. This semesterly event is known as Dining for Donations.
Two other organizations, Theta Phi Alpha and Up ‘Til Dawn, competed for that opportunity as well. Each organization had a representative who presented on the organization’s behalf at the Senate meeting, explaining why his or her organization should be given the opportunity to ask students to donate.
When the Senate announced their decision, James Kennedy, Alpha Sigma Phi’s risk management director and historian, was in tears near the back of the room. Kennedy said that his fraternity brothers came to his aid and stood in front of him once they saw him crying. People who passed by him to leave the meeting congratulated him on his speech, sometimes patting him on the back. One called his speech powerful.
During his presentation, Kennedy said that his father was convicted of statutory rape against Kennedy’s girlfriend at the time. This happened while Kennedy was 14 years old. His father’s charges were placed while Kennedy was 15. He is now 20 years old.
He then gave the rest of his presentation, giving statistics about sexual assault and intertwining it with personal narrative.
“Every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted,” according to RAINN’s website, rainn.org. “Each year, there are about 293,000 (survivors) of sexual assault.”
Kennedy, a major in public relations with a minor in legal studies, said he aspires to be a criminal prosecutor.
He, along with his fraternity, will now be able to ask students for Dining Dollars, which will then be donated to RAINN to help prevent sexual assault.
In addition to Dining for Donations, Alpha Sigma Phi hosted a soccer event last semester, through which they were able to raise about $600 for RAINN.
Although Alpha Sigma Phi fundraises for RAINN, it also works to help what Kennedy said were its other four philanthropies: the Humane Society of the United States; Aware, Awake, Alive; Homes for Our Troops; and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
“If speaking today saved one person’s mind in there, then that’s a success, but that’s not what I’m going to settle for, because every single person at the school should understand of how drastic an epidemic of lack of education we’re dealing with,” Kennedy said.
He said his fraternity has a cap of $1,500 Dining Dollars donations, but he said his organization is always willing to fight sexual assault.
“When they see our letters, we want them to see that cause and that we’re going to fight for it,” Kennedy said. “If they want to stand with us, they can, but we’re going to fight, and we’re going to fight alone if we have to.”
Kennedy said for sexual assault survivors to come out of the dark, they need to find a light – something to keep them going. He said there was a time when he felt withdrawn, and that he could only imagine how a survivor would feel.
“I think a lot of the times, we’re in the dark, and we spend days and years, thinking one day, we might just wake up and we’ll be better, and I just pray that it won’t happen like that,” he said. “It’ll happen where one day, you’ll find your strength and you find a purpose, and maybe that purpose is helping the cause, or maybe that purpose is something else in life that you were meant to pursue, but for someone to come out of that dark, you need to find a light.”
Kennedy said survivors of sexual assault should keep fighting and not give up.
“Just keep holding on and never give up, because if you give up, you let something else win, and if there’s anything else that’s strong enough to win anything – win any battle – it’s the human spirit.”
Shaun Reardon, a graduate student studying education and executive director of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Up ‘til Dawn organization, said he thought Alpha Sigma Phi’s presentation was “excellent.”
“You could feel their passion for what they were doing, and I really, really enjoyed that,” Reardon said. “Overall, it was great.”
Reardon said that from the beginning of the summer to Oct. 4, Up ‘til Dawn has raised $8,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Reardon said he and his organization will attempt to obtain sponsorships for local businesses to assist them in reaching their goal of $50,000. He said they have never reached their goal, but they are hoping to reach it this year.
Up ‘til Dawn will take place Nov. 14 at 11:59 p.m. in the Warren Ballrooms at the Angell College Center.
Reardon said he once attended a seminar for all Up ‘til Dawn executive directors at a physical St. Jude location.
“I’ve met parents, I’ve met patients, I’ve met people who work there,” Reardon said. “I’d always believed in what I was doing, but until I saw that, I wasn’t as driven as I am now.”
Reardon said he is not disappointed or mad that Up ‘til Dawn didn’t win because he saw Alpha Sigma Phi’s passion for what they were doing.
“They might have needed it more than we did,” he said. “If anything, it makes us want to fundraise more.”
Email Timothy Lyman at firstname.lastname@example.org