How Joining an Inclusive Fraternity Helped Me Gain Confidence With Apert Syndrome

I recently joined Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed fraternity organized to provide community service, leadership development, and social opportunities for college students. It was not the easiest thing for me to do. It’s been widely recognized as one of the largest groups on my university campus, with over 100 members. It’s a lot to take in for a girl like me. I just became an official brother starting this semester, and I still feel like I have a lot to learn. One of the best things about it, however, is that they are all-inclusive. That has been the biggest lucky break for me.

My Apert syndrome has caused more than visibly different physical characteristics. As I’ve grown, my self-doubt and insecurity built up in me to a point when I could easily break and lose the ability to hope for anything good. When I got the flyer inviting me to come to an informational event for Alpha Phi Omega, I hesitated. I had been talking about it for a whole semester before with two of my closest friends who were involved in it, and thought it’d be good for me. They believed I could fit right in. But I was nervous, because even in a large fraternity like that, they’ve probably never seen a face like mine before.

I was always told that in college, no one really cares about differences like mine. People aren’t as judgmental as they were when they were younger. I believed that during my first year, but as I became associated with the fraternity, my insecurity started to act up, and it was as if I entered a whole new world. Everything felt alarming and different.

However, in the end, it all slowly started to be OK. Alpha Phi Omega is definitely as all-inclusive as proclaimed, and there is an absolute no-hazing policy. Not once has anyone in the fraternity stopped and stared at my face. Not once has anyone felt the need to question why they would allow “the girl with Apert syndrome” to start pledging and eventually cross as a brother. Everyone I’ve ever met in my school’s chapter has been so nice and so welcoming. Alpha Phi Omega has given me the strength I need and a reason to fight my insecurity.

To all my brothers in APO, no amount of thanks will ever be enough for me to express how much I cherish your readiness to see beyond my face. Alpha Phi Omega’s cardinal principles are Leadership, Friendship, and Service. It means a lot to be a leader. It means a lot to do service. But it means so much more to your Apert syndrome brother for you to go that extra mile, and be a friend to someone who is still trying to make it through pits of hopeless darkness.

Thank you for lighting my way.

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