Being able to study abroad in Europe and getting to see 13 countries and numerous cities was a surreal experience. A major factor in my three and a half months being so unforgettable was not just where I went, but who I was with. I had the opportunity to spend the past semester with some incredible people, in particular, four of my fraternity brothers. We made some unbelievable memories traveling to places like Munich, Amsterdam, Dublin and Budapest. I am incredibly fortunate to have had four of my brothers with me and the rest back home supporting us in our travels.
Sigma Phi Epsilon has been an integral part of my college experience, travels abroad and growth as a person. To pay homage to my brothers in SigEp, I’d like to not only dedicate this post to them but also explain what my brothers, SigEp and Greek life mean to my life with cerebral palsy.
My hope is that this post will give you a concrete example of how the relationships built within a fraternity can have a profound impact in the development of a person and their successes.
Before recently, I have always hid my CP from people. For a long time, it has been something I have been ashamed of. If people asked why I walked slightly different, I’d say things like: Because I had surgery, I just went for a run or my foot’s asleep. For years I have hid under the cloak of these little white lies told to my friends, girls I liked, coworkers and classmates. While none of those responses were untrue, they might as well have been. The fear of confessing my “secret” led me to become incredibly self-conscious of how I walked. During high school, I began to be more open about my CP and started using it as a way to spread awareness and contribute philanthropically to Children’s Hospital. Despite the positive feedback from the numerous people who heard my speeches or read articles about me, I still couldn’t come to terms with my disability. I never felt comfortable with my CP until I joined the SigEp chapter at Miami University.
My freshman year at Miami I wanted to branch out from my friends who had their sights set on other fraternities. After connecting with the current brothers and receiving the Balanced Man Scholarship, accepting my eventual bid to SigEp was a no-brainer. During our first full night together, my class listened as we heard older brothers talk about the bond between their fellow members and the steadfast loyalty they shared. I came to the conclusion that if I was going to be a part of this brotherhood, I had to be completely open and vulnerable with them from the get-go.
Although I knew a few of the guys in my class, that night was the first night I ever willing told anyone I have CP directly after meeting them.
From the second I swallowed my pride and told my brothers, they have been nothing but supportive, understanding and trustworthy in regards to my CP. They have not only accepted me, but they have been genuinely accepting of the effects of CP and enthusiastic about spreading of awareness. Over the years, they have initiated multiple ways to incorporate CP awareness within our Fraternity, whether it be philanthropically or organizing an on-campus event for me to speak at. Along with a more than generous donation, they shared the Pave Your Path project with Sigma Phi Epsilon national representatives and various Miami organizations. Their efforts helped set up a solid following before the project even launched. SigEp’s engagement in the CP fight has meant the world to me, but what truly reflects the bond we have is how they have helped me develop as a person.
Although I have always been very outgoing, I was introverted regarding my CP. Outside of family and close friends, I never talked about my disability or admitted my struggles to others. The walls I built stayed standing even as I entered college. Today, because of the men of SigEp, my walls of insecurity have fallen exponentially. The mutual trust forged between my brothers, especially my class, has made me comfortable speaking informally about CP, and not just strictly for philanthropic purposes. Furthermore, they have made me more comfortable with who I am because of their unconditional support and understanding.
Their understanding of the sporadic adversity I experience is shown through their admittance of not understanding my disability, but accepting it nonetheless. My physical improvements over the years make my CPy more than manageable on most days. Unfortunately, there are some days I experience difficulties. For most people, this has been challenging to grasp, but not for my brothers.
For example, I was diagnosed with the flu during exam week the first semester of my sophomore year. My brothers knew CP made daily tasks relatively harder when I got sick. Although they could never understand why or how much more difficult it was, they were always willing to go the extra mile to make sure I got healthy. My brothers took time out of their study schedules to drive me to and from the doctor, make sure I stayed hydrated and helped me prepare for my exams. It is safe to say I wouldn’t have had a successful exam week without their selflessness.
In the past, I would have never admitted to the struggles I experienced. Many times, to my own detriment, I have fought through injuries and sickness instead of having the humility to ask for help. The trust and understanding within Sigma Phi Epsilon has helped me become more aware of my own physical well-being going forward. I also admit that my brothers’ selflessness inspires me to be more aware of the people who need my help and to be thankful to those who help me.
Most importantly, the men of Sigma Phi Epsilon continually encourage me to push my limits. They do not allow my CP to exempt me from the high standard in which we hold one another. Much like my family, my Fraternity brothers have never once felt sorry for me or treated me any differently. Whether it be in the classroom or my physical shape, they have continually encouraged me to work harder and make sure I stay on course. My brothers have never cited my CP as an excuse for why I could not achieve something. More often than not, they have used it as an example of why I should achieve a certain grade or milestone.
Ultimately, my brothers have provided me with the added belief that I can achieve anything I set my mind to, not despite CP but because of it.
The most impressive aspect of my Fraternity and fraternities around the country is not something that can be quantified into a set of statistics. It is instead, the personal development experienced while you are a member. The successes I have had and will continue to have are the byproduct of my relationships with my brothers in SigEp. The path I have been trying to pave is as much theirs as it is mine.
I can truthfully say I love every member of the chapter and the seniors who graduated. These men are my best friends, my brothers and my family. I am beyond blessed to be part of our brotherhood. I can only hope I have made a fraction of the impact on them as they have made on me.
Thank you, guys, for everything. I may not be able to say you helped me become the next Greek president of the United States, but I can say you helped me overcome my CP and pave my path.
I would like to dedicate this post to our Chapter Advisor Rocco Manzo for doing an amazing job to in foster a strong relationships within our fraternity.
I would also like to dedicate this post to our Alumni Director, Joe Hornsby ’06, and our Alumni Board. Joe and the board provide us with our Fraternity house, as well as guiding us to live by our values: Virtue, Diligence, and Brotherly Love.
Lastly, I’d like to thank Miami University’s Interfraternity Council. Upon hearing about my project, the IFC shared it with administrators throughout Miami and on a university press release. Thank you for seeing my endeavor as one that represents the Greek community well.
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