Members of Kalamazoo Valley’s Alpha Rho Nu Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society recently returned from an international convention in San Jose, California. The six students and their advisor Diane Vandenberg found the PTK International Convention to be inspiring.
About 3,500 students from community colleges across the nation attended the event, which was held during the first week of April.
Tennis pro and social justice pioneer Billie Jean King was the keynote speaker. There were also competitions, workshops and networking opportunities. The students agree that the experience will boost their effectiveness as PTK leaders. Participants included Robbie DePalma, an accounting student who serves as the Vice President of Records; Jacob Pierce, Aviation Flight Sciences student and Vice President of Leadership; Adam Lozier, President of Communications; recent graduate Melody Woods, outgoing Vice President of Services; Cally Grimes, Vice President of Scholarships; and Natasha Turcotte, Vice President of Records.
“It was a great opportunity to learn about PTK as a whole,” said Grimes.
DePalma said the trip was great, but he expected nothing less since his PTK experiences have all been positive. “All the opportunities we get here are amazing,” he said. “PTK is a really good crowd to be a part of. I’ve had a chance to make really good friends.”
Pierce called the experience humbling. “It was neat to see how far Billie Jean King has come. Her story is very empowering. You could just feel the excitement in the room.”
Grimes agreed. “It was so powerful just to be in that room with the top successful ten percent of community college students,” she said.
Lozier said one of the reasons the trip was such a success was because the PTK students are a close knit group. “We built such a strong team before we even left Kalamazoo,” he said. “The fun didn’t stop,” he said. Lozier said the group split up to attend workshops individually. “We went to individual learning centers to learn how to make our chapters better,” he said.
Turcotte said the convention helped her to realize what a dynamic organization PTK is. “I really liked the convention overall,” she said. “Until we got together as the Michigan Region, I didn’t really feel like I was a part of the family they kept talking about. Now I see that we’re a very pumped up team.”
This year the chapter was recognized as a four star chapter. The goal for next year is to gain recognition as a five star chapter and to bring even more students to the international convention.
Woods said she attended a breakout session at the conference about Hallmark awards. “The Hallmark awards are papers that individual chapters write in order to complete with other chapters internationally and earn awards and recognition for their chapter,” she said. “In order for our chapter to receive five stars in the Five Star Chapter Development Plan, we will have to submit at least three hallmark entries. This was a very informational segment of the convention that gave me much needed clarity on the subject of hallmark entries. I think it will benefit our chapter greatly at the next convention and in the years to come.”
Vandenberg, who is acting as the group’s advisor for a second year, said she is proud of all that the group has achieved so far. “There’s a lot of work involved in achieving four stars. That’s something to be proud of.”
New members Nathanal Phillips and Luke Pesavento say they can already tell their involvement in PTK will be worth the commitment. Pesavento said he considers PTK “a great opportunity for anyone who wants to broaden their horizons. I was just elected a month ago and it’s already encouraged me set goals.”
Phillips said he was looking for a deeper connection on campus. “I just wanted to be a part of a group while I was at Kalamazoo Valley,” Phillips said. “I wanted to be active at my school.”
Woods was also looking for a way to become more involved on campus. “At first I just wanted to graduate with honors colors,” she admits. “But then I became attracted to the idea of helping to make positive changes for the college. I really want to help put Kalamazoo Valley out into the community.”
With that goal in mind, the honor society is sponsoring a community outreach event called C3, Cougars Creating Community. Staff, students and instructors will be encouraged to participate in the Oct. 18 event which will involve volunteering in a number of ways throughout the community. There will be a keynote speaker, lunch and group discussions about the event.