Team Up to Jazz Up Your Book Drive

Timothy Leonardby Timothy Leonard
Midwestern Region Student Representative, 2013-2015
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, IN

The majority of Sigma Tau Delta chapters have a book drive each year. However, many are looking for new and innovative ways to “jazz up” their drives beyond setting up a box in their department and hanging up flyers in the hope that students and faculty will donate books.

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Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Women’s Basketball Team

One suggestion is to partner with other groups and tap into the resources available at many universities. When I decided to run a book drive for my required service project as part of an internship, I contacted the head coach of the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) women’s basketball team and inquired about the possibility of the team helping to promote the book drive. I discovered the team also had to fulfill community service hours during their basketball season, and just that quick I had the partner I was looking for.

The project consisted of three parts:

  1. The IPFW women’s basketball team home games would be the drop off point for students, faculty, and fans to donate new and used books. The marketing department also announced the book drive during the home games to remind individuals in attendance to bring new and used books at the next home game.

  2. Members of my chapter worked the donations tables and assisted members of the basketball team in passing out and hanging up flyers.

  3. Members of my chapter and I dropped off the donated books at the local YMCA After School Program after the final home game. (We chose the YMCA because they complied with NCAA rules.)

Not only did I meet the requirements for my internship, I also involved my chapter and our university women’s basketball team in a successful book drive to enhance literacy in children’s lives.

I encourasticky_logoge all chapters to think of other groups at their university that might be willing to  collaborate on chapter projects. Many departments, athletic teams, and administrators must fulfill community service hours during the academic year, and most are willing to help and support each other. All you have to do is ask and be willing to perform the majority of the leg work. In the end, everyone benefits–you, your chapter, your partner(s), your school, and your community.

If you haven’t started a book drive for this semester, it’s not too late! Check out this opportunity to run an easy book drive with our strategic partner, Better World Books!

Capturing History

Andrew Gerskeby Andrew Gerske
Historian, Phi Delta Chapter
Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL

History happens everyday. When I applied for my chapter’s Historian position, I mentioned that I wanted to find out more about my chapter’s history and help capture key events. Maya Angelou states, “The more you know your history, the more liberated you are.” By preserving and capturing history, each day becomes a new adventure. This year, as Sigma Tau Delta celebrates its 90th anniversary, we are reminded of the importance of preserving our history for future generations.

One of the first steps I took was visiting Western Illinois University archives. While in the archives I found various newspaper articles and artifacts about the Phi Delta Chapter. These articles began to show how our chapter was involved with the English Department and campus life. Such archives are a wonderful starting point to find preliminary information about your chapter.

CameraBeyond the archives, the best way to find out more about your chapter’s history is to interview people. I recommend talking to your university historian, retired and current faculty, and someone from the alumni association. These people will help to paint a stronger image of the chapter’s history. Many times there are gaps in the history, so you may need to put all the pieces together to help tell your chapter’s story.

Another part of my job entails me going to events to capture the moments and memories of my chapter. My camera, an Olympus Tough, helps me to save these moments. This is my favorite part of being Historian, acting as a photojournalist, preserving each event for future members to see. One annual event that I play a major role in is the induction ceremony.  Along with taking photographs, I also help perform the ceremony. The induction ceremony is a great time to meet new members and share past stories.

1943 Membership Certificate

1943 Membership Certificate

After taking various photographs, I select some to post on the chapter’s Facebook page.  Managing the Facebook page is an excellent way to share current events with members. The best photos can also be shared on your region’s Facebook group so that other chapters can see what yours has accomplished. I even submitted some of my photos to the recent Chapter History Photo Contest and two of them were selected for Sigma Tau Delta’s 1924 Pinterest Board.

I also routinely design flyers about current events to help promote the organization. Besides functioning as the chapter’s Historian, sometimes I function as a public relations chair. This includes notifying members and the local papers about events.

There are many facets to being a chapter’s Historian, and all of them play a role in preserving history. I love capturing the moments and events to create this history. It’s fun, liberating, and has helped me to better understand my chapter.

Sigma Tau Delta Is Accessible In Savannah, GA

Timothy Leonardby Timothy Leonard
Midwestern Student Representative, 2013-2014
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, IN

For those of you who don’t know me, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Timothy Leonard, the Midwestern Student Representative, and I have a physical disability that causes me to utilize a wheelchair. I also have a speech impediment that tends to show itself when I’m nervous. Unlike being in a wheelchair, I’ve had the speech impediment since birth. Having a speech impediment and now with my limited mobility, I’ve had to overcome my fear of being judged by others and nervousness about speaking in front of people and presenting my work.

I have to say that I was shocked and overwhelmed by the acceptance I have received from Sigma Tau Delta, both in my chapter and at my first annual international convention last year in Portland, OR. Upon my arrival in Portland, I was immediately welcomed by multiple people who offered their assistance to ensure that my experience was a memorable one.

The first night I attended an open mic night. As I sat there listening to others present some amazing work, I was encouraged by a fellow chapter member to present my own. I did not respond, but a member of the Society  I’ve never met before grabbed my work and started to read it. They didn’t know me, but they also encouraged me to get up and read.

I took their motivation and went up to the mic. There I was, sitting in my wheelchair, studying the eyes of the people in the crowd. I noticed that their eyes were not focused on my wheelchair, but on me. Though my speech impediment made an appearance, I finished my presentation and was welcomed by a round of applause from the audience.

Timothy with Ginger and 2013 Convention Speaker Timothy Egan

Timothy with service dog Ginger and 2013 Convention Speaker Timothy Egan

After the event was over, some alumni and other members invited me and another chapter member to attend a social gathering at the hotel’s restaurant. They asked about my personal goals and how our young chapter was adjusting to being part of the Society. We explained that our goal at the convention was to bring back information to help our chapter prosper in the upcoming year. Our new friends explained that just being at the convention was a great start, but we should also go to as many events as possible during the week.

When I returned to my room, I started to cry. I was taken aback by how the Society was accepting of not just new members, but individuals with disabilities. I woke the next day with a smile on my face and determination in my spirit to make myself known at the convention. The morning event was the regional networking meeting, where I was able to meet my Regent and Student Representative. I was sitting in a circle with people I’ve never met before, and I still had the same feeling of acceptance. We exchanged ideas about fundraising and discussed some ways to improve the harmony of the region. After listening to other chapters’ members explain their views, I offered suggestions for improving communication. After the meeting was over, I was encouraged to run for the Student Representative (SR) or Associate Student Representative (ASR) position. I was hesitant to respond, since this was my first convention. A prominent alumna, Jayne Higgins, told me, “Sigma Tau Delta is always looking for individuals who want to lead, individuals who are thinkers and doers. I think you are both.”

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The 2013-2014 student leaders, shortly after their election in Portland, OR

I spoke with other members and received the same response. Not once did I feel that I was being treated differently, not better or worse, because of my disabilities. I felt at home at the convention. Like at my university, I felt as an equal among my fellow members. This feeling of equality led me to run for the SR position. I didn’t just want to be a leader for the Society, I wanted to show how Sigma Tau Delta welcomes individuals, no matter their gender, race, religion, or ability.

Why am I telling you all about my past experience? Because I want to encourage everyone to attend this year’s convention in Savannah, GA. I understand the fear of attending a large event, thinking that everyone will notice someone who is different. I’m here to say that the convention is a place where you will be judged not on your appearance or physical ability, but as an individual and a scholar.

I, like many individuals with a disability, am cautious when preparing to travel to a new town that I haven’t visited before. Being in a wheelchair brings obstacles that an able bodied person wouldn’t normally encounter.  From ensuring that the hotel rooms are ADA compliant to knowing what restaurants and attractions I can go to during my stay, there is much to worry about before I decide to travel.

I’m happy to say that Sigma Tau Delta has made every effort to ensure that their students with disabilities have equal opportunities to enjoy themselves while attending the 2014 Convention in Savannah, GA. I had the opportunity to visit the convention hotel this past September for the fall Board meeting, and I want to share my observations about the location for the upcoming convention.

The Hotel: The hotel for this year’s convention is the Savannah Marriott Riverfront.

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In the Savannah Marriott Riverfront hotel lobby with High Plains SR Janine Brooks

Yes, the hotel is literally on the river. However, such a location does not mean that a student with a disability can’t enjoy it. The hotel offers multiple ramps leading to the rear entrance of the hotel where the river is. This same access also has additional ramps leading to the River Market. The hotel offers ADA compliant rooms, which are accessible for students with physical and visual limitations. The rooms have wheelchair accessible showers, lower sinks, and grab bars along the walls in the bathroom. From my experience, there’s no part of the hotel that is not accessible. I enjoyed meals in the Blue Restaurant, had meetings in multiple conference rooms, and even sat poolside with friends while staying in my wheelchair.

I am also glad to say that the hotel employees are more than helpful. During my stay I was constantly approached by hotel staff to see if I needed anything to make my stay more enjoyable. Their ongoing persistence in meeting my needs not only ensured my stay was pleasant, but also showed me that Sigma Tau Delta is careful to have conventions where their students are treated respectfully.

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Navigating a cobblestone parking lot near the hotel

The Town of Savannah: Savannah is a beautiful and historic town. Parts of the town still have original cobblestone streets from the pirate age of 1773. Unfortunately, there is also a massive, steep hill in front of the hotel. This is the main access point from the hotel to the downtown area. I personally had difficulties with it. I needed assistance going down the hill to ensure my safety, and the cobblestone streets could be difficult to navigate. Luckily there are alternate routes to most locations. They may take you a few extra minutes, but these alternate routes are much more accessible. The river walk behind the hotel is flatter and can take you to many attractions, as well as to the trolley or the ferry for transportation to other parts of town. The trolley and ferry are free, or for even faster and more convenient transportation there is a $3 shuttle that will pick you up at the hotel and take you anywhere you want to go. The city of Savannah provides a list of restaurants and attractions that are accessible.

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Exploring Savannah with the other student leaders

Sigma Tau Delta: Sigma Tau Delta prides itself on being diversified. We are prepared to take whatever action is needed to see that anyone who is interested in attending the 2014 Convention is able to. We recognize that disabilities are not all the same and we are prepared to help in meeting the needs of all students. The convention is a time of great joy and excitement and all members, irrespective of their disability status, are entitled to participate.

Great writers and scholars come from different walks of life. Even those who travel their lives with wheels, walker, cane, or assistive animal should have their work displayed at the 2014 Convention. Anyone who has questions or concerns about attending the convention, for any reason, is encouraged to contact the Central Office at englishconvention@niu.edu for assistance. You are also welcome to contact me at sigmatd_mw@gmail.com if you have any questions about my experiences, or about running for the SR or ASR position. We are here for you. I hope to see you in Savannah!