By Airik Myers, The Seattle Medium
The Zeta Upsilon chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., in partnership with Omega Charities of Seattle, a 501c3 entity, recently held its 1st annual Book Bag Drive to ensure that local students have the necessary tools to be successful in the classroom. The organization, founded on the principals of community service and uplifting communities, set out to provide book bags and school supplies for 50 students attending the Rainier Valley Academy and Washington Middle School in Seattle.
According to Marcus Delgado, a member of the local alumni chapter of Omega Psi Phi, the chapter was looking for an impactful way to connect with the local community and youth, and the book bag drive provided an excellent opportunity for them to partner with the schools and to promote academic excellence.
“I personally reached out to Washington Middle School and Rainer Valley Leadership Academy as schools that are in the Central District, Rainier Beach area,” said Delgado. “I really felt we could impact a lot of youth in those inner-city areas that really were hit hard either by the pandemic and maybe don’t have the resources that some of the other schools and or students in other areas of the city [have].”
According to the Seattle based Equity in Education Coalition, “Washington has one of the largest and persisting opportunity gaps in the country, meaning that barriers to academic opportunity for kids from low-income communities and communities of color are still so great that we can effectively predict a child’s grades based on their race, family’s income level, and zip code.”
In addition, The United Negro College Fund has noted that, “students of color are often concentrated in schools with fewer resources. Schools with 90% or more students of color spend $733 less per student each year than institutions with 90% or more White students.”
Katrina Hunt, Principal of Washington Middle School, says that the book bag drive is a great start to their relationship with the Omegas, but says she is even more excited about the long-term impact that the partnership will have on the students at her school.
“[I really wanted] my students to have more visibility to Black men who are doing different things,” says Hunt. “I don’t want to give anybody’s career any kind of negative connotation, but most of my students, of course, thinks they’re going to be football players, basketball stars, or rap artists. And I just wanted them to see some engineers, doctors, dentists, and businessman of color to support a different track. [And let them know that] you can do both.”
This project was originally slated to start at the beginning of the last school year, but due to the pandemic, it had to be delayed a year. Along with Washington Middle School, the Omegas also partnered with Rainer Valley Leadership Academy (RVLA). RVLA CEO, Baionne Coleman, also believe that her students will benefit from seeing members of the fraternity being involved and giving back to their community.
According to Coleman, it is important for her students to see the difference between a positive brotherhood and a negative one.
“We’d rather for you to be a part of something that’s academic based and still gives you that that support with other men that look like you and have had shared experiences,” says Coleman. “Being able to see the older brothers with Omega Psi Phi [will give them the] opportunity to see successful men who have really grounded themselves in the academic foundation, created a brotherhood and then can continue to pass that on and become mentors to the younger brothers and community.”
Being able to see older male role models that are making a positive impact in the community is seen as invaluable. In some of the kids’ cases, this might be the only male influence in their lives. The Omegas’ drive to support local communities is backed with their passion for youth development, education, mentoring, and community service. They have built a strong and effective force of men dedicated to its cardinal principles of manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift.