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Highlighted by Kappa Phi Lambda – Massachusetts Daily Collegian

In 2020, many lost their social lives due to the pandemic, making the already difficult environment as college freshmen even more difficult. This was the case for Sarah Park, the former president of Kappa Phi Lambda (KPL), who was a freshman at the University of Massachusetts at the time.

Kappa Phi Lambda (KPL), founded in 1995, is an Asian-interest student organization at UMass that serves the large Asian community on campus.

“When I heard about Kappa Phi Lambda, I was interested because it was an Asian interest group,” Park said. “I just wanted someone who knew my culture very well.”

Park has always been interested in a leadership position. Although self-criticism was constantly on her mind, Park said, “At the time, I wasn't sure I was ready, but my passion and the support of my sisters really pushed me to become president.” Park gained confidence, skills, and learned more about yourself as a person.

“As I look back on my presidency through KPL, I have fostered advocacy skills and self-reflection through various initiatives and sorority events.”

Some of KPL's charitable initiatives work with international organizations to support causes that a member would like to address. “We do some kind of bill, or we have a discussion on our own or even at the national level, we have meetings, we have opportunities to raise these concerns.” And sometimes [KPL] “The national board is issuing a group statement that we are releasing to publicly show our support,” Park said.

KPL supports advocacy organizations such as Stop It Now! and CARE, two human rights groups. Stop it now! works to prevent child sexual abuse by mobilizing adults, families and communities to take action to protect children before harm comes to them, while CARE is a national charity. KPL departments across the country raise money and awareness about global poverty, particularly as it relates to women and children.

“We are hosts and have our own personal goal to create a certain level of awareness about these often taboo topics. We do this through fundraisers here on campus or through guest speakers,” Park said.

Despite the philanthropic work of many sororities, Greek life at other universities across America has experienced a decline in recent years. “I've always believed that cultural Greek life was dying, so to speak,” Park said. “On campus or even nationally, it subtly disappears. I feel like the number of interests is definitely decreasing. And I don’t know, I don’t really know what caused it.”

Caroline Tran, executive and internal vice president of KPL, issued a statement. “I think because of the stigma it has around sexual assault, violence, partying, hazing, etc.,” Tran explained. “As someone involved in Greek life, I feel it has progressed compared to the past, and many of us attend trainings and workshops on these topics to learn and gain a better understanding.”

Tran stated, “It is a shame that this stigma is generalized and affects all Greek organizations, since we all work differently and hold different values.”

Involvement in an Asian interest student organization has provided Tran with a place of support and guidance throughout college. “It was a great experience for me to connect with others with similar goals and backgrounds, especially since we are in a predominantly white institution,” she said.

Tran explained that KPL hosts many events to spread cultural awareness in the Asian American community, “as well as charitable initiatives that I wish more people would focus on than just parties.”

Cultural sorority groups like KPL help their members build networking skills and a professional mindset. “I learned about philanthropies and the services they offer, which I think is not very exemplary [outside of KPL]said Park; She added that she is happy to be part of a community.

When Park first joined, her involvement in recruiting events was extremely positive. “We just had really nice conversations and I really wanted to get to know her better. And after that, I just wanted to be a part of their community.”

Park said she grew into what she is today through her involvement with KPL. As she began talking to individual members, more networking opportunities emerged. “As a nursing student, I feel like we don’t really have the opportunity to interact with other majors,” Park said. “The organization helped me differentiate professional and personal relationships.”

Aggie Li, president of KPL, agrees. “We try to build trust in each other – not competence. Regarding the founders of [KPL]I think that’s what they wanted to achieve – building a community on campus of people who support each other, help raise awareness on campus and give back to their community.”

Through the pandemic, the connection crisis, and the situation Park now finds itself in, the legacy that KPL's founders sought as an Asian advocacy group is clear.

“Empowered women empower women,” Park said. “I look forward to watching my sisters grow individually and together. That's what matters. That’s what this is about.”

Diamond Smith can be reached at [email protected]

Anna Harden

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