You might recognize CJ Smith from driving the A-Bus at IU Bloomington, but the rising senior in the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs also spent his junior year serving as president of Alpha Phi Omega.
The co-ed fraternity is dedicated to community service, leadership, and friendship and has more than 120 members at IU. Nationwide, Alpha Phi Omega spans more than 350 colleges with 470,000 members. The organization was founded on the same values as Boy Scouts of America after World War I to connect college students with service and development opportunities; notable alums include George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Gerald Ford.
The IU chapter of Alpha Phi Omega aims to offer up to 18 service opportunities per week. Over the 2018-19 academic year, the IU Bloomington chapter volunteered for a combined total of more than 6,000 hours.
Smith said that while service wasn’t always a big part of his life before college, an Alpha Phi Omega project working with the homeless population opened his eyes. “In that moment, I realized that these are just people too, and it made me want to continue to connect and give back,” he said. “I wish I had all the money in the world, but for now I can volunteer to try and make other’s lives better.”
Each spring, the fraternity collaborates with a nonprofit organization to put on a large-scale service event. This semester, members of Alpha Phi Omega worked with the national nonprofit group Together We Rise to sponsor and decorate 90 duffel bags for children in the foster care system. Smith explained that when most children enter foster care, they have to place their belongings into two trash bags. “We wanted to find a way to empower these kids,” Smith said. Each duffel bag (also known as a Sweet Case) was decorated with drawings from dinosaurs to baseballs to sunflowers, and IU students added a teddy bear and coloring book.
Through this IU Corps opportunity, Smith uncovered a passion for leadership and service. He was recently promoted to a supervisor role in his job with the IU Bus Service, and because of the greater time commitment, has decided to step down from his role as president in the upcoming school year. “Honestly, stepping down is hard. I even cried a little,” he said. “But I will still be as involved as possible with Alpha Phi Omega and am confident that the new president is going to do an awesome job.”
Alpha Phi Omega is an example of an IU Corps experience. IU Corps is IU Bloomington’s umbrella connecting students with meaningful service experiences locally, nationally, and globally. Find more opportunities for volunteering via Volunteer Central.