Members of University of Richmond’s Omicron Phi chapter of the national service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega attended the 42nd Biennial National Convention in Anaheim, Calif., Dec. 27-30, 2012.
Members from across the country attended this conference, where they participated in leadership workshops and voted on changes to better the organization.
APO member Valerie Jama said the nice weather and the opportunity to visit her family was appealing. The leadership workshops had Californian themes, such as wine tasting 101 and a workshop on The Walt Disney Co., said Deborah Pohlmann, another APO member who attended the conference.
A memorable moment at the conference for Pohlmann was voting to change APO’s membership policies, she said. At the conference, Pohlmann, along with other collegiate delegates, helped lead the debate about whether APO should still include the membership policies of Boy Scouts of America.
APO was founded by former members of Boy Scouts of America, and the organizations have strong ties, according to the chapter website. Boy Scouts of America provides funding for APO and has influenced its bylaws.
There has been recent controversy over the membership policies in APO, Pohlmann said. One of the Boy Scouts of America’s policies forbids people who identify as gay or atheist from joining the organization, Pohlmann said.
“The membership policies were something that needed to be looked at,” Pohlmann said. “APO was founded on the principles of equality, and it is opening and welcome to everyone, and its policies should reflect that.”
The delegates decided that APO would not cut ties from Boy Scouts of America, but it would remove the organization’s membership policies, Pohlmann said.
“It was a very heated discussion,” Pohlmann said, “and I’m glad I was a part of it. I felt like I was making a difference.”
The Richmond chapter of APO initiated a large group of new members into the fraternity last semester, Pohlmann said. Because of what they learned at the conference, members hope to increase fundraising so that all members of the chapter will be able to attend the next conference in Chicago in 2014, Pohlmann said.
The Richmond chapter is also focused on providing community service, Pohlmann said. APO members are required to complete 25 hours of service work per semester.
This spring APO is hosting a senior citizen prom in Alice Haynes Commons. Every year the fraternity sends out invitations to local nursing homes and provides a night of food and dancing for the attendees.
“It’s really fun,” Pohlmann said. “It’s a great event, and you get to give back at the same time.”
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