Members of a historically Black sorority at Grand Valley may be small in number, but they are mighty in their reach.
The Lambda Pi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. established an endowed scholarship in 2019 to celebrate its 45th anniversary at GVSU. Members set a goal of raising $450,000 over 10 years to help students complete their studies at GVSU. Less than a year into their campaign, they have raised more than $65,000.
Chapter president Maya Sanders, a senior majoring in behavioral neuroscience, said she is not deterred by a fundraising goal of nearly half a million dollars. “I don’t think it’s a stretch,” Sanders said. “We just started getting the word out and we surpassed our one-year goal early.”
The Grand Valley University Foundation: Legendary Lambda Pi Legacy Endowed Scholarship will provide support to students who demonstrate alignment with the sorority’s mission of education and service (see sidebar).
Sanders said the scholarship will help eliminate barriers to college. “If I would have had this scholarship, I wouldn’t have had to work 40 hours a week in addition to going to school,” Sanders said, adding she was a part-time student for several semesters. “Receiving this scholarship will relieve the financial weight off of someone’s shoulders.”
President Philomena V. Mantella said the scholarship comes at a time when the country is battling two viruses: COVID-19 and racial injustice. During a meeting with sorority members and alumni, Mantella said she was grateful for their efforts.
“We need to create better access for students and do more for them once they’re here,” Mantella said. “It’s about outcomes and successes, being sure we can support the most talented students of color and the underrepresented students who have not been privileged with the same high school readiness.”
More than scholarship dollars
Lambda Pi members were inspired to connect with Mantella in late spring after George Floyd was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mantella had sent a charge to the campus community announcing action steps to support racial justice at the university and to assist the greater community.
Tamika A. Frimpong ’96 is leading alumni fundraising and outreach for the scholarship. Now vice president and deputy general counsel for BorgWarner Inc. and working in Chicago, Frimpong said there were similarities between Mantella’s message and Lambda Pi’s mission of service and scholarship.
“There are a number of places where our interests align,” Frimpong said. “President Mantella has a clear plan for strengthening the university’s outreach to African American and other students of color and diverse backgrounds.
“However, we know people cannot have well-intentioned conversations about how to assist these populations on campus and cultivate good outcomes when representatives of those populations are not at the table.”
Sanders said change on campus will not happen overnight but said she and the other four Lambda Pi members will share with Mantella what it’s like to be a student of color on campus. “We can assist President Mantella by sharing experiences of students of color on campus and creating this scholarship. Hopefully, it will impact retention efforts,” Sanders said.