four portraits of students in black and white

'An educated person helps the next generation'

Historically Black sorority creates scholarship to break down barriers to degree

Share this page via facebook Share this page via twitter

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.”

Four students standing in silhouette holding their hands in the shape of a delta.

Members of Lambda Pi hold their hands in the shape of a Delta, for Delta Sigma Theta.

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.

Service, scholarship, networking

Frimpong arrived at Grand Valley in the mid-1990s from Detroit, after graduating from Renaissance High School. She was the first in her family to attend college, saying tradition among her relatives was “the women got married and the men went into the armed forces.”

While West Michigan was quite different from Detroit, Frimpong said Grand Valley was an inviting campus and she soon found community after joining an academic service program for students of color who were business majors. Frimpong pledged Lambda Pi as a sophomore. It provided her with more than a community; she said joining the Delta Sigma Theta sorority gave her access to a global network of people.

“I’m still friends with the people I pledged with,” Frimpong said. “Now I’m involved in the Pontiac Alumnae chapter and my Sorors, other members of the Divine Nine and many other people are helping me learn to navigate the Chicago area since my move here.”

Sanders was a junior when she joined Lambda Pi, saying she appreciated the chapter’s purposeful events and its commitment to bringing awareness to mental health issues.

“I battle with anxiety and I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a family who understood. Now, I know when to seek help,” Sanders said. “We need to get mental health resources out there and tell people that they don’t have to wait to seek help.”

Sanders said the business of building relationships remains at the heart of the sorority’s mission, whether meeting virtually or in-person. “We are so well-equipped to deal with change, we have backup plans for the backup plans,” she said.


Frimpong called the current students who are members of Lambda Pi impressive for taking on this fundraising challenge in the midst of a pandemic, saying they understand the legacy of Delta Sigma Theta and history of the chapter.

“It’s what our founders believed: an educated person helps the next generation,” Frimpong said. “We called this the Legendary Lambda Pi Legacy Endowed Scholarship because of those reasons.

“For a lot of us, college is economically challenging. This scholarship is a bridge to get to the next semester and how we can leave a lasting legacy. We can help get you into college, and we can help get you out of college with a degree.”

You Might Also Like

Read article When life gives you lemons ...

When life gives you lemons ...

A new program in the Seidman College of Business pairs students with business owners to help them develop or strengthen their businesses, while providing opportunities for students.

Winter 2021|Feature

Read article The academic approach to COVID-19

The academic approach to COVID-19

For faculty members with academic training in issues related to a pandemic, the academic year presents a unique window for research and for sharing expertise with students.

Winter 2021|Feature

Read article Learning across generations

Learning across generations

Unique class finds solutions to help common aging issues

Winter 2018|Feature