Local fraternity chapter has roots in mentorship, social action, and education
The members of Psi Alpha Alpha have been active in Fairfax County for almost half a century. The chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. was recently awarded Graduate Large Chapter of the Year in their Third District. There’s not much they don’t do when it comes to supporting what’s new and old in the community.
“You still have pockets that deserve some attention,” said Baileuz/President W.J. Williams, Jr. while noting this is an affluent county. “You still have a population that’s on free lunch, government assistance, affordable housing, and it’s growing.”
The Psi Alpha Alpha brothers especially invest in the area’s youth with mentoring and scholarship opportunities. “Our mentoring programs are important to try to get underserved kids in better situations [and] teach them,” Williams said.
Chapter Reporter James Cherry is chair of the Youth Mentoring Program they sponsor at John Lewis and Mount Vernon high schools. They hope to expand to West Potomac High School this fall. They’ve worked with hundreds of kids across the years through the program.
The chapter educates kids on STEM, trade work, and the military–opening students’ eyes to areas of work where they can support themselves once they graduate. “We were able to sponsor kids [for] their flying hours to be pilots coming out of high school,” Williams added.
At a given moment they will donate books to elementary schools, hold golf tournaments, honor community partners, host Thanksgiving dinners, and help fight hypothermia for people experiencing homelessness.
Psi Alpha Alpha has plenty of affiliate organizations in the area that they partner with to supply manpower or funds. “A lot of these things brothers joined themselves and brought the chapter along with them. We’ve been longtime volunteers at a lot of our affiliate organizations based on those relationships that were built by members,” said Cherry.
Late brother Marion “Barney” Barnwell established a relationship with Capital Area Food Bank that remains with the chapter today. “We’re out there providing those services. Sometimes it’s not just money or food, we donate time,” Cherry said.
They invest time into building relationships and trust–something they know is essential for them to help. Cherry has co-facilitated Dad’s Parenting Groups in the Father Engagement Unit of the Department of Family Services for more than six years. “You have to let your guard down and be as vulnerable as they’re going to be, so they understand that you face the same issues that they do,” Cherry said.
The chapter encourages the community to reach out for their support. They partnered with the Health Department as part of the Stronger2 grant with organizing health literacy talks and learning circles in the community.
Engagement outreach often involves members going out into the neighborhoods and simply talking to people. “Wherever we can help, we’re trying to be there,” Williams said.
They will be at the Bernie L. Bates Scholarship Award Ceremony on May 21, have ongoing donation campaigns to combat cancer, and are co-hosting a health fair and blood drive at Gum Springs Community Center on June 4.
To learn more, visit www.fairfaxcountyques.org