Collegiate service sorority ESA aims to inspire student volunteerism and form friendly bonds
“I joined ESA [Epsilon Sigma Alpha] because my suitemate was in ESA and I walked into her room and saw this huge poster that had ESA written on it,” current chapter president Carolyn Rauch said. “I asked her what it was and she told me it was a service organization that had social and service opportunities, and I was very excited, and so then I joined, and it’s a great organization.”
The constant struggle for a college freshman is finding their niche: that one spot where they know they belong and fit in perfectly, which, admittedly, can be hard to find. While Epsilon Sigma Alpha may be a lesser-known organization on Elon University’s campus, the lasting impacts for its members are much larger than its overall Elon publicity.
“I started off in the Service Learning Community as a first-year and as that started to wind down in the spring, I realized I did want to continue serving the Alamance County community, but in a more wide range of activities, not just something specific,” Emily Kelch said. “So, I found ESA through some older SLC members who were years above me and decided to join because of that, and so I decided this could be another option for getting to meet people.”
Epsilon Sigma Alpha is a coed service sorority, with chapters across many college campuses, including one at Elon University in North Carolina. Placing an emphasis on service and volunteering, ESA become a place for students to bond over their interest and desire to serve and help the community while helping the local community.
“I went to an interest meeting for ESA the fall semester of my freshman year and I hadn’t been fitting in well so far, but at the interest meeting I met a girl named Rachel,” Paige Nelson said. “She was from my hometown; we’d gone to high school together and it was amazing to find someone who finally knew where I was from, and she ended up becoming my G-Big and we got very close.”
Through ESA and bonding over a mutual interest in service with her fellow sisters, it has helped Nelson, among others, find a sense of community, a place where they can fit in and make lasting friendships.
“We still see each other now and she helped get me into service more than I already was and has helped me become a great Service Chair now and just got me very involved in campus,” Nelson said.
As a sister of ESA, members are required to participate in at least ten hours of service events and three social events, helping to create a social atmosphere for people interested in service and volunteering. Events don’t just help the local Elon campus community, but help branch out to other North Carolina communities to help, as well.
“I love all the different events we get to go to,” Nelson said. “I love Ronald McDonald House and getting to serve and cook and I love going to Peacehaven because I’ve never done the same thing twice: I’ve built chairs, I’ve babysat goats, I’ve done gardening. It’s always different and you get to work with other members of the community, it’s really great.”
ESA members have the opportunity to go to many different events and help with many organizations and causes, such as the Ronald McDonald House, Relay for Life, ElonThon, Peacehaven Farm, to name a few, and their main philanthropies of St. Jude and Easter Seals.
“We’re able to go to a lot of different events and organizations such as Ronald McDonald,” Rauch said. “[It’s] one of my favorite organizations and we’re able to go help cook food for the families that are staying there.”
Not only known for its service events and volunteering, ESA has given members new friends, ones that exist outside their dorms, classes, majors and other hobbies — bonding over a love of service, volunteering and desire to help the local community.
“I really like ESA because it’s a good chance to get involved in service events, but also getting to know new people that I usually am not involved with,” Alexis Goslen said. “I hosted the Potluck Brunch this year in my apartment and everybody just sat on my couch and watched HGTV while I cooked breakfast. It was really funny because we were just watching TV together, but it was still fun.”
Finding a place where you belong, during the formative years of college education, can be difficult, but once you find a community where you fit — it can help shape your identity and who you want to become as you venture into post-graduation and adulthood. By the time seniors place their ESA cords on their maroon graduation robes, they’ll remember their evolution with the organization, discovering more about their identities, passions, with their close friends made by their side.
“I would definitely say that ESA has given me a love of great, wide range of service not just doing cooking and working with children,” Kelch said. “[It] also has given me some great leadership opportunities, like I was President and did New Member Educator, stuff that I never saw myself doing in college; so it definitely has helped me and I think made me overall more marketable, for showing I’m into service, but also I’ve had these great leadership experiences.”