Alpha Phi Omega

Gamma Chapter at Cornell University

Humans of APO


Katie Sadoff ’20

1. What is your internship and why did you choose it?

This summer, I interned at MongoDB, a tech company in NYC. I chose it mainly to be close to home and spend the summer with my family, but also for the nature of the company and the product. It’s a database company, and their product can help anyone from individual developers and small startups to city governments and large companies like Google. I also liked the thought of working at a medium-sized company, where my contributions could directly impact the company and customers.

2. Tell us about a friendship you’ve formed in APO.

One of the most meaningful friendships I’ve formed in APO is with my big, Kat. Ever since freshman year, she’s been encouraging me both within the context of APO and in my whole college experience. She’s the reason I’ve felt more confident and comfortable in the fraternity. I know we can have deep conversations and laugh at dumb memes in the next sentence. I’m so grateful we’re in the same year, since it means we get to spend our senior years together.

3. What is your favorite service project at Cornell? Why?

One of the major reasons I joined APO was to get more involved off-campus, so I would have to pick a service event like Loaves and Fishes or volunteering at one of Ithaca’s festivals. I’m so grateful to get to help people directly and become more involved in the Ithaca community outside the Cornell bubble. Directly volunteering in the community feels incredibly rewarding and humbling and does a lot to enhance what could otherwise be a sheltered and single-minded college experience. It’s something I definitely see myself emphasizing next year and after I graduate.

4. What is something you’ve learned from service?

I’ve learned how individuals can make a difference in (sometimes) small but (always) real ways. Right now, it’s really easy to feel powerless and focus on all the ways individuals are at the mercy of larger groups and corporations. But volunteering, whether it’s in a soup kitchen or in a school or at an on-campus event, helped me realize my own potential to help someone else and leave a positive impact on a community. I think it’s such a powerful thing for a young person to learn and it’s shaped the way I interact with the world around me the past few years.

Amrit Hingorani ’20

1. What is your internship and why did you choose it?

One thing I did this summer was a fundraiser for WaterAid that involved me traveling to Nepal to climb a little past Everest Base Camp, about 2/3 up Everest. It was an amazing experience and the hikes each day were more beautiful than the last. I chose to participate in this because I’ve done work with WaterAid before and I believe their mission is one of utmost importance as well as it has always been a dream of mine to climb Everest and this allowed me to go some of the way up. I really hope to participate in more such fundraisers in the future and am planning on doing one for Kilimanjaro next summer!

2. Tell us about a friendship you’ve formed in APO.

One special friendship I’ve formed in APO has been with one of my littles, Pranesh. Even though we are both busy, we still find time to talk and hang out when we can and I love each and every one of our interactions. He’s been a really great for a pick me up when I’m down or just a nice deep heart to heart talk when we’re both in the mood. From our time spent together both in and out of APO, I feel like we’ve gotten pretty close and we can reach out to each other if we ever need help or advice with anything. He’s been a really amazing friend and I’m lucky to have been matched with him through APO. 🙂

3. What is your favorite service project at Cornell? Why?

My favorite service project at Cornell has been helping at Welcome Weekend with setting up events and running the different booths such as stress-ball making and bamboo planting. Its a great mix of helping run an event as well as being social with the participants and other volunteers. I also think its a really great event to start off the semester and bring people of all different backgrounds and areas of Cornell together. Its a really great way to catch up after a long break and do some service to the Cornell campus, which I think is awesome. 🙂

4. What is something you’ve learned from service?

I’ve learned many things from performing service in APO. Firstly, I’ve learned that service can be done in many different ways, and each may be meaningful to different people and in various ways. Additionally,  sometimes the most meaningful service is the one that has no immediate benefits visible impact. A lot of times even a small act of service done quietly benefits more people in a greater way than a large organized event. The last thing I have learned is that nothing quite brings people together as meaningful service does. Even if it is working towards separate goals, as long as the people performing service believe their actions are having a lasting impact in a beneficial way, they are united under a common goal of improvement and share a bond that is indescribable in words and can only be felt within the moment.

5. Have you been volunteering this summer? If so, where and how has it been?

I have been volunteering as well this summer! I volunteered in Cusco, Peru for two weeks at veterinary clinics around the city and surrounding areas. It was a great experience and I learned a lot about what being a vet entails as well as what Peruvian culture is like. I really enjoyed getting to know the other students on the trip both from Cornell and the University of Kentucky and I think the friendships I formed on the trip are the most special takeaway from it.

6. How is it different from volunteering around Ithaca?

It was a very different dynamic than volunteering in Ithaca both because of the work we were doing as well as the culture we were immersed in. People would bring their pets (dogs and cats usually) for us to groom and give medicines to. Everyone did their own part at different stations in the clinics and you were able to clearly see the rewarding results in how the dog looked and how grateful the owner were after. In Ithaca, not all projects yield an instant result that you can see, sometimes the service is doing behind-the-scenes work that is essential to making the event success but is not always the most visible. Additionally, the dynamic of working within Spanish culture and language made it a bit more difficult to adjust to than volunteering in Ithaca, in an environment I am a lot more used to.

7. What is your favorite part of it?

My favorite part of volunteering at the vet clinics was interacting with animals for hours each day and getting to help them in any way we could whether it was from cleaning wounds to cutting nails to picking fleas off them. Some of the transformations of the animals before and after were quite remarkable and having never worked with animals before, it was an amazing opportunity for me (plus I just really love dogs). I additionally loved learning from the other students on the trip, most of whom are pre-vet. They were really helpful during clinics and made my entire experience in Peru really memorable!

8. How did you find the opportunity?

I heard about it through a couple of members of Alpha Zeta who were also participating in the trip. The trip was run through an organization called VAW (Volunteers Around the World) and I found out more through the Cornell chapter of it prior to going on the trip. In total, about 15 students from Cornell went to Peru this summer on this trip and it was a great experience hanging out with them and getting to know them better!

Molly Smith ’21

1. Can you tell me about a friendship you’ve formed in APO?

Some of my best friends are in APO. My big was my first friend in APO. When I was a pledge, I was so shy and would mostly keep to myself, but my big brought so much energy, introduced me to so many people and encouraged me.

2. What is your favorite service event at Cornell, and why?

I might be biased, but I have two! Swanky Night was my favorite service event because I put so much work into it, and I brought so much passion to it. It’s great that APO allows you to take a passion and develop it. It’s such a rewarding experience. Another one of my favorite service events is Loaves and Fishes. The people there are so nice, and it’s so rewarding to see the smiles on people’s faces. You really know that you’re making a difference. It’s nice to go there just to talk to the people.

3. What is something you’ve learned through APO, or something that being in APO has taught you?

I learned how to be a leader. It’s a great place to find and develop your passion. Cornell can be a tough environment sometimes, and it’s easy to get lost. But you will always be supported in APO. You could walk in with the silliest costume on or stand in front of a meeting with the craziest ideas, and no one will knock you down.

Cece Thieberger ’21

1. What is your internship and why did you choose it?

This summer I’m continuing my research from the Spring semester with the Astronomy Department where I work on trajectory and tour analysis for the upcoming Europa Clipper mission. The mission is launching in 2023(ish) and will go to one of Jupiter’s moons (Europa) to help us gain insight on the moon’s geology, interior, and potential habitability. My advisor is part of the Europa Imaging System (EIS) instrument team and the Geology Working Group for the mission, so my job is to make plots and do analysis for which set of trajectories get the best coverage for EIS and geologic insight. I chose to continue my research over the summer since there was a big conference in June that I wanted to help with, and I wanted an excuse to spend a summer in Ithaca!

2. Tell us about a friendship you’ve formed in APO.

My closest friends are all in APO, some of them I knew beforehand but I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know them so well if it wasn’t for APO. One of these people is Angela Li. We actually met through playing ultimate frisbee but didn’t get to know each other until we pledged APO together in Spring 2018. Even though our schedules are always packed with a lot of different things, we’ll try to go to service events together as an excuse to catch up and do something meaningful together. Since she lives in the apartment upstairs from mine, she’s also my official guinea pig when I try baking something new. In return she and her roommates give me free vegetables from a student farm they work at.

3. What is your favorite service project at Cornell? Why?

There are so many to choose from! I would have to say my favorite is Letters Against Depression. While it is a heavy subject and I have to be in the right mindset to attend and make my experience meaningful, I find that Letters is incredibly rewarding and it feels like I can actually make a difference in someone’s life through writing them a personal letter.

4. What is something you’ve learned from service?

I learned about reciprocity through the Brotherhood Service Talks! I didn’t realize that when we do service, it’s also okay to serve ourselves and get something in return. I guess I always assumed we do service exclusively to help the group we’re serving and improve some aspect of their lives, but talking about reciprocity of service was very eye-opening. Now I have another way to think about the service I sign up for.

Rachel Armstrong ’22

1. What is your internship and why did you choose it?

My internship this summer is at the Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in Rochester, NY. I am working in the Geriatrics and Palliative Care Department. I chose this internship because I was interested in learning more about how people are cared for near the end of life and how they interact with the healthcare system and their health insurance plans. Talking about humane care for the dying is often considered taboo and a scary topic, but these conversations are critical and should be discussed years before a person’s death. I work primarily with the administration of electronic and paper medical orders for life-sustaining treatment and analyze the health plan’s educational tools used to teach providers about end-of-life discussions and procedures. While the description might make my internship seem dreary, bringing dignity and comfort to those at end-of-life is very rewarding and I work with dedicated, passionate individuals every day.

2. Tell us about a friendship you’ve formed in APO.

In terms of friendships I formed in APO, I of course must talk about my big, Kiki, and my little, Joy because they’re amazing and I’m so lucky to have a great family! Coming into APO as a first semester freshman I really didn’t know anyone besides the people I rushed with, so getting a big was super exciting and I felt like such an amazing detective when I figured out who my big was within the first few emails. The matching process has always worked perfectly for me- I feel like both my big and little and I are distinctly different people, but we are all still very compatible. I can always count on them for lively conversations filled with ranting and accompanied by great food.

3. What is your favorite service project at Cornell? Why?

My favorite service project I’ve done at Cornell is volunteering at the downtown food cupboard. Throughout the year I found myself often wrapped up in being a student and stuck in the campus bubble; being able to get off campus to help the Ithaca community directly was an extremely rewarding experience. It helped me keep things in perspective and reminded me to be grateful for the opportunities and the little things in life I would take for granted. In many service projects volunteers are unable to see the final result of sending a card, or decorating a poster, but at the food cupboard volunteers get the experience of seeing the reaction of someone in need receive food items that will have an immediate impact in their lives. I highly recommend the service project to anyone who is looking to get more involved in the greater Ithaca community and searching for really meaningful service.

4. What is something you’ve learned from service?

The biggest thing I’ve learned from service is that no matter how much time you have, you can always do something to help someone else. Getting more involved with service events has made me a more empathetic and caring person outside of designated projects. The idea of random acts of kindness is so simple but has great impact on those around you. Offering a smile to someone or picking up a piece of trash on your way to class may not seem like a huge deal, but everything counts, and I think we can all do more to be mindful of everyone and everything around us.

5. Have you been volunteering this summer? If so, where and how has it been?

Since I work full-time, I haven’t been volunteering this summer so far. After my internship ends, I plan on volunteering at the Rochester Child First Network, a not-for-profit dedicated to childcare throughout the year in the city. The Rochester city schools have a high school graduation rate just over 50%, and the Child First Network aims to provide children with high quality care in early childhood years to promote learning and build the foundation for success later in life. I’m excited to get involved in their summer program; the week I will be there is “Inventor’s Week”, so I know my imagination will certainly be put to the test. I found the opportunity from searching online for volunteering positions in the community. After being in an office 40 hours a week, primarily behind a computer, I miss being able to help people in the community face-to-face. Also, having been working in end-of-life care this summer, it will be nice change to work with people at the beginning of life!

Angela Li ’21

1. What is your internship and why did you choose it?

I am doing research on mass incarceration for the Cornell Cooperative Extension, looking for correlations between economic trends and incarceration rates. I chose this internship because it is an opportunity to do real, substantive work on a devastating social problem, and relates to my intended career in social justice and law. It’s also conveniently in Ithaca, which was great since I wanted to stay here for the summer.

2. Tell us about a friendship you’ve formed in APO.

I met Joanna Hua when she was a pledging co-ass and I was still unsure of my purpose and unaware of how service would change my life. We first bonded over being the only two government major-premeds in APO and probably the world, although I soon yeeted out of the premed life because I found my purpose in social justice and politics. We had barely known each other for 2 months before we were sending terrible memes back and forth and crying together in the Asia library on a regular basis. Since then, she has continued to inspire me everyday with how hard she works, how much she cares, how outgoing and nurturing she is. She helped me integrate into APO and has become a close friend and mentor, and I’m grateful for APO for bringing us together.

3. What is your favorite service project at Cornell? Why?

I really like Prison Express Book Packing! It’s always interesting to see what kinds of books each person requests, and I also enjoy flipping through the book selection for my own to-read list. I was surprised by how many people request law textbooks or STEM books; it’s also inspiring to see how determined they are to further their education and expand their knowledge even while incarcerated. One thing that struck me but also made sense in a sad way: the one genre that almost everyone requests NOT to receive is true crime.

4. What is something you’ve learned from service?

I learned that I love doing direct service on the ground, interacting with community members, being immersed in the community culture. For me, that’s hands down my favorite part of being in APO. However, I have also witnessed the limits of direct service: it’s not suited for making widespread, lasting change. My time doing service has shaped how I understand the way I can make a social impact and has informed many choices I’ve made for my professional development.

5. Have you been volunteering this summer? If so, where and how has it been?

I’m still in Ithaca for the summer and volunteered at Loaves and Fishes, and as usual it was a lot of fun working with the other volunteers and staff! Since it’s an off-campus event, volunteering in the summer isn’t much different than volunteering during the school year. The people who come in for the meals seem to be in a better mood though, probably because of the wonderful summer weather.

~Spring 2019~

Laasya Renganathan ’20

People sometimes think it’s weird that I’m joining APO as a second-semester junior. I honestly had an existential crisis at the beginning of the semester, when someone mentioned that we’d be graduating a year from now. When else am I going to be part of a community, surrounded by so many people my age? Have I already met everyone I’m going to meet? Is that it? Although I’m a part of lots of student organizations on campus, I thought It might be time to branch out a bit more. I was very involved in community service through Key Club in high school and had been thinking about joining APO for a few semesters, but these thoughts spurred me to finally jump in and do it.
Looking back, I know I made the right decision this semester; it’s almost like I’ve gotten a fresh start here at Cornell. APO has welcomed me as part of a diverse community, where I’ve met so many interesting people that think differently than I do. I find myself making time in my schedule to do as much APO as I possibly can, and have really enjoyed finding my place here over the course of the semester. Although I was initially attracted to the fellowship aspect of APO, I’m really grateful to this organization for also providing me the opportunity to give back to the community that’s given me so much over the past three years. And for anyone else thinking about pledging as an upperclassman, trust me, it’s never too late!

Tracy Goldman ’20

I pledged APO on a complete whim. One of my friends was talking about rushing, and I had remembered seeing people posting pictures from APO events online. I was hoping to meet new people on campus and make more friends. I remember meeting brothers, who would tell me how APO would be my home and I would always have a friend at any time, but back then, I was skeptical, as I knew how shy I was. Even despite the vast amount of friendly brothers however, it took me a bit before I found my home in APO. As an introvert, I had trouble starting conversations with new people or breaking out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t until my NIB semester where I found my groove. I began hosting more fellowships and getting to know new people. At some point, I found myself leaving fellowships 3 hours after they ended and showing my true colors to people. If I could go back to myself as a pledge and tell her that she would one day be on EB and speaking at GMs and putting herself there the way that I do now, she would probably laugh.

Having a community of people I can reach out to and get even more friends every semester has made APO worth it to me. I have made more genuine friends than I ever thought I was capable of having. Never did I think I could host a Smash Bros event weekly without people judging me or have a literal family that I would run around campus at night with collecting keys. Gamma has been a home for me on campus, and my only regret with APO is not pledging in my freshman year!

Haniya Abbasi ’20

I heard about APO before I even came to Cornell, and as a transfer student who knew absolutely no one when I first got here, I said “Why not?” There would be days where the only people I really interacted with during my day would be events I went to as a pledge. But soon enough, APO really gave me my home here. My big, Sahana, ended up as my best friend, and soon enough everything fell into place. I became so close to so many people all because I said “Why not?” I finally felt like I belonged at Cornell. Being a family head was such a fun experience, and I remember seeing Sarah McDonald absolutely crush it as Retention Chair and hoped to be even half the leader she was. Now that I am the retention chair, I always remind myself of my beginnings here at Cornell, in this fraternity – to make a difference because you never know who’s looking for a home.

Fun Fact: I have seen Parks & Recreation 14 times.

Abi Dandapani ’21

1 – I am a sophomore in the Hotel School here at Cornell. I am from Melbourne, Florida and I am very passionate about social justice issues and love being involved on campus.

2 – I joined APO because I wanted to meet people outside of the Hotel School with a passion for service. Plus, there are plenty of people in APO, so you always are making new friends. Being in college doesn’t mean we can’t contribute to the community. I have found so many valuable organizations that I’ve worked with, both on and off- campus because of APO.

3 – I have really found a family that cares about me in APO, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. What’s really nice about APO is you have an incredible social environment, you develop strong leadership skills, and you genuinely are making a difference in the community around you.

4 – The most memorable experience I had in APO was definitely during Family Wars last semester. We were running around campus in the freezing cold, but we had so much fun, I didn’t even notice. I got to meet so many people in my family (go Royals!!) and it was a wonderful bonding experience.

Fun fact: I am ambidextrous!

Sara Jumabhoy ’19

When I pledged APO my Sophomore year, I was extremely shy. I barely spoke during group interactions and was too scared to go to events by myself. I joined APO as I had always been involved in community service and was struggling to find this at Cornell. As time passed, I made friends and became more confident in meeting new people, and eventually found my home here. Through my  big and one of my siblings, I was encouraged to go to more events, and felt extremely supported and loved. Today I find myself an active member of the brotherhood. While I joined solely for the service aspect at first, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I found some of my best friends for life through this organization. I can’t imagine my college experience without APO.

Fun Fact: Sara has watched Mamma Mia the musical 8 times on Broadway.

Amrit Hingorani ’20

In case you don’t know me, I’m Amrit “Still Here, Still Causing Problems” Hingorani! I’m originally from Brooklyn, NY and at Cornell I study Biology and Nutrition in CALS. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie so I love going on adventures and trying out new things such as cliff-jumping, mountain climbing, and exploring uncharted areas. At Cornell, I dabble a bit with other activities but APO is my main squeeze and I devote most of my time at APO events or stalking Docubro in search of other events to go to. I love meeting new people and getting to know them better so if you see me around at an event or on campus, feel free to say hi! I don’t (usually) bite!

I joined APO at first because I heard about it from friends and while I liked the service aspect of it, I wasn’t sure I was going to stick with it. Yet, I am so glad that I did because the people I have met are so amazing and do such cool things. The service that APO provides is what makes me get out of bed every morning and the fellowship with other brothers is what keeps me going throughout my day. APO has given me a home on campus and countless fond memories such as playing light-up Frisbee at midnight, throwing paper airplanes in Duffield, and having deep talks with other brothers at the wee hours of the morning. I joined this fraternity to give back to the community but really this group has given me more than I ever dreamed or hoped for. All I can say is thank you for my brothers for being such amazing people and I can’t wait to see what our chapter accomplishes next!

Fun Fact:  Amrit once almost got arrested for doing barrel rolls down a jet bridge in China!

Winnie Ho ’19, President of APO Gamma for 2018

I was a casual member of APO. I almost dropped it. But then I started to do lots of service off campus, went on a service learning trip abroad in Peru. I just poured my heart into service and the amazing Ithaca community. It’s been a year since rushing, and I went from doing no service to all the service…My goal is really to give people the chance to find the meaningful service everyone wants to do, going from casual volunteers to active citizens. I think everyone has a little spark in them that wants to save the world.

Fun Fact: She once accidentally quarter carded to a 40 year old man in Undergrad Admissions.

Kevin Chou ’17

As a transfer, your first semester after transferring sucks at Cornell. I had a squad of other transfers, but it was hard to make friends besides them. I felt like an outsider, not on equal footing.The thing with APO that struck me was that with such a big organization, you have the chance to make friends across so many different years and majors. There were people I met that I didn’t become close with until APO. It has a way of letting you meet so many random people who are also involved in APO. I was in Seattle, at a conference, and after asking what some of the other people what they were involved in, we realized we were all in APO. It’s funny how APO comes back into my life when I least expect it.

Fun Fact: When he was 5, he suggested to his mother that they name his baby sister “Patrick,” after the Spongebob character.

Cierra Beck ’18 and her little, Rebekah Westerlind ’20

I was family head two semesters ago, and I’m so proud of Rebekah for her work as family head this semester. She’s been working SUPER hard to make sure everyone in the family feels welcome, which is definitely a challenge in the larger families. She’s also been so enthusiastic with our new family members, including going to the pledge meetings in a full on super suit (and walking around on campus to get to the pledge meetings with her super suit). She has so much love for APO and our family, and I’m so lucky that I get to call her my little.

Fun Fact: Both Rebekah and Cierra can lick Rebekah’s elbow.