Alpha Phi Omega

Gamma Chapter at Cornell University

Humans of APO


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 Higorani ’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.