One 2 Another
Sister 2 Sister is the latest student organization to bring familiarity to the ONU experience.
Many students face a balancing act when first exposed to the independence that comes with being in college. No more curfews. No more bedtimes. No one telling you what you have to do. Sure, the freedom can be exhilarating, but on the other hand, there’s also no one telling you what you should do. No one calling you down for dinner. No one reminding you to do your homework. These things, while they can be a bit scary at first, are quickly figured out. Skip enough meals, and you get hungry. Skip enough assignments, and your GPA takes a hit.
For certain students, there’s an additional layer to adjusting to college that can’t simply be “figured out.” It has less to do with learning the ropes and knowing what to do, and everything to do with being comfortable and feeling familiarity in a community. About one student in 10 at ONU is a person of color. While the University has many organizations aimed at providing this familiarity (Black Student Union, African Student Association, Asian American Student Union, Indian Student Association, Japanese Student Organization, Latino Student Union, Muslim Student Association), until just recently, women of color – particularly African American women – didn’t have a student organization of their own, a place where they could gather together to celebrate who they are and support each other in a state of unity.
Last year, an intrepid group of ONU women changed all that.
In September 2018, Ohio Northern’s Sister 2 Sister chapter became the first of its kind in the state of Ohio. Modeled after ONU’s existing Brother 2 Brother organization, which unites male students of color, Sister 2 Sister is an official chapter of the Student African American Sisterhood (SAAS), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the personal and professional development of young women of color.
Its purpose is to empower young college women of color, so that we can build each other up and encourage one another,” says pharmaceutical and healthcare business major Madison Hudson, recording secretary and co-founder of Sister 2 Sister. “We help each other get good grades, stay in school and get involved, and always remember that school comes first.
Sister 2 Sister fills a gap in the lives of its 25 members that is vital to their success and well-being at ONU. They study together, celebrate together, form lasting bonds of friendship, and support each other through the struggles and challenges of pursuing higher education. Most importantly, though, they have created a circle of trust that allows everyone to be heard and respected no matter what.
“It’s really a safe space for us. We come together and share our struggles, weaknesses and strengths,” says pharmacy major Brianna Bogard, treasurer and co-founder of Sister 2 Sister. “It gives us the opportunity to talk to someone else who understands.”
In terms of student retention, it can’t be overstated how important a group like Sister 2 Sister can be to a college campus, and how fortunate ONU is to have students who didn’t view the lack of such an organization as a reason to leave, but instead as motivation to build.
“When I went to Greek Week, I didn’t really see anyone like me,” says Bogard. “So, I wanted to be a part of something here at ONU where people like me could come together.”
Sister 2 Sister co-founder and corresponding secretary Yasmine Seidu came all the way from Backersville, Calif., to enroll in ONU’s outstanding Raabe College of Pharmacy. She considered attending a larger university to experience more diversity, but ultimately decided to pursue the education that matched her aspirations.
I thought I was giving that up by coming to ONU, but having something like Sister 2 Sister proves that I can still get that experience here,” she says. “That’s really important to me, and I’m sure it’s the same for other girls.
It is important for Ohio natives as well. Not only are there bragging rights involved for being the first chapter in the state, but the organization has already helped some members avoid the feeling that they should go home every weekend in search of that sense of community.
“For me, it gave me a reason to stay on campus and, hopefully, paved the way for other women of color to come here and stay here,” says pharmacy major and vice president Dominique Redmon. “Just having that environment of people who are like you is so important.”
In their own words, the co-founders admit the process taught them “persistence, patience and leadership.” Since the new organization was going to be both a new ONU student organization and a new chapter of a national organization (SAAS), Sister 2 Sister’s creation took place on two levels. On the national level, they had to reach out to SAAS’s founder, Dr. Khalilah Shabazz, to initiate the chapter’s affiliation with SAAS, after which they formed a committee to delegate president, vice president and the chapter’s other positions. On the campus level, they had to prepare a constitution and bylaws for the new chapter to be approved by Student Senate and the Student Organization Committee by the end of spring semester 2018. All of this took place between March and September 2018.
The process was finally complete on Sept. 28, 2018, when Shabazz came to campus to officially christen them a part of SAAS – the crowning achievement for an effort they’d put so much work into.
“It was very impactful to me because I remember mentioning this during my freshman year, and now, I’m a senior,” says Hudson. “So, to see this come to fruition before I left campus is a really big deal for me. I feel like I’ve left a legacy behind for other students like myself who will be coming to ONU.”
With 177 active student organizations on campus, Ohio Northern has always – and will always – encourage and foster opportunities for students to come together around common interests and experiences. What better way to live up to our motto Ex Diversitate Vires – “out of diversity strength”?
Interested in joining Sister 2 Sister? It’s open to any female ONU student (not just African American students). For more information, contact Breanna Smith, chapter president, at firstname.lastname@example.org.