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Pass It On

Today, the sisters of Alpha Delta Pi are using the hashtag #ComeHometoADPi on twitter to share with the University of Louisiana Panhellenic community why we came home to Alpha Delta Pi. My story is too long to fit into 140 characters, so I’m sharing it here.

The essay that follows was originally published in Inspiration for Greeks (2001).

candle

“Pass It On,” by Erin (Nappe) Bellavia 

I almost dropped out of formal recruitment.

From the time I first visited Allegheny College in the spring of my senior year of high school, I was interested in Greek life. As my host walked me through the halls of Brooks Hall, I stopped to read the poems hung neatly on the walls outside the doors of the freshman women pledging sororities. Their promises of eternal friendship and sisterhood, affectionately signed “(Greek Letter) love and all of mine,” intrigued me. I wanted to know how that felt.

But I nearly talked myself out of it.

I’d made friends with the girls who lived on my hall. They weren’t interested in sorority life.

“I don’t need to buy my friends,” they said.

I didn’t really believe that, but I almost let them convince me. Then I met the sisters of Alpha Delta Pi.

They were different. I could tell from the moment I set foot in their suite. Each woman, I could see, was an individual. They were softball players, theater majors, and pre-med students. They were dancers, singers, and members of the activities board. I felt at home; I didn’t feel like I had to be someone else to make them like me. I saw friendly faces from some of my classes, and my shyness melted away.

But still, I almost dropped out.

“What about the money?” I asked myself. Concerned about costs, I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need a sorority. That I had friends. That I was happy.

Then, I was convinced to attend the third night of formal recruitment.

The ADPi’s had a theme party: Pi Rock Café. They wore matching “Pi Rock” shirts, served soda in old-style Coke bottles. “Records” hung on the walls, and rock music played in the background.

I was greeted by Amy Jo, a girl I recognized from my dance class. We had never really talked much, but I soon found that it didn’t matter to AJ. She swept me around the room, making sure everyone met me. She introduced me as “the girl who taught the Electric Slide” to Jan Hyatt, our dance teacher.

We sat through the slide show the chapter had prepared. Amy Jo enthusiastically described each slide, each event the chapter took part in. There were shots of philanthropy events, of social functions, and shots of sisters just “hanging out” together. I envied them. When it was time to leave, Amy Jo hugged me.

“I’m so glad you came,” she said. I knew she meant it.

I was hooked. I wanted to be an ADPi.

And still, I almost talked myself out of going back for the final round. Ashley, a girl who lived down the hall who I wasn’t even close with, convinced me to go. When I said I didn’t have anything to wear, she loaned me a dress.

“You can always decide not to pledge,” she told me.

So I returned for the fourth night Preference Party. I was again greeted by an only slightly familiar face. Jennyfer, JJ to her friends, had apparently picked me out of the crowd of freshmen.

“That girl is cool,” she’d told her friends. “She’s going to be my little.”

During the fourth night ceremony, each sister read something to the potential new member she’d been paired with; a poem, or personal message. It seemed that all the other pairs knew each other well. I was worried.

But when it was JJ’s turn, she set my mind at ease. She told me how special I was, made me feel like I belonged. Then she hugged me, and led me to the diamond-shaped puzzle in the middle of the room. She pulled out one of the pieces, and handed it to me.

A piece of ADPi it said, with my name inscribed underneath it.

The puzzle, we were told, represented each individual in the chapter; how each individual helped make up the whole.

We stood in a circle, then. The president of the chapter started a candle pass, passing the lit candle once around the room as a symbol of friendship. As the candle made its way around, the sisters sang their own words to the hymn “Pass it On.”

What a happy house is this, when we are all together. As sisters we exist, we live for one another, the chapter sang.

My eyes welled with tears. ADPi’s open motto, “We Live for Each Other,” was to me, the ideal of friendship.

Then, I held my preference card in my hands. I had attended two preference parties, but I knew what I wanted to do. Although the rush counselors advised against it, I wrote “ADPi” on the card, leaving the other spaces blank. It was a practice known as intentional single preferencing (colloquially referred to as “suiciding”), and it was highly discouraged. If ADPi didn’t offer me a bid, I wouldn’t be in a sorority at all.

I didn’t care, because I didn’t just want to be in a sorority. I wanted to be an ADPi.
Saturday morning, I waited. I had chosen; I had to wait to see if they chose me. If I was going to get a bid, the sisters would bring it to my door at 1 p.m.

The enthusiastic banging on the door came at moments after 1. I was hardly breathing. I opened the door, and Amy Jo pulled a letter sweatshirt over my head. I think she read the bid card. I don’t remember.

I wore the letters so proudly. I was an ADPi. I had found the place where I belonged. I silently thanked Ashley for not letting me drop out.

Amy Jo and the others hugged me, then we were off. They ran me to Brooks Circle, where the rest of the chapter was waiting. JJ (who would soon become my Diamond sister) was the first to hug me when we got there.

“I was so worried about you,” she said. Worried that I would decide not to pledge, or to pledge somewhere else. That was ridiculous; there was no place else for me.

I still wear my letters proudly, even four years after I graduated from Allegheny. My closest friends are still the ones I made as a collegiate member of Eta Beta chapter; friendships that were not “bought,” but made and cultivated through common experiences, deepened by the bond of sisterhood.

And the words to that song, the words I now know by heart, still bring a tear to my eye.

I’ll shout it from the mountaintop–I’ve come to ADPi.
It’s given me the love you see, and now I’ll pass it on.

adpi cover diamond

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