Baker sorority Alpha Chi Omega wins national award

"Together let us seek the heights."

That is Alpha Chi Omega sorority's open motto.

This summer, the women of Baker's Omicron chapter of Alpha Chi Omega found those heights when the chapter was named the National Council Trophy Winner, or chapter of the year, at Alpha Chi Omega's National Convention.

Senior and President Krista Yaktine was one of five women who went to the Alpha Chi Omega National Convention July 9-12 in Washington, D.C.

"It was an honor to represent my sisters at the convention," Yaktine said.

Alpha Chi Omega's National Convention takes place every two years, where awards from the past year are presented. This year, sophomore Chelsea Amack, juniors Ashley McEachern, Sarah Pembrook and Rachel Hawkins, Baker Orange staff member, and Yaktine were the five women who traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the national convention.

"I kind of lucked out a little bit," Yaktine said, since she was able to attend a national convention while in the presidency.

But little did she know how lucky it was actually going to be for her and her sisters this time around.

Around Nine hundred and sixty women from 135 collegiate chapters all over the country, both current and alumnae Alpha Chi Omega members, attended the national convention. This included chapters of all sizes.

So, Baker's Omicron chapter was competing with schools from their own size to the size of The University of Kansas for the national honor.

"It was pretty overwhelming, but humbling," Yaktine said. "It was just a humbling experience."

The National Council Trophy Winner is determined by an awards handbook that deals with items such as alumnae relations, philanthropy work and involvement on each chapter's respective campus.

Baker's chapter was eligible for this award when it was named a National Council Trophy Finalist in 2009.

But Yaktine said they had no idea the Omicron chapter was actually up for the award until the night it was announced, July 12. The chapter was up against two other schools for the honor, The University of Kansas and Florida State University.

Before Marcia King Grady, Alpha Chi Omega National President, announced the winner, she described the chapter that had won. Yaktine said when she mentioned how the winning chapter had fundraised at its local Maple Leaf Festival, the Omicron women knew they had won, and it made them screech a little.

Once the Baker chapter was announced as the winner, National Vice President Diane Blackwelder presented the award to the women. Blackwelder happens to be an Omicron alumna.

Going up to receive the trophy, all Yaktine could think about was all the effort her sisters put into winning it.

"This award wasn't just from one year, it was hard work from previous presidents of Alpha Chi Omega," she said.

This is the fourth time the Omicron chapter has won this honor in the 125 years since Alpha Chi Omega was founded. According to the Omicron chapter's website, this was the first time in 53 years it had been awarded chapter of the year.

In addition to the Omicron chapter winning chapter of the year, the House Corporation Board won Local House Corporation Board of the Year for the first time.

Yaktine said the people on this board are the ones who keep the house up and running. They keep the house looking nice, and deal with structural issues or when items in the house, like carpeting, need to be updated.

"The house would not run without them," Yaktine said.

For some of the women in the sorority, the idea of being chapter of the year has yet to hit them.

"It's really surreal," senior Libby Steele said. "I feel like it's something we've been working toward."

Steele joined Alpha Chi Omega as a freshman during recruitment. She said one of the reasons she joined was because the women were really genuine.

"From the first night on, whenever I walked through the door, I felt at home," Steele said.

Since then she has been very involved in the sorority, even holding the position of president in 2009.

"I wouldn't be the person I am today without that organization," she said.

While the award is still pretty surreal, Steele said it shows the strength of the Omicron chapter.

"Even though we're small, we're mighty," she said. "We can accomplish great things."

The excitement of this accomplishment is not only shared by the women of Alpha Chi Omega, but by their house director as well.

"I'm just a proud parent as any parent would be," Kathleen Thomas, Alpha Chi Omega house director, said.

"[The award] speaks so well of these young women. They deserve it."

Thomas began her job at the sorority 15 years ago. Better known as "Mom K" to the women of Alpha Chi Omega, Thomas said since she has been here, this is the first time the Omicron chapter has won a national award.

"It was a pretty exciting event," Thomas said. "And it made my buttons pop, too."

Thomas said she received a phone call from the women who attended the convention about the Omicron chapter winning the award the night it happened.

"They were so excited I could hardly understand what they were saying," Thomas said.

Brett Bruner, director of student life, said this is the first time in his three years at Baker that a sorority or fraternity has won a chapter of the year award and said this honor is very respectable.

"It's a great accomplishment," Bruner said. "I'm very happy and excited for the women."

Bruner also said an award like this is something future prospective greek recruits may investigate into.

"It'll be an excellent opportunity to showcase our sororities and fraternities," Bruner said.

Since the Omicron chapter won chapter of the year this year, it is not eligible to win again next year. Instead, the chapter will be up for the Continued Excellence Award, an award given to chapters who continue to meet and keep standards high, and that is what Yaktine said the women hope to do.

"We strive to do the best we can," Yaktine said. "We strive to reach the heights."

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