Sorority uses week to promote reading, raise funds

Tidewater, a two-person band consisting of Town And Country, Mo., junior Brett Allen and Saint Louis junior Ben Horseman, perform during the “Literacy Through Unity” benefit concert at Common Grounds.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photographer

By Caitlin Giddens

There’s an epidemic affecting elementary students across the nation, and it’s not childhood obesity or attention deficit disorder.

It’s illiteracy. And it’s present here in Waco.

Determined to raise awareness of illiteracy, Delta Phi Omega sorority hosted “Literacy Through Unity Week.” Members of the sorority sold T-shirts across campus and volunteered at local elementary schools this week.

Delta Phi Omega also hosted a literacy forum Wednesday and sponsored a benefit concert at Common Grounds on Thursday.

“Literacy is our sorority’s national philanthropy, so everything we do is for literacy,” Dallas senior Kirat Sundrani said. “In Waco, we have a problem that a few schools are doing well in promoting literacy, but a few are doing poorly. When students aren’t reading at the right level in the fourth grade, they often fall behind and it affects their education.”

With members majoring in elementary education, Delta Phi Omega holds literacy close to its heart. This motivated members to inform Baylor students about national and local illiteracy.

“For me, literacy and teaching have always been my passion, especially with inner-city kids,” Katy junior Priyanka Mathews said. “I was blessed to come to Baylor and be surrounded by Waco schools. As much as Baylor is such a lavish environment, there’s poverty around us. And students need to know that.”

On Wednesday, Delta Phi Omega hosted a literacy forum featuring Ashley Weaver, project coordinator for the Greater Waco Community Education Alliance.

“The nation is struggling across the board with literacy, and Waco is not exempt from that struggle,” Weaver said. “Students need to be aware of the need and place themselves as volunteers to improve education. They should ask themselves if they are impacting the larger system of education, and if they’re being effective with their volunteering.”

One Baylor student reading to one Waco elementary student may not seem to make a significant difference. Together, Weaver said she believes Baylor students can impact the education system.

“We need to continue to think about ourselves collectively,” she said. “Imagine if we took all the population of Baylor and they volunteered with the same goal in mind.”

During its first “Literacy Through Unity Week” last year, the organization raised $1,500. Half of this amount benefited its national philanthropy to foster education and half benefited Waco schools.

This year, profits from T-shirt sales and the Common Grounds benefit concert will go to A.J. Moore Academy and Sul Ross Elementary in Waco.

“I work with A.J. Moore students and I want the kids to become motivated,” Sundrani said. “These kids have such a harsh reality, and so they don’t see what they can do in their lives. They need to see that they can have a better life and motivation to pursue their goals and their ambitions. I want these kids to work hard and achieve something greater than themselves.”