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Fraternity Life: A Blind Perspective

by Mike Mello

Editor’s Introduction: Michael Mello has been involved with the NFB for several years. He recently helped to organize the state student division in Idaho and currently serves as president. In this article, Mike illustrates the power of the Federation and how this movement gives the extra push we all need sometimes to try new things and get involved in the community. Here is what Mike has to say about his introduction and participation in Greek life.

Before I decided to join or “rush” the Greek system at the University of Idaho I had no idea what living in a fraternity actually meant. In fact, my knowledge of Greek life consisted of what I had seen in the movie Animal House. On top of my misconceptions about what Greek life was, I had no idea how I, as a blind person, would fit in and if I could be a contributing member of the Fraternity. Until I became active in the National Federation of the Blind, I had never met anyone who was blind and had rushed a fraternity.

When I arrived on campus three years ago, to say I was scared would have been an understatement. I was uncertain about my living situation, and of course, I was concerned for my scholastic future and my life as a blind college student, in general. This is where my affiliation with the National Association of Blind Students was a huge benefit and source of encouragement. Through our student division I met blind college students living their dreams and actively participating in every capacity on their college campuses.

In all Greek systems the process for recruitment is different. Here, at the University of Idaho, we have a three-day rush period where the prospective pledges move from house-to-house, meet the members, and tour the chapter houses. Then when the prospective pledge decides and the fraternity extends a bid they can move in to the house. When I got to campus I did not want to be left out of this process nor did I want my prospective houses to think I was incapable of traveling from house-to-house or that I was unable to do things for myself. So, I asked quite a few questions and got lost numerous times, but I went thru all the houses just like every other student rushing and had no real problems.

In my house Pledges are required to complete a rigorous development program, which is designed to build the new pledges in to strong fraternal members. Pledges have many chores they must do and at first I had to prove I could pull my weight. Being initiated in to the chapter was very special to me, especially because I had to work hard to complete the tasks associated with initiation and overcome many challenges along the way--the most significant being the preconceptions that my fraternity brothers had about blindness. Most of the pledges and other fraternity members had never met a blind person before and were unsure about what I could and could not do. I was proud to become part of the fraternity, and I was proud that I had managed to change some attitudes about blindness in the process.

Joining a Greek organization has been one of the best things I have done while in college. Not only do I have the support of a tight-knit organization, I have also gained countless new friends and had many experiences I would not have been able to be a part of had I not been a member of Kappa Sigma. Also, through each experience I continue to build my confidence, and contribute to my community and my campus. So if you are a blind student just starting college or a student that is looking for a change I encourage you to go Greek!

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