From the beginning of its existence, Iota Phi Theta has sought to "Make a Difference." One of the very first activities of the newly-formed Iota was participation in the protests at the segregated Northwoods Shopping Center in Baltimore, Maryland. The founders of the Fraternity considered themselves "Militant" at a time when militancy was not an entirely popular stance.
This commitment to service has been a constant thread throughout the history of Iota Phi Theta. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Iota was a strong supporter of the "Big Brothers of America" program. In fact, in 1974, then Grand Polaris, Thomas Dean appeared in a local television commercial on behalf of Big Brothers of America.
The commitment to service has continued and is manifested in the activities of local chapters of the Fraternity. A partial listing of involvements undertaken by Iota Phi Theta chapters includes:
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it highlights the type of community involvement and spirit that exists within the Iota Phi Theta brotherhood.
In the initial stages of the Fraternity's existence, the Fraternity's service initiatives were local in nature as reflected by the size of the Fraternity and the scope of its resources. As the Fraternity began to take on a National dimension, it became evident that its programmatic thrust would have to be adjusted accordingly. This adjustment was complicated however, by the fact that many chapters have had historical ties to service organizations and causes in their local areas.
In order to address these concerns, In 1993, the Fraternity created 2 important National initiatives that remain the primary focus of its service thrust. These Initiatives are The National Iota Foundation and The IOTA Youth Alliance.
The National Iota Foundation is a Tax-Exempt, 501(c)(3) organization founded by Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. to serve as a clearinghouse for funding and programs for worthwhile endeavors. Since its creation, the Foundation and its subsidiaries have distributed over $250,000 in grants, aid, and services.
A recent example of the Foundation's work is the First Annual IOTA Black College Tour. The tour, which was conducted in April, 1996, was held in conjunction with "POSITIVE BLACK IMAGES" (a student group at City College of San Francisco) and Balboa High School in San Francisco and was underwritten by the Foundation. This tour was designed to introduce graduating High School Seniors to Historically-Black Colleges and Universities with the further intent to have them select and attend such an institution. The tour group, consisting of group of 47 students and 8 staff members visited the Atlanta University Center, Tuskegee University and Alabama State University.
As a result of this tour, four students are now scheduled to enter Clark Atlanta University, 2 scheduled for Morris Brown, and 2 are scheduled for Tuskegee University in the fall of 1996. At least 10 others are considering attending HBCU's upon completing high school and/or community college. Activities such as the Black College Tour are prime examples of how the National Iota Foundation is attempting to channel funding and resources into the minority community.
The National Iota Foundation is an important cornerstone in the Fraternity's future strategy for providing assistance and uplift to the African-American community.
The IOTA Youth Alliance is a national umbrella program through which individual chapters of Iota Phi Theta address the needs of Black Youth in their communities. Under the auspices of the Alliance, chapters either work with existing organizations or create new ones based on the requirements and available resources in their locality. In order to insure continuity, each of the Fraternity's chapters is strongly encouraged to prioritize youth alliance activities as a part of their programmatic thrust.
The Youth Alliance is especially important because it allows the Fraternity to make a national impact while maintaining ties to those causes and organizations with whom it has had historical relationships. One of the many examples on Iota Youth Alliance Activities is the African-American Male Educational Network (AAMEN). Created and sponsored by the Beta Omega (Washington DC) Graduate Chapter, AAMEN is a mentoring program consisting of boys between the ages of 8 and 13 years old. Meeting twice a week, these young men are tutored by members of the chapter in academic, social, and leadership skills.
As a testament to their success, the 40 young men currently enrolled in the program are collectively in the top five percent of their classes. As a recreational and reinforcement activity, the AAMEN program has also formed a "Step" team which performs routines that reinforce the positive principles of AAMEN. Membership on the team is contingent upon the establishment and maintaining of a 3.0 grade point average. The team has performed in various locations including Washington, DC, Columbus Ohio and most recently, Chicago, Illinois.
As Iota Phi Theta continues its growth and development, commitment to the African-American community shall remain the priority of its activity. The Fraternity understands that its primary mission should be to serve as an enabler for the empowerment of the African-American community and as a continuing source of positive images and assistance for our youth.