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|Members of UMD's Gamma Sigma Sigma.|
|Kelsey Dressen (l) and Joanna Beneke (r) with Champ. Both Dressen and Beneke are officers in Gamma Sigma Sigma.|
|Members of Gamma Sigma Sigma take part in the 2012 Polar Bear Plunge and jump into Lake Superior.|
For seniors Kelsey Dressen and Joanna Beneke, the UMD experience isn’t just about classes, jobs, and internships, it’s also about volunteering their time in the community. These young women are part of Gamma Sigma Sigma (GSS), UMD’s only service sorority.
GSS began in 1962 as Kappa Phi Omega then joined the national sorority of Gamma Sigma Sigma in 1964 making it UMD’s oldest sorority. Members are required to maintain a 2.0 or better GPA and give 24 hours of service per semester; otherwise anyone can join. “We like to say: You choose us, we don’t choose you,” said Beneke, a communication disorders major. GSS currently has 75 members.
The projects and the organizations that GSS works with are extensive. They include the March of Dimes, Red Cross, American Diabetes Association, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Domiano Center, and about thirty others.
GSS has members that read to young people in elementary schools, tutor in the Duluth school system, and participate in the afterschool program Girl Power. Members walk dogs at Animal Allies, do highway clean up in the spring, and adopt a family around the holidays.
On Wed., Feb. 6, GSS is holding an event to raise money and awareness for a local organization, Udac, that works with adults with disabilities. “This event is really exciting because it includes all the athletic teams, the UMD Pep Band, Greek Life, and the community,” said Dressen, a political science major. “The UMD athletic office has been awesome helping us with this and other events. We’re really thankful for that,” she said.
GSS often partners with Alpha Phi Omega (APO), UMD’s only service fraternity. On Sat., Feb. 16, GSS and APO will take part in the Polar Bear Plunge, which raises money for Special Olympics. Last year, GSS raised over $1000 from the Polar Bear Plunge.
“A lot of organizations contact us because they’ve heard about us and want our help. It’s really exciting,” said Dressen.
They are glad when organizations reach out to them. “We know that sororities and fraternities get a bad rap. We’re trying to change that,” said Dressen. “We’ve had so many people say that we’ve changed their perceptions because they see the hard work that Gamma Sigma Sigma put into their projects.”
Involvement in GSS has been a positive experience. “Being active in Gamma Sigma Sigma I've learned life skills and time management. Balance is everything. Plus, it’s fun to see what you put into it and what you get out of it. I love helping people,” said Beneke.
For Dressen, participation has been invaluable. ”I’ve made so many friends and so many contacts. I have an internship because of my work with Gamma Sigma Sigma. Joining Gamma Sigma Sigma was the best decision I ever made,” she said. “I don’t think I’d enjoy my college experience as much without it.”
For more information, visit UMD's Gamma Sigma Sigma website.
Written by Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann, January 2013
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