By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Bryan Partridge, NorthHaven Church’s student minister, wasn’t quite sure what was in store when a bunch of college frat guys agreed to spend time with NorthHaven Student Ministry.
But, Alpha Tau Omega (ATO), Delta Kappa chapter at the University of Oklahoma, turned out to be the complete opposite of the stereotype that clings to many American fraternities, Partridge said. For a whole year, ATO members gave up their free time to mentor Norman students.
Partridge got the idea to reach out to ATO after speaking with his brother-in-law who works in ATO’s national office. Partridge said he was looking for a way to find volunteers who were willing to spend time with the church’s youth.
“Right now we don’t have a college ministry that I could pull volunteers from, so I approached ATO. When I first announced that a fraternity would be spending time with our students, one member said ‘Are you throwing a kegger for our youth?’ He was joking of course, but that is still a perception people have of fraternities,” Partridge said. “Our students have had the chance to see that’s not what they’re all about. That older college students — frat guys — are willing to spend time with them.”
Since last year, ATO has met every Monday with NorthHaven youth who are students at Irving, Alcott, Whittier, Norman High and Norman North to tutor them and spend quality time talking and getting to know each other. Partridge said the fraternity sends about three young men each week and that volunteers come frequently enough that the kids remember certain frat brothers and look forward to seeing them.
“If the students don’t have homework, then the guys talk to the students about college life or a student might ask what their church believes about certain things and the guys would want to be a part of the conversation,” Partridge said.
Tucker Hein, ATO philanthropy chair and junior at OU studying biology and Spanish, said working with local students has been a great experience for the fraternity.
“It’s made us feel more connected to the Norman community. A lot of fraternities and sororities do philanthropies that benefit organizations on a larger scale. I think we’re unique to OU in that we want to connect directly to Norman,” Hein said.
Partridge said NorthHaven’s youth have enjoyed time with ATO above many of the church’s other activities.
“This becomes one of our more popular get togethers. If all the students could come every week they would,” Partridge said.
Students seem to feel understood knowing that someone has been in their shoes and can give them advice, Hein said of his interaction with students at the weekly meetings.
ATO was founded on Christain principles, so it seems fitting that it would work with some of Norman’s Christian youth.
“The fraternity accepts everyone no matter their beliefs, but this philanthropy work is a cool connection with our tradition and past,” Hein said.
Additionally, ATO helped NorthHaven staff a football event in the fall 2013 that included games and prizes. Most recently, ATO helped plan and organize a volleyball night for the NorthHaven students. Students and fraternity brothers got a little wild playing Nuke ‘Em, eating pizza and hanging out.
“My frat, we’re a group of generally hard working individuals and if we have the time and resources then why not give back,” Hein said.
NorthHaven currently serves about 30 youth, sixth through 12th grade, in the NorthHaven Student Ministry. NorthHaven offers traditional Sunday morning and Wednesday night worship services for its youth as well as hosts events throughout the year and takes its youth to summer camp.
Partridge said youth from other congregations are welcome to join NorthHaven Student Ministry as often as they like to fulfill their worship needs. The student ministry will soon move into a new 1,300 square feet classroom that will hold about 90 to 100 people.
For more information about NorthHaven, visit northhavenchurch.net. For more information about Alpha Tau Omega at OU, visit ouato.org.
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