During the summer of 2022, I was contemplating with my parents regarding whether or not I should go through the Panhellenic recruitment process, as no one in my family had ever been involved in Greek Life. I am a person who generally errs on the side of caution, whether that meant not running for a leadership position, applying for a certain award, or just generally living my life on the safe side. When I chose to participate in formal recruitment, I was choosing me and choosing to forge into a process that involved uncertainty. Ultimately, I can say that it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I believe my family and friends wholeheartedly agree.
In the fall of 2022, not only did I join a Panhellenic chapter here at University of Florida, but I also spontaneously decided to apply for the Junior Panhellenic Executive Board. Like I said, I tend to shy away from applying for positions when they involve things like interviews with people I do not know. To this day, I’m still not sure why I chose to apply. Maybe it was Annika Strayer’s radiating personality when she came in to announce the opportunity during our chapter, or maybe it was the Philanthropic Events position itself that stuck out to me, or maybe it was simply me living up to the promise I made to myself before I left for college — “just say yes.”
Regardless of what caused me to submit the application, I did, and I poured my heart and soul into it. I spoke of every philanthropy event I had ever ran, helped to run, or even participated in. It was during the application process that I realized how greatly I wanted this position, and how much I desired to be part of something greater than myself. When I received the email stating that I had been granted an interview, I was ecstatic, which for me is odd. Rather than having feelings of nervousness and anxiety about what I could do wrong, I was excited to walk into the room and prove myself to a group of individuals who had no previous opinions of me. Because of this, I walked into that interview with a bubbly persona that only my close friends normally get to see, and thus was offered the opportunity to serve as the Vice President of Philanthropic Events for the 2022-2023 school year.
The Panhellenic, and therefore Junior Panhellenic, council breakdown is very intricate, and I believe being a Panhellenic woman is more advantageous when you understand how the councils themselves operate. The overall mission of the Junior Panhellenic Council is to introduce new members to the Panhellenic community. The council hosts incredible events that provide new members with an opportunity to get involved and become connected to other chapter women. On the Junior Panhellenic Council, there is a President and five Vice Presidents, three of which have delegates underneath them. The President of Junior Pan is our leading lady — she plans all of our meetings, creates agendas, facilitates communication, and oversees all bonding activities. Our President this year, Reagan Jones, is the most supportive and graceful leader. The three Vice Presidents who have delegates to assist them are: Community Events, Philanthropic Events, and Service.
The VP of Community Events has the pleasure of running Ghouls, Goblins, and Greeks, a large community event that we organize every year on Sorority Row. Ghouls, Goblins, and Greeks is a trick-or-treating event hosted by all Panhellenic chapters for the local children and families of Gainesville and Alachua County. Each chapter facility has a different theme or activity, and they hand out candy to trick-or-treaters with the help of other new members in their chapter. This year we had so many cute themes, ranging from Safari to Candyland.
The VP of Philanthropic Events, my role, runs an event called New Member Lip Sync, where the new members of Panhellenic chapters are paired with new members of the Interfraternity Council to compete in a lip sync battle. All funds raised from entry tickets at the event are donated to UF Panhellenic’s philanthropy, Circle of Sisterhood. This year our overall theme was “Take me back to the 2000’s”, and we raised $3,473 for Circle of Sisterhood, an organization that raises funds in order to remove educational barriers for impoverished females.
The VP of Service is tasked with organizing a day of service that is normally coupled with a donation drive. This past year we made holiday cards, as well as assembled hygiene bags to distribute to a local homeless shelter and collected toys for the holidays. Additionally, we have two VPs who do not have delegates from each chapter beneath them.
Although the last two VPs do not have committees under their roles, they both have incredibly important jobs. The VP of Finance tracks and handles the Junior Panhellenic budget, check requests, and reimbursements. The VP of Communications solely runs the Junior Panhellenic’s Instagram and is in charge of all marketing for the Junior Panhellenic Council. Each person on this team is essential to the functioning of this council. More than that, each person this past year has contributed to an overwhelming sense of community and family.
For me, joining Junior Pan was one of the best decisions I ever made, and it was the entrance into a group of people I would now call my family. I can distinctly remember sitting down at our first board bonding activity - lunch at Birdie Box - and having the most positive, lovely discussion. We spoke about our lives, recruitment experiences, and the problems in the world around us. I can genuinely say that this was the first time I ever sat down with a group of people who were so open-minded and respectful of others’ opinions. From that point forward, I knew that our group would be close-knit. I looked forward to each Thursday meeting, cherished every moment we spent together, and felt privileged to help such an incredible team put on amazing events .
These people taught me so much, and I owe much of my newfound confidence to them. They’ve taught me interminable kindness in all forms: to others, the world around me, and most importantly myself. I now appreciate the opportunity in every moment and the romance in every day. I hug a little longer, laugh a whole lot harder, and have a love for life so much larger than I could have ever imagined. Love is just a word until someone gives it meaning, and the people I have met in the Panhellenic community have given that word an endless dictionary definition. I now live each and every day by the mantra of, “I get to,” instead of, “I have to,” which has granted me the faith in myself to apply for the positions I desire. More importantly, involvement and leadership in Junior Panhellenic has given me the courage to be unapologetically me.
Apply for the positions you are scared to apply for, talk to the people you are scared to talk to, and take the chances you are too scared to take. Junior Pan changed my life, and I know there's an organization, opportunity, or group of people that can change yours too.
Gabriella Petillo, a Gamma Phi Beta Sister