When founding a new colony or re-colonizing an older chapter, all of those sentiments are still true, however the new member experience is likely to be a bit different. Being a member of the founding class means that you and your sisters came first—there are no Alpha Experience Coordinators or Chapter Presidents to lead and show you the way, and no older members to fill the important role of sister-mother. That's why these members gain a special Alpha Gam connection called a Pearl Sister.
The Pearl Sister program is a virtual sister-mother/daughter program in which new members of a founding or re-founding class are connected with Alpha Gam alumnae. Each alumna is paired up with a new member and serves as her sister-mother from afar! She may send cards and encouraging notes, send Alpha Gam swag or even spend time talking to her sister about what Alpha Gamma Delta has meant to her. Essentially, this volunteer will do all a sister-mother does for her sister-daughter in a traditional new member experience.
The Pearl Sister program formally lasts for the eight weeks of the new member period, but can certainly carry over into the first semester of the colony's establishment. Pearl Sisters communicate with their new members by social media, email, text, phone and mail. No travel is required and very little time or cost is involved. Sometimes, Pearl Sisters are able to travel to watch or attend Initiation and Installation of the chapter, but this is not mandatory. This is a special and exciting moment for our new members of our newest chapters. If a Pearl Sister visits for Initiation, usually, she gets to pin her Pearl Sister during the ceremony. Pearl Sisters who put time and energy into building connections with their new members in whatever way they can provide an unforgettable new member experience, no matter how far apart they live.
Who better to explain the power of the Pearl Sister program than members who have participated in it? We talked to a Pearl Sister pairing from our newest colony at the University of South Carolina about their experiences as Pearl Sisters so far. Helene Lamarre, Beta Xi-Purdue University '69, has been a Pearl Sister three or four times now and has great experiences each time she connected through this program. Larsen Clark, a new member of the Theta Omega Chapter at the University of South Carolina, is a senior leader at USC and was a member of the Finance committee during the colony's first semester. We had the chance to ask them each some questions about their experience in the Pearl Sister program; see their answers below!
What attracted you to the Pearl Sister Program?
Helene: Everything! I was very attracted to the idea of sharing my wonderful membership experience in Alpha Gamma Delta. I also liked the idea of an email contact—easy, fast, relevant.
Helene is second from the left in this photo of the Fox Valley Alumnae Club.
How did you learn about your Pearl Sister?
Larsen: I learned about my Pearl Sister through an email sent to me from our chapter consultants!
Larsen is in the middle of the front row with her Sisterhood Circle and Cocky, USC Mascot!
What have you learned so far from each other?
Helene: It has reminded me how special a time it was when I was a new member at my chapter, Beta Xi, at Purdue University. It is a heart-warming experience.
Larsen: I have gotten to see what life as an alumna of Alpha Gamma Delta will be like through the e-newsletter Helene shared with me. I was also pleased to learn the Helene was also in the founding class when Alpha Gamma Delta started at Purdue! Having a Pearl Sister has been a great way to connect alumnae with new Alpha Gams.
What do you usually talk about and share with your Pearl Sister?
Helene: Lots of things, my new member experience, my chapter experience (I was the VP of Fraternity Education (an old officer term) and was Pledge Trainer [today's Alpha Experience Coordinator] I guess it was my "teacher genes" at work even back then.) I also share the newsletter from my alumnae group, Fox Valley Alumnae Club, to show my Pearl Sister that Alpha Gam membership is for a lifetime and can continue to enrich any sister's life. I also share facts about me like where I live, what I do for a living, photographs, etc.
Larsen: Even through it has only been a few weeks since I found out who my Pearl Sister is I have been able to share so much with her. Helene let me know where she lives, where she went to school and what for and what she currently does now. I also have had the chance to share with her my major, where I am from and what I plan on doing after I graduate in May. I have also shared with her how the colonization at the University of South Caroline is going.
What has been your favorite moment so far as a Pearl Sister?
Helene: Each woman I have been lucky to be given as a Pearl Sister has provided special moments. It would be hard to isolate one. A favorite activity of mine as part of my commitment to this program is to purchase Alpha Gamma Delta gifts and send on to my Pearl Sister upon pledging and a second one upon or right before initiation. It is so much fun to find and pick out items and each Pearl Sister appreciates the effort so much.
Larsen: My favorite moment so far with Helene was when I had the opportunity to see a picture of her and her dog as well as send her pictures of myself and my family!
What do you think everyone could learn from with this program?
Helene: Sharing sisterhood... who doesn't like that?! It is like any other type of volunteering that we may do in our lives: we get from it so much more than we give.
What is your favorite part of being an Alpha Gam so far?
Larsen: My favorite part so far is gaining so many new sisters in such a short period of time and being able to call myself an Alpha Gam girl. I absolutely love Alpha Gamma Delta!
Interested in sharing your love for Alpha Gamma Delta with a new member of a founding or re-founding colony? We're always looking for enthusiastic and dedicated Pearl Sisters! Get in touch with Lisa Williams, Alumnae Specialist at International Headquarters.