Black Greek News

Leadership Highlight: Claudia Schrader the Basileus of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Eta Omega Omega Chapter in The Bronx

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the sorority sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.’s Eta Omega Omega Chapter in the Bronx and did an interview with Claudia Schrader the Basileus of the chapter.

The position of Basileus/president of a Black sorority chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Claudia Schrader, who works as a College President, has been in the position of Basileus for 10 months.

We interviewed Claudia Schrader, who is a 1992 Epsilon Pi Omega Chapter, Queens NY initiate and talked to her about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in the digital age.

Read the full interview below.

What motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?

I am honored to be a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated for 30 years. I was initiated in Epsilon Pi Omega in Queens, NY and am a charter member of Psi Lambda Omega Chapter in Brooklyn, NY. For the past 11 years, I have been a member of the Eta Omega Omega Chapter in the Bronx, NY. I cannot imagine my life without Alpha Kappa Alpha and certainly cannot imagine these past 11 years without Eta Omega Omega, because the chapter has enriched my life in many ways.

There was a time when I stepped away from Alpha Kappa Alpha. But when I stepped back in, through Eta Omega Omega, I stepped all the way in and since then have used my time, talent and skills to: continue the legacy of its phenomenal programs like the AKATeen Rites of Passage Program; market the chapter and communicate our good works on social media; capture our most beautiful moments with my camera; lead our first Strategic Planning effort; serve on the Leadership committee as a member and chairperson; plan retreats to strengthen our chapter and enable my sisters to draw closer together; design flyers, write narratives and create awards books that tell story of the #BronxAKAs; serve as the Recording Secretary. In the 11 years I have been a member, I have been inspired by those have held seats of leadership and have taken us to greater heights. I believe that Alpha Kappa Alpha prepares all its members to be leaders and this is what has motivated me to pursue the position of President.

What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the local community or the broader Black community?

Eta Omega Omega is excited to advance the sorority’s international program initiatives. This year in an effort to address food insecurity and in partnership with the Riverbay Corporation and New York City Councilmember Kevin Riley -who is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated- we volunteered to serve at the Co-op City Community Fridge. The Community Fridge provides community members with free access to fresh fruit and vegetables. This year we are excited also enter our 33rd year of the AKATeens Rites of Passage Program, the Chapter’s signature program which supports the cultivation and transformation high school teens into young women. The program is done in conjunction with Wheeler, Wilson & Johnson Community Projects, Inc. (WWJ) our foundation. The program is intense as young women meet twice per month with members of the chapter who serve as mentors. As mentors we provide workshops that cover ancestral history, critical life skills and personal development. Mentors and mentees spend a weekend away at a campground where we engage in additional workshops and ropes courses. This is an opportunity for the bonds of sisterhood to not only be strengthened among us, but between the teens and all of us as women.

We are proud that through WWJ we are able to provide college scholarships to students each year. In addition, the chapter’s service project: Dorm Drive which is also done in collaboration with WWJ enables us to purchase dorm room items for students who were not selected for scholarships. We visit each one at their homes to gift to them with our purchases prior to them leaving for college.

What made you want to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha?

The Alpha Kappa Alpha women I knew or had the opportunity to observe, always embodied a spirit of excellence, high standards and an unwavering focus on service to others. After doing my research on all the Divine 9 sororities, I came to understand the roots of what I had observed. As someone who strives for excellence, I imagined what it would be to be in an organization with like-minded women and to be a part of something with roots so deep that it lay the foundation for the sororities that would come after. By 1992, I would no longer need to imagine, because I was honored become a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?

Eta Omega Omega is unique because our membership is drawn from women deeply committed to uplifting the Bronx. Whether they were born in the Bronx, raised in the Bronx, live in/ used to live in the Bronx, or have family in the Bronx, there is an unbridled passion for service especially the kind that enables us to connect on a very real, personal and authentic level with the women, children and men we serve. We pride ourselves on implementing programs of services that don’t just check a box, but that results in affirming, positive, uplifting, and meaningful outcomes for the people we serve. We see ourselves and our families in everyone we serve and that is what makes Eta Omega Omega not only unique, but extraordinary.

How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?

We foster unity by ensuring that we put as much effort into strengthening our bonds of sisterhood, as we do engaging in service projects. We have found use of the GroupMe chat app to be an important tool that helps us to stay connected and in contact and exchange and discuss non-business matters. Mentorship is also an important tool for orienting new and transfer members to the chapter. The chapter also has a variety of Squads that members can join based on interest or a particular activity. For example, the AKAFit Squad are focused on getting healthy and meet up virtually to ride their Pelotons or in person to walk various tracks in the Bronx; while the AKALiteraries select a book that the group will read and then have get togethers at a sister’s house to discuss the book. Prior to attending conferences, we have a pre-conference soiree for all members especially those who will not be able to attend the conference, and once we get to the conference, there is always an opportunity for chapter members to meet up for dinner. We hold an annual retreat, where have the opportunity to engage in leadership development and sisterly relations activities. In odd years the retreat is overnight, and in even years the retreat is one day.

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?

As members as Black Greek-lettered organizations, leadership is in our DNA. Our founders were leaders. To ensure we continue to live up to the ideals of our organizations and ensure it survives in perpetuity, it is critical we step into these roles. Assuming the mantle of chair or co-chair of a committee, is an ideal stepping stone and training ground to assume a position as an officer in the chapter.

How has mentorship helped you get to where you are today? Are there any specific people in your org who have made a significant impact on your life as mentors?

From my college days, to my days as a college president now, the presence of mentors has made an indelible impact on my life. Mentors have served to encourage me to share my talents, stretch myself, pursue opportunities, navigate challenges, and challenge the status quo. If I did not walk into my mentor’s office and happen upon a conversation she was having with a fellow doctoral student, I would not have known that teaching without completing my degree was possible. I went home that evening and did some research and found a job posting for a Special Education faculty position at Medgar Evers College, CUNY and the rest is history. I was hired, and over the course of the next 12 years, I was mentored into becoming an administrator. Today, I am proud to be the President of a college where I use my position to mentor others into leadership positions as well. In Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, there is never a shortage of mentors. Had it not been for incredible women who mentored me, I would not have decided to pursue this leadership opportunity as President of the Chapter at this time. They continue to guide, support and provide needed and critical feedback to me which helps me to grow not only as the President of the Chapter, but as a woman.

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?

There are few platforms that provide Black Greek-lettered Organizations with an opportunity showcase who we are as sororities and fraternities. There is an African proverb that states: “Until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will continue to be about the hunter”. This saying, like Watch The Yard, serves an important role in not only highlighting the present, but preserving an important history.

Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?

I love being a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated because the organization has made me a better woman by providing me with endless opportunities to not only serve others, but to develop myself as a woman, a professional and a sister. It is an incredible feeling to find then be a part of a tribe of women who lift me up and share my passion for service, and bring their unique, authentic and vibrant selves into all that they do.

​​Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?

Sisterhood means always having someone on the other end of the line. Whether they are lifting you up, or telling it to you straight because that is what you need, you can always count on them to have your best interests at heart. Sisterhood is unbreakable, inspiring, and unconditional.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Claudia Schrader for her work as the Basileus of the Eta Omega Omega Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1964.

Share this on Facebook and help us highlight Claudia Schrader’s chapter.

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