URI Greek Life recognized by YMCA of Greater Providence as a 2024 Y HERO

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 15, 2024 – Christopher House on Lower College Road is the hub that connects the University of Rhode Island’s Greek Life community – 3,400 undergraduates from 18 fraternities and 12 sororities. It’s a gathering place, a place to hold meetings and informal events.

Goulart, Samantha Salerno, left, and Kelsey Gil, the incoming president of the Panhellenic Association, served on the team that chose the YMCA as beneficiaries. (Photo courtesy of URI Greek Life)

This week, Christopher House received a new decoration – a 2024 Y HEROES award from the YMCA of Greater Providence that was presented to URI Greek Life for its generous support. Victoria Johnson ’24 and Nathan Goulart ‘25, leaders of the Panhellenic and Interfraternal Council that oversees URI’s Greek Life community, accepted the award Tuesday, May 14, at the YMCA 2024 Heroes Celebration at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick. 

“The Greater Providence YMCA is incredibly grateful to URI Greek Life for their above-and-beyond generosity, particularly in the last two years, to provide summer camp scholarships and other programming opportunities to youth in the communities we serve,” said Karen Santilli, the YMCA’s chief economic officer.

Students who took part in Greek Life’s fraternity hockey tournament fundraiser gather in Boss Arena. (Photo courtesy of URI Greek Life)

URI Greek Life donations totaling approximately $122,000 during the 2022-23 academic year benefited the YMCA’s annual fund, which enables support of its mission to ensure that every child and family—regardless of income or background—has the opportunity to lead a healthy, confident, and connective life at the Y. The annual fund supports scholarships and financial aid for such programs as after-school childcare, summer camp, and swim lessons.

“Being recognized for important work is huge for Greek Life,” said Goulart. “Greek Life does so many good things that go unnoticed. Our community – from individual students to chapter houses to our membership as a whole – spends countless hours raising money for good causes and doing philanthropy work. It’s nice to have that recognized.”

Among URI Greek Life’s service activities was building playhouses for families helped by Habitat for Humanities. (Photo courtesy of URI Greek Life)

“This award means a lot,” added Johnson, president of the Panhellenic Association. “Students join Greek Life to get involved and what a great way to make an impact.”

Service is one of the core values of URI’s Greek Life, and students take that seriously, Johnson said. Each academic year, Philanthropy Week in the fall and Greek Week in the spring raise hundreds of thousands of dollars that go to good causes. In 2022-23 alone, the community raised more than $300,000, with donations going to six benefactors, including such causes as sexual assault and domestic abuse awareness, along with the YMCA. 

Along with events at least once a week, you can find sorority and fraternity students raising money through numerous smaller fundraisers – including donations directly from family and friends and smaller events such as hot chocolate and donut sales outside the Memorial Union. Individual chapter houses also do their own separate philanthropy. And students come together for service initiatives, such as building playhouses for families served by Habitat for Humanity or packing groceries for people in need. 

“Students enjoy giving back to the community,” said Johnson. “I think that’s definitely a big factor. And it’s also fun. You’re helping other people. It makes you feel good and makes the community feel good.”

“I’ve always been involved in community service,” said Goulart. “Last year, when I first joined the Interfraternity Council, my job was helping chapters raise money, helping them put on their philanthropy events and all these service projects, and picking the beneficiaries that we donated to. I just love giving back to the community.”

While fundraising is a big part of Philanthropy and Greek weeks, the events also serve as morale boosters for the students. And while events, such as dance contests or lip sync challenges, help students blow off steam, they also draw representatives of the charities to campus to serve as judges in the contests. 

Like many other students in Greek Life, Goulart and Johnson found community in their fraternity and sorority houses.

Johnson, a senior double-majoring in nursing and Spanish from Glastonbury, Connecticut, joined Sigma Kappa as a first-year student in fall 2020. The pandemic was at its peak, so she didn’t move into the sorority house until the following fall.

“My first semester, I lived in a residence hall but there was nothing to do,” she said. “So, I said, ‘Let me give it a shot.’ And I just met such great people. The women in my chapter are all so great and we all get each other, which is really nice.”

“This is my third year on the Panhellenic Council,” she added. “In this time I have grown a lot as a leader, and hope that I have bettered the Greek community.”  

Goulart, a environmental economics major from North Kingstown, wasn’t initially interested in joining a fraternity. But he joined Theta Chi his sophomore year after friends convinced him to attend some rush events.

“I just immediately connected with my chapter and the guys there and the beliefs they stood for,” said Goulart. “The whole journey of being in Greek Life is just becoming a better man at heart.”

He credits that journey with making him more self-reliant and mature through problem solving, critical thinking, and taking on the responsibility of looking out for 3,400 students as IFC president. 

When he was initiated into Theta Chi, he learned his great-uncle had been the president of the same chapter in the early 1960s. “It all just aligned,” he said.

About the Greater Providence YMCA

GPYMCA includes six branch locations across Rhode Island and in Seekonk, Massachusetts, plus Providence Youth Services, Camp Fuller, and the Shooting Stars School of Dance in Seekonk. The organization provides programs for Rhode Islanders and Massachusetts residents of all ages and supports equitable access to health, fitness, recreational, and other services. In addition, GPYMCA supports high-quality out-of-school time programs and other community-based approaches to delivering health and wellness opportunities, academic enrichment and achievement, and youth development skills.