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Two-year society Phi Theta Kappa enters second year at MSCTC with new goals

While Greek societies are typically seen on four-year college and university campuses, there's one specially designed for two-year community colleges - Phi Theta Kappa.

The chapter at the Detroit Lakes campus of the Minnesota State Community and Technical College was formed last spring, and leaders are enter their second year with more goals in mind.

PTK isn't like a stereotypical fraternity or sorority, either. It's co-ed and it's an honors society, so students that want to be inducted must have a grade point average above 3.5, and maintain a 3.25 GPA during their tenure in the group.

This spring, the Beta Pi Psi chapter of PTK in Detroit Lakes inducted 17 new members, and public relations secretary Jennifer Strawsell said they have 20 to 30 active members at a time.

And while members say they enjoy the camaraderie of the group, their main goal is to volunteer and help the community.

In March, they shared a bus with the Student Senate to help sandbag in Fargo-Moorhead and a few leaders volunteered their time at the Boys and Girls Club in Detroit Lakes.

A book drive has been running since last fall, and last week, they also started a cell phone drive to properly dispose of old electronics and refurbish them into usable parts.

They've also been planning the spring graduation ceremony with the Student Senate, and are planning to be of help any way they can.

Nationwide, PTK was formed in 1918 and is recognized as the official honor society for two-year colleges by the American Association of Community Colleges. There are more than 1,200 chapters worldwide.

Karisty Kuck, the incoming president of PTK, said not only does the volunteerism make her feel good about herself, but it's nice to list having membership on a resume or on a transcript to a four-year college, and being eligible for many more scholarships makes the time commitments and $50 enrollment fee "worth it."

Incoming Vice President Matthew Stenger agreed.

"The membership key is known worldwide as a symbol of knowledge, so to be a part of this, it feels good to know you've achieve it to this level," he said. "And, it shows the school cares for the community."

Similarly, Strawsell said, "I think some of it is the fellowship, too, just knowing that you have your peers to talk to, and we get to be of service to the community."

Strawsell said the group typically meets once a month, but there's a lot of overlap between members of PTK and members of the Student Senate, including herself, which meets more often.

Stenger, who's also involved in Student Senate and is taking 18 credit hours every semester for his architecture program, said it can be hard to plan everything.

"You have to be dedicated to time management," he said.

Even for older members, scheduling can be tough. Kuck said she also has a 4-year-old at home.

But as incoming leaders, Stenger and Kuck have been brainstorming new volunteering ideas.

They said they'd like to look into volunteering at the animal shelter or the Lakes Crisis Center, but most of all, spread the word about PTK so more students and community members know about it.

"I had never even heard of it when I came here, so I'd like to see it get more recognition," Kuck said, "And then we can do more community service and get more members out in participating."

When they went to the Boys and Girls Club in March, only three members, Kuck, Stenger and Strawsell were able to attend because it was mid-term month, so most other members were tied up with studying for exams, but Kuck said she had fun.

"It was a slow day even, and there were 105 kids running around, but the people that work there, they know all the kids' names," she said.

Stenger said the kids recognized him after the first time he was there.

"It's cool when a kid comes up to you and is like 'Hey, Matt,'" he said. "They know who you are, and they ask when you're coming back."

Kuck had injured her shoulder while sandbagging in Fargo-Moorhead, but she said nearly every kid asked about it.

Stenger said, at the end of the day, it feels good to help out.

"I think, a lot of times, we all get so wrapped up in our own lives and school that we forget to help others, so it's nice to have an organization of college students that can show they care, and still have fun," he said.

"There's just so much we could do," Kuck said. "I'm looking forward to our next meeting. There's so much I want to do."