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Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. helped inspire me to join the Peace Corps

Selena Montelongo

Growing up, I always said I wanted to help people. 

I dreamed of becoming everything from a teacher or a school counselor to an athletic trainer. As my interests evolved, the one thing that stayed the same was my desire to serve others. As I grew older and eventually pursued higher education as a first-generation college student majoring in psychology, I had the privilege to travel outside the country to do public health work and to see the reality of developing countries that make up much of the world. I told myself in that moment that I would make it a point to not only work among communities close to my heart in the States, but in the international community as well.    

Becoming a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated allowed me to tie together all that I am passionate about with the values I have as an individual by entering a bond of sisterhood among like-minded women based on foundations that inspire us all. 

Delta was founded by 22 collegiate Black women on the campus of Howard University with a vision to promote academic excellence and provide assistance to those in need. 

Their first public act took place just months later in March 1913 as Delta became the only African American women’s organization to have participated in the Women’s Suffrage March. Over time the sorority established its programmatic lens from which it would continue serving, with a primary focus on the Black community, but members also realized the need to assist individuals on an international level. 

The illustrious organization has dedicated itself to collaboration with many organizations working towards similar goals, such as Habitat for Humanity and American Heart Association. Recently, Delta celebrated 105 years of carrying on the legacy of sisterhood, scholarship and service with more than 200,000 members worldwide and 1,000 collegiate and alumnae chapters located in the United States, England, Japan, Germany, the Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Republic of Korea.

Merging together all that I had come to know through working for and serving non-profit and community organizations with missions to serve youth and my passion for developing life skills and financial literacy in under-resourced communities, I found myself looking to pursue a career in youth development. 

In 2016, I decided to pursue a Master’s International degree in community and social change at the University of Miami, a decision that was influenced by many of my past experiences, passions, mentors and Sorors. This program was ideal because it looked at community development on a global scale while including community psychology pedagogy with a specific focus on youth development. It also touched on themes of youth activism and educational development, both areas that had been prominently relevant in my undergraduate involvement and work experience thus far. The partnership between my master’s program and Peace Corps seemed like the perfect opportunity for me because it allowed me to pursue all that I was interested in at once.

Today, I look back at my decision to pursue the fields of community psychology and youth development thinking about all pushed me in that direction. It is evident that the foundations of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated – the programmatic thrusts of service that influenced my decision to seek Delta – most certainly helped shape not only the professional Black woman that I have become but more specifically my decision to commit to serving in Peace Corps Peru in the youth development sector.