Sam Becker is a junior majoring in marketing and double minoring in data analytics and management. In his words, he is “just a normal 20 year old college student raised in Cincinnati, with an abnormal story.” Because at the age of one and half, Sam was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He wasn’t expected to walk, play sports, or go to college. Sam, through his perseverance, defied all of those odds. One of the things he did that wasn’t expected was join Sigma Phi Epsilon, and in an open letter to his brothers on his blog, he thanks them for being “an integral part of my college experience, travels abroad, and growth as a person.”
Because I certainly can’t say it as eloquently as Sam did, here are his words:
Now, some of you may be thinking “here comes another frat boy trying to convince us Greek Life is more than just a social drinking club.” While I do disagree with that notion, I can assure you that is not what this post is about. Most pro-Greek articles first refute the typical social stereotype then fill their article with quantitative statistics about Greek alumni who became presidents and the money their chapter raises for philanthropy. Now don’t get me wrong, these statistics have merit but I find they lack a certain relatability when being used to express the positives of Greek Life to the general public. Instead of filling this post with statistics, I’m going to tell you about how my fraternity has developed me from an insecure, frustrated kid with Cerebral Palsy to the man I am today.
My hope is that this post will give you a concrete example of how the relationships built within a fraternity can have a profound impact in the development of a person and their successes.
Before recently, I have always hid my CP from people. For a long time it has been something I have been ashamed of. If people asked why I walked slightly different I’d say things like: Because I had surgery, I just went for a run, or my foot’s asleep. For years I have hid under the cloak of these little white lies told to my friends, girls I liked, co-workers, and classmates. While none of those were responses were untrue, they might as well have been. The fear of confessing my “secret” led me to become incredibly self-conscious of how I walked. During high school, I began to be more open about my CP and started using it as a way to spread awareness and contribute philanthropically to Children’s Hospital. Despite the positive feedback from the numerous people who heard my speeches or read articles about me I still couldn’t come to terms with my disability. I never felt comfortable with my Cerebral Palsy until I joined the SigEp chapter at Miami University.
My freshman year at Miami I wanted to branch out from my friends who had their sights set on other fraternities. After connecting with the current brothers and receiving their Balanced Man Scholarship, accepting my eventual bid to SigEp was a no-brainer. During our first full night together, my class listened as we heard older brothers talk about the bond between their fellow members and the steadfast loyalty they shared. I came to the conclusion that if I was going to be a part of this brotherhood, I had to be completely open and vulnerable with them from the get-go.
Although I knew a few of the guys in my class, that night was the first night I ever willing told anyone I have Cerebral Palsy directly after meeting them.
From the second I swallowed my pride and told my brothers they have been nothing but supportive, understanding, and trustworthy in regards to my CP. They have not only accepted me, but they have been genuinely enthusiastic about the effects of CP and the spreading of awareness. Over the years, they have initiated multiple ways to incorporate Cerebral Palsy awareness within our fraternity whether it be philanthropically or organizing an on-campus event for me to speak at. Along with a more than generous donation, they shared Pave Your Path project with Sigma Phi Epsilon national representatives and various Miami organizations. Their efforts helped set up a solid following before the project even launched. SigEp’s engagement in the Cerebral Palsy fight has meant the world to me, but what truly reflects the bond we have is how they have helped developed me as a person.
Although I have always been very out-going, I was introverted to fault regarding my Cerebral Palsy. Outside of family and close friends, I never talked about my disability or admitted my struggles to others. The walls I built stayed standing even as I entered college. Today, because of the men of SigEp, my walls of insecurity have fallen exponentially. The mutual trust forged between my brothers, especially my class, has made me comfortable speaking informally about CP, and not just strictly for philanthropic purposes. Furthermore, they have made me become more comfortable with who I am because of their unconditional support and understanding.
Their understanding of the sporadic adversity I experience is shown through their admittance of not understanding my disability, but accepting it nonetheless. My physical improvements over the years makes my Cerebral Palsy more than manageable on most days. Unfortunately, there are some days I experience difficulties with my CP. For most people this has been challenging to grasp, but not for my brothers.
For example, I was diagnosed with the flu during first semester exam week of my sophomore year. My brothers knew CP made daily tasks relatively harder when I got sick. Although they could never understand why or how much more difficult it was, they were always willing to go the extra mile making sure I got healthy. During that week my brothers took time out of their study schedules to drive me to and from the doctor, make sure I stayed hydrated, and helped me prepare for my exams. It is safe to say I wouldn’t have had a successful exam week without their selflessness.
In the past, I would have never admitted to the struggles I experienced. Many times, to my own detriment, I have fought through injuries and sickness instead of having the humility to ask for help. The trust and understanding within Sigma Phi Epsilon has helped me become more aware of my own physical well-being going forward. I also admit that their selflessness inspires me to be more aware of the people who need my and to be thankful to those who help me.
Most importantly, the men of Sigma Phi Epsilon continually encourage me to push my limits. They do not allow my Cerebral Palsy to exempt me from the high standard in which we hold one another. Much like my family, my fraternity brothers have never once felt sorry me or treated me any different. Whether it be in the classroom or my physical shape, they have continually encouraged me to work harder and make sure I stay on course. My brothers have never cited my Cerebral Palsy as an excuse for why I could not achieve something. More often than not, they have used it as an example of why I should achieve a certain grade or milestone.
Ultimately, my brothers have provided me with the added belief that I can achieve anything I set my mind to, not despite of Cerebral Palsy but because of it.
The most impressive aspect of my fraternity and fraternities around the country is not something that can be quantified into a set of statistics. It is instead, the personal development experienced while you are a member. The successes I have had and will continue to have are the byproduct of my relationships with my brothers in SigEp. The path I have been trying to pave is as much theirs as it is mine.
I can truthfully say I love every member of the chapter and seniors who graduated. These men are my best friends, my brothers, and my family. I am beyond blessed to be part of our brotherhood. I can only hope I have made a fraction of the impact on them as they have made on me.
Thank you guys, for everything. I may not be able to say you helped me become the next Greek President of the United States, but I can say you helped me overcome my Cerebral Palsy and pave my path.
Now, if you can see past the mistiness in your eyes, go check out Sam’s page for his “Pave Your Path Project,” which aims to “bringing hope to children and the parents of those who are struggling with CP or childhood disabilities,” as well as raise awareness..