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News & Press: Chapter News

Two Students Impact the Fraternity That Helped Them Survive

Thursday, April 27, 2017   (0 Comments)
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By Stephen Lee
(Lewis University, '10)

In honor of the seniors preparing to walk across the stage, we’re spotlighting two Phi Kappa Theta brothers about to graduate from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Both men overcame sharp challenges. Both credit the brotherhood of Phi Kappa Theta for providing a support network that helped them survive college. And both impacted their Fraternity.

Anthony Sepulveda (UTRGV, '17)

“My dad found out I was gay in 8th grade, and my mom found out when I was in 10th” Anthony explained. “Before my parents found out, I was a very good student, well behaved. We were very religious. There was an understanding that effeminate men were not the standard. In fact, it was disgusting and my mom’s ‘worst fear’, according to my dad. I always had my parents’ support in all of my hobbies and interests, even if they weren’t what the other guys did (movies, music, theater, etc). As long as I wasn’t effeminate, I was okay.

Image: Adam (L) and Anthony (R) were pledge brothers.

“When I was 19, I was excommunicated from the Mormon church, which can be an extensive process. It’s much like a jury type ordeal. I had a very strong argument with my dad on the way home and he said he didn’t want me at the house anymore.”

The next day, Anthony returned home from school and was unable to get inside his home. He was kicked out.

He wasn’t sure where to turn. Most of his friends were girls, and their parents wouldn’t let him stay overnight in their homes. A few guy friends would let him crash a night or two, but he would leave for school in the morning, unsure where he would sleep next.

He resorted to living out of his car for a few weeks. All while going to college.

“I didn’t want to involve my (extended) family because I felt that it would’ve created more tension. But after those two weeks, I came out to my grandparents and they took me in. It was a drastic change. My grandparents didn’t have much and already had my aunt and her family living at the house, so I tried not to eat at home or be there often.”

To make ends meet, Anthony donated plasma multiple times a week.

He eventually got his own place, and soon joined Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity.

He recalls everyone in the chapter being very welcoming, but there was one person he clashed with. “When I was an associate member, one of my pledge brothers used very anti-gay language. As the process went on, he got to know me and eventually stopped using that language. Now he corrects other people who use derogatory terms.”

Image: Anthony Sepulveda (in graduation garb) surrounded by his brothers at the Lavender Ceremony.

Anthony has even inspired the chapter to recruit with acceptance in mind.

“During interviews for potential associate members, brothers ask how recruits feel about racism and homophobia, because we don’t tolerate it.”

Recently, Anthony was honored at the University’s first ever Lavender Ceremony, which recognizes LGBT graduates.

To be honored, students committed hours of research and each wrote an essay detailing how being LGBT affected their education process. Six students completed the requirements and were honored.

Anthony chose to research fictional novels, and he specifically chose books with Latino LGBT characters and storylines. His essay focused on LGBT homelessness. “Approximately 1.6 million youth are homeless, and 40% of them are LGBT.”

Anthony also gave a speech, and he described it as heated and emotional. People in the audience were crying. Out of all the speakers, Anthony had the biggest support group in attendance, yet he was the only one without parental support when it came to being gay.

“My parents’ lack of acceptance has always been a struggle. I’ve been asked about it before, but it was never put in the spotlight the way it was that night. They’ve become more tolerant in their own way, and I know they love me, but getting kicked out and donating plasma twice a week for a couple of months to find the means for income is a reality. And I felt I needed to share it. I talked to the brothers about it in a meeting and told them how much this recognition meant to me because I knew how my parents felt about it. Naturally, they all hugged me”.

Some students on campus aren’t quite as supportive as the brothers. “People have come up to me and said I didn’t ‘earn’ that kind of recognition because being gay isn’t an achievement. But I’ve been through so much because of my sexual orientation, all of which made getting an education very difficult. I think many others would have given up in my situation. I don’t deserve to be recognized for being gay, but I think I deserve some type of credit for persevering despite my trials.”

On the other side of the coin, Anthony believes there is a stigma in the LGBT community regarding fraternities. “I can’t tell you how many people have asked me how a predominantly straight fraternity is cool with me, but I love explaining that we’re all bro’s with the same motto. A lot of my gay friends think that either no one in the fraternity knows I’m gay or that everyone is gay. And it baffles them when I tell them they’re mostly straight guys and that they support me 110%. I think we’re doing a lot to destroy that negative stigma of fraternities.”

One of Anthony’s biggest supporters is Carlos Nichols (UTRGV, '14).

“I’ve known Anthony for over ten years, even before we joined PKT”, Carlos explained. “He’s been one of my best friends. Anthony has never really been ashamed of who he is and I think that made some of the more introverted brothers more confident. Ever since he was an associate member, he pushed many of the PKT guys to be more outgoing, and really set a standard for “Giving, Expecting Nothing Thereof”. I think many brothers were caught off guard by how much of a detail-oriented friend he was, always having a brother’s back in life. PKT gave Anthony a second home, a brotherhood that we could truly impact and be inspired by. That was all he was missing to achieve his potential as the caring person he has always been.”

In the span of a few years, Anthony’s parents have made progress. “They still hold their beliefs” he says, “but their tolerance has come a lot further than where it was before. They’re throwing me a graduation party and letting me invite anyone I want, which is a HUGE deal because the last time they did something like this, none of the unfamiliar friends were welcome.”

How Anthony Impacted the Fraternity: He enlightened brothers about the LGBT culture. He inspired the chapter to ensure future members do not hold discriminatory views of the LGBT community. He has improved the perception of fraternities in the LGBT community.

Adam Bostan (UTRGV, '17)

What happens when you take a British teenager fresh out of high school and plop him in the flatlands of South Texas?

Image: Adam Bostan proudly holding 2015 Greek Week Championship trophy.

A whole lot of culture shock.

In 2012, Adam Bostan left his family and friends to study at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

“I came to a completely new place, halfway across the world” said Adam, a British Pakistani. “The culture shock was immense. Not only was I exposed to the American culture but I was also immersed in the Hispanic culture of South Texas. The language barrier was a huge challenge. I didn’t expect the majority of people to prefer speaking Spanish as opposed to English.”

Adam felt isolated. At UTRGV, many students already knew each other from high school, and he was the outsider.

“I found people were very two-faced, super interested to meet someone from a different country but too self-involved to want to befriend someone from the outside,” Adam explained.

Things changed when he met the brothers of PKT. “They gave me a place to belong. Thanks to them, I grew more accustomed to this new culture and its various mechanisms. They quite literally became my second family. Before joining Phi Kappa Theta, if something would happen, I felt completely alone and unsure of what to do. After joining the Fraternity, I knew I always had someone to count on and to support me.”

Image: Anthony (L) and Adam (R) were pledge brothers.

During his collegiate career, Adam has been home only three times. During his most recent trip home, he felt the urge to come back to Texas and hang with the brothers.

“What truly made my college experience great was the decision to join Phi Kappa Theta. Being in this Fraternity has molded me into the leader I am today. When interviewing new potential members, I tend to state that this Fraternity will change you as a person, for the better. You will not be the same person you were at the beginning of the process. This could not have been closer to the truth for me. In the beginning, I was a moderately reserved person who didn’t really socialize. After joining, my whole persona changed completely to an outspoken person who has gained confidence through life experiences.”

Carlos Nichols reflects on Adam’s membership. “I met Adam through the associate member (AM) process and he became my little brother. His greatest challenge was coming to an entirely new country, thus leaving his family behind. He’s always had the personality to adapt and no doubt is a resilient person, but throughout the AM process, you could definitely see his comfort level increase with the members he was seeing everyday. PKT gave Adam the proper environment and acceptance to be successful away from home. Adam has no doubt shown his leadership qualities to those he has grown with the last three years. Adam is another great example of how PKT at Texas Tau Mu and across the nation has made a brother and a leader of someone previously not in their ideal environment, but found the tools and enjoyment in PKT.”

Adam, who will graduate this May along with Anthony Sepulveda and other brothers, reflects on his accomplishments in college. “Amidst all the memories I can’t remember, being elected president was my greatest moment. Knowing that my fellow brothers believed in me to lead them into the future, it truly was a humbling and great experience for me.”

How Adam Impacted the Fraternity: He enlightened brothers about the British culture. He inspired brothers to continue seeking international students as potential members, thus impacting diversity, understanding, and inclusion at UTRGV.

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