Celebrating 125 Years of Michigan Alpha: Part Three

In honor of Michigan Alpha’s 125th Anniversary, more than 250 alumnae and collegians converged on Hillsdale College for a weekend of events. The following stories, written by Michigan Alpha collegians, were shared during the celebration.

By Vice President of Communications Amelia Kerton, Michigan Alpha Junior

Amelia Kerton spoke at the Michigan Alpha celebration and detailed her story of what sisterhood meant to her.

This fall, I was finally able to move into the Pi Phi house. Living in a house with 36 of your best friends is probably one of the coolest things a girl can do during college. As Claire would say, it’s entirely copacetic. When I moved into Room 6, I was gifted a beautiful purple patchwork quilt. Most of the patches are adorned with the letters of Pi Beta Phi, one has pearls sewn into it and a handful of them are covered in glittery fabric. It’s the perfect sorority girl quilt and is a collection of unique patches all stitched together with the love of sincere friendship.

Two years ago, going through recruitment, I couldn’t have imagined the ways in which my life was about to change. During preference party I remember gazing at the Pi Phi seniors in awe. They were truly noble women who carried themselves with grace and dignity. I knew I wanted to be their sister.

In my time in the house, I have been pushed and challenged by the upper-class ladies to achieve the potential they saw in me. I’ve fought side by side with sisters for Greek Week volleyball games and IM basketball championships. Thanks to Pi Phi study pointers, I even managed to squeeze onto the Dean’s list—at least for just the one semester. I’ve been taught how to dance by Amanda Konarske and Marianna Ernst, and even crafted tutus with my roommate. The laughter, the tears, the love, the pain and overall memories have completely made my college experience.

But this summer, these angels lifted me up when I needed them the most. They have been the greatest blessing this past year. Nine months and nine days ago, I was driving on a highway and my little red beetle was t-boned on the driver’s side. The EMTs had to jaws-of-life my door to pull me from the wreckage and I suffered a traumatic brain injury.

To this day I still can’t remember anything from the next three days. The thick fog that seemed to replace my brain slowly began to clear and the first thing I can remember was my Pi Phi roommate, Ashley, decorating the boring walls of my hospital room with an explosion of Pi Phi. At this point I was still confined to a wheelchair and strapped into a neck brace, and all I wanted to do was convince Ashley that I was ok and would be fine. From the tears overflowing her eyes I knew I didn’t do a very good job convincing her. That night, as I lay alone in my bed, Pi Beta Phi wall letters smiled back at me from across the room. Those three letters symbolized all that Pi Phi had been for me: the friends who became sisters and the house that became a home. Alone in my room, with the sporadic beepings of a hospital as my soundtrack, I felt surrounded by memories of wine and blue—and I wasn’t alone, not really.

Word of my accident spread like wild fire and as soon as the next day, letters, prayers, balloons and flowers began pouring in from Pi Phis across the country. I felt blessed beyond anything I had ever known.

It was a difficult summer, but the continual flood of well wishes and sisterly visits once I made it home helped me through. Miraculously, I was allowed to go back to school in the fall—and I mean that literally. Doctors told me that there was no way I could return to Hillsdale so soon, but I guess they didn’t understand the healing power of hundreds of praying Pi Phi angels.

Arrow Artwork at Hillsdale College. The banquet room coincidentally was adorned with a permanent arrow-shaped piece of art.

As I began moving into the house, every sister I ran into met me with a giant bear hug showing me that I had come home to Michigan Alpha. In our first chapter meeting of the year, these angels surprised me with the gift of a beautiful purple patchwork quilt. Ashley had collected patches of purple covered in encouragement, angel wings and arrows from my sisters. My whole life I’ve been a self-reliant girl who had trouble asking for help, but in my time of struggle—without me even asking—my sisters gave me the love and support I so desperately needed.

The charity of my sisters didn’t stop at the quilt. Girls were constantly asking if they could help me study while I struggled with schoolwork trying to recover from a brain injury. They offered to step in and help me plan Relay for Life and basically forced me to delegate, which has never been a strength of mine. During every random, irrational and emotional breakdown, when I was convinced I would never graduate from Hillsdale, sisters were there to convince me I was being ridiculous. And, probably most importantly, when my parents genuinely asked me last December if I wanted to transfer schools, I knew the answer before the question was even finished. Pi Phi has rooted me here and convinced me that persevering will be worth it—Hillsdale says that strength rejoices in the challenge, or something like that. But I’ve come to understand that strength can only rejoice in the challenge when strength is surrounded by sincere friendship that builds it up with love and support.

These women and this sisterhood is responsible for who I’ve become since the moment Pi Phi invited me to join their sisterhood. I owe so much to this house for everything they’ve done for me in the past year. They’ve kept me here, they’ve kept me sane and they’ve kept me striving. I am so humbled by these women.

The closest I’ve come to finding words to explain my Pi Phi sisters was something I found in the Bible this year. It’s from Psalm 91, verses 11 and 12. It says, “For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” My sisters have carried me this year and for that I will never be able to repay them. Each night I fall asleep under a purple quilt of compassion and thank God for the angels he sent to protect and guide me. Every day, I thank God for Pi Beta Phi.

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