In an effort to highlight the young leaders who are leading undergraduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.’s Omicron Theta Chapter at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and did an interview with Dwayne Joquan Altman-Leach the president of the chapter.
The position of president of an undergraduate chapter of a Black fraternity is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. 20-year-old Joquan Altman-Leach has used the position to gain new leadership experience, improve the lives of other students on campus and help the community around him.
We interviewed the Accounting major and talked about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold a leadership on campus in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What does it mean to be a chapter president to you?
Being the chapter president of an undergraduate chapter means being able to take on to play a major role. You are the link between your chapter and your graduate chapter in the area, and play a role in the dynamic that you will form throughout your presidency. You have to truly understand the people you are working with as you will need to know the skill sets and capabilities of the people that you lead, in order to be an effective unit throughout the year. You should also be aware that you are going to be the first person to blame if things go wrong and make the best effort you can to prevent that. Being a chapter president is the opportunity to grow as a leader, and truly appreciate the ones around you. A leader cannot be a leader if he doesn’t have anyone to follow him into the light.
What made you decide to attend the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for undergrad?
I decided to attend UNCW primarily because I wanted to make sure I didn’t stick to what I was used to. When I was growing up from Pre-K to 8th grade, I had a class size of about 13 people that I saw every single day for lunch, classes, etc and they all ended up going to ECU together. When I went to high school a similar situation happened, with my graduation class being around 50 people, with the majority of them going to either Durham Tech, ECU or NC State. I chose UNCW in order to force myself into a new situation, so that I could grow as a person and learn how to interact with people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met. If I stayed with my friends, I more than likely would have kept myself to the same friend group, and wouldn’t have been willing to experience anything new.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
This years focus is heavily focused on community service and youth development. We have spent our summer creating a relationship with a nearby school Douglass Academy, and are ongoing our commitment to the school. We have helped with welcoming the students back to school, or things such as helping the teachers manage the classroom, arts/crafts, talking to them about life, why they should keep up their education and why it’s important, and being someone that they could relate to more easily. It’s important to be consistent with children because you need someone to have expectations in you. If someone doesn’t believe in you, more than likely you’re not going to believe in yourself. We are trying to be that someone for the kids who may or may not have that person in their life.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
I wanted to join Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated because there are three distinct brothers in my life. My Father who is a teacher in Greensboro, my Stepfather who is a teacher in Durham, and my high school coach, an Alpha in Durham. Even though these men did not know each other, they embodied the same traits that I see in myself: Scholarly, Educated, Determined, Ambitious, and never being afraid to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. For me I saw it as an organization that has a reputation for taking in leaders, and would be able to give me the tools to be even better.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Brother Hubert A Eaton, who helped create the alumni chapter Gamma Kappa Lambda, helped get UNCW integrated in 1961 with a handshake agreement with the then president of the school, John Hoggard. This is a monumental event because, without his efforts, my chapter would have not existed. He saw that we didn’t have a local college chapter, and helped guide the young men into the light as they chartered us on chapter on May 5th, 1981. One of the brothers who founded my chapter Robert Claybrook Jr. has truly put in the work. Since he crossed he has seen every single brother that has crossed Omicron Theta and has helped them get to the other side. Although we are a consistently small chapter, we have won frequent awards, with brothers from our chapter being able to win awards such as UNCW’s Bradley Cup (which includes a competition of the best chapter on campus between all NPHC organizations) as a one-man chapter.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?
Undergraduate chapters need to make sure that they are advertising themselves correctly. You need to be consistent with your updates, as you need to show both the campus and the community that you’re serious about the work that you do, and you only want people to join if they are willing to match your energy. The goal is to sell your chapter to the community that you reside in, so that they will support you and want to see it grow. Personal pages need to be maintained in a certain manner as we are an extension of our chapter. Personal pages need to be well designed to show that you love your chapter and the work that you do for your organization, but you also have other things outside of the fraternity that truly showcase you as a student leader and a person you would want to work alongside with.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is the art of knowing how to utilize your resources, working alongside your brothers making sure that they are able to do the work, but are able to maintain their social lives and grades because ultimately the end goal is to graduate. Leadership is knowing when to step up, believing that if there is an issue it is your personal problem to find a solution. Leadership is being aware that you may not always have the right answer, but you are always willing to do your best for the sake of your chapter, your brothers, and your community.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Black Greekdom often has a reputation of only being put into the spotlight when it has to do with hazing. Watch The Yard and other media pages allow us to showcase the efforts that we are all making to make our communities a better place, portraying the amazing side of Black Greek life that sensational movies and headlines will not.
What does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood to me means love, respect, and expectations. The fact that I can go to any part of the country, locate an Alpha, and knowing that even if we don’t agree, we are able to work together, find common ground, and construct something bigger than ourselves. When I was in Maryland for a leadership academy over the summer, I was with around 40 other brothers that I’ve never seen in my life, and they matched my ideals in every single fashion: Well dressed, well-spoken, determined and willing to make a change to their communities. Being able to surround myself with a network such as that helps me maintain my focus on my goals to better the world, and the support from my Brothers will make sure that I stick to it.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
After graduation, I am planning on staying in the North Carolina area in either the Accounting industry or the finance industry as a commercial banker. My main goal is to be able to work a job that I enjoy, that allows me to maintain my reason for joining in college: to support the youth onward and upward towards the light.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Dwayne Joquan Altman-Leach for his work as the president of Omicron Theta Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 1981.
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