In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.’s Beta Iota Lambda Chapter in Baton Rouge, LA and did an interview with Todd L. Sterling the President of the chapter.
The position of president of a Black fraternity chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Todd Sterling, who works at Alpha Media & Public Relations as an Agency Principal, has been in the position of President for 8 years over the last 22 years.
We interviewed Sterling, who is a Fall 1985 / Theta Chi Chapter initiate of his fraternity and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?
Leadership! All chapters need good leadership, and some do it better than others. We have a great chapter that has long been affiliated with Southern University leaders, Greater Baton Rouge area leaders, and men that represent the best of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in our community and region! I always want to see Beta Iota Lambda be one of the shining stars, as far as alumni chapters of Alpha. It all starts with service to our community and the work we put in. So my motivation is to hold the light of Alpha very high via Beta Iota Lambda Chapter!!
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the local community or the broader Black community?
We do a number of initiatives annually from the following:
-Henry Bellaire Memorial Senior Citizen Dinner, where we go to area churches and provide an afternoon of fun, games, prizes, and a delicious meal served to seniors in the community.
-Alpha Scholarship Golf Tournament, where for 26 years we’ve raised over $240,000 and given over 110 scholarships to young men going to college.
-Project Alpha, one of our national projects which focuses on young male sexuality for middle school and high school aged males.
-Go to High School Go to College, another national project, where we focus on getting young people to matriculate to college, offering to assist with college applications and mentoring through the process. Also, working to keep young students focused on staying in school and excelling educationally!
-Project Ice, a project targeting young males in middle school and high school offering career pathways conversations, showing them how to tie and providing them with ties, discussing making good decisions in all aspects of their lives, as well as discussing sexuality.
-Brothers Keeper Project, where we assist widows of Alpha Men, and elder Brothers with things they need getting done. We also reach out to seniors and ladies that need assistance.
– Southern University Tailgating, where we socialize and fellowship, but also do voter registration drives, and other community outreach.
-Thanksgiving Baskets to Feed Families, working with the local Head Start agency we provide complete Thanksgiving dinners to over 50 families each year.
-Christmas Adopt a Family, where we provide a family with Christmas dinner and toys and gifts for the whole family. We have also started providing kids in Head Start with Christmas toys.
-Juneteenth Celebration, where we honor people in the Baton Rouge community that do exceptional work.
-March of Dimes Fundraising, another of our national projects, we work hard to raise funds for this worthy cause.
-Black and Gold Ball, where we socialize and raise funds for our scholarship effort. I’m sure I’m missing a few, but ya’ll get the gist!
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
Initially I couldn’t see myself pledging and being subservient to some guys I didn’t even know (these were the pledging/walking in line days), but once I learned the true meaning and purpose of the fraternities, I started looking into which would be best for me. After my freshman year, I was speaking to my grandfather, Felton U. Shamlin, and he enlightened me that he was an Alpha Man, and all my uncles & cousins, my pastor TJ Jemison, and so many men in my family, social circle, and church were Alpha Men. I also felt Alpha’s ideals spoke to me – Scholarship, Manly Deeds, and Service to all Mankind!! I have been an Alpha Man since I was 18 years old!
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
We have a great fellowship. We enjoy each other’s company, we are Brothers of Alpha. BUT we also put in work in Baton Rouge, and do our part to make our community better in every way!! At Beta Iota Lambda the Brotherhood is real!! We are also the Louisiana Alumni Chapter of the Year 3 years running!!
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
We are the advisory chapter to the great Beta Sigma Chapter, seated at Southern University. Beta Sigma has a storied history in Alpha and has produced some of the greatest Alpha Men in history including our 30th General President, Brother Adrian Wallace! We provide mentoring, resources, leadership, and Brotherhood for the Beta Sigma Chapter in everyway!
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
We foster Brotherhood through a number of initiatives from the Alpha Tailgates at Southern University Football games, the Alpha Family Picnic in the summer, of course our Founder’s Day Celebration, among others. But each month we have repast after every meeting, and also have other social gatherings throughout the year. The best strategy is to create the event and let those that have interest come and partake. Some of the newer ideas we are trying are fishing and gun range outings for Brothers.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
My advice to aspiring leaders is to get and be active in your chapter, and your community. Find a mentor within the chapter, and put in work when work needs to be done. Lastly, create a service project or initiative to get the chapter involved in a whole new way in your community! Lead without having to be told to lead!
How has mentorship helped you get to where you are today? Are there any specific people in your org who have made a significant impact on your life as mentors?
We all need mentors and I’ve had my share. Personally I mentioned my grandfather and relatives. In undergrad I had good Brothers like Logan Hampton, James Taylor, and Harold Boutte that worked at Northwestern State University, my advisor was Bro. Hampton Williams and my District Director was Bro. Adrian Wallace (who I mentioned went on to become General President), and chapter Brothers that had graduated like Gary Fields that mentored me in journalism and life. Professionally, I worked for the radio station group owned by Bro. William “Bill” Tucker. My pastor was the esteemed Bro. Rev. Dr. TJ Jemison. In Beta Iota Lambda we had Brothers like Donald Wade, Huell Perkins, Emmett Bashful, Duane Jordan, Henry Bellaire and other Brothers that sowed seeds into my life.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
It celebrates the greatness of who we are as an educated people! It champions being black, greek, and successful! It shows the importance of networking and mentorship in black greek organizations. It shows the accomplishments achieved at all levels and in all endeavours. It should help young people aspire to become people they see and read about in Watch The Yard! It is about all things news, culture, education, and life in the African American diaspora!
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a member of Alpha since I was 18, that’s almost 38 years, over two-thirds of my life. It is simply who I am, an Alpha Man, in all endeavours! I represent the best of the Old Gold and Black!!
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood means that you extend an extra measure of respect, understanding, kindness, effort, and time to a Brother. Sometimes Brotherhood can be challenging, as with most things in life, but more often than not Brotherhood is a warm place, where you feel welcome and at home!
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Todd Sterling for his work as the President of the Beta Iota Lambda Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1939.
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