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 Zeta Mu Chapter Chapter at Georgia State University and did an interview with Avion Cainion 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 Cainion 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 Finance 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?
Leading in most organizations is quite easy when the body consists of followers. However, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. is a body of leaders. To be Chapter President, a leader of leaders is an honor. To have a highly-esteemed group of men trust in you to lead them to success, as well as Alumni who look to you to continue the legacy they created is a heavy weight to bear, but the journey is worth it.
What made you decide to attend the Georgia State Univiersity for undergrad?
My decision to attend Georgia State University was unorthodox. As a first-generation college student I was never expected to attend college, and if I did it wasn’t going to be largest university in the state of Georgia. I defied the odds and attended Georgia State University to create my own path and witness first-hand the magnitude of attending a predominantly white institution, that graduates minorities at a higher rate than any other public university in the nation.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
An initiative that the Zeta Mu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. has been working on is to promote the preservation of our Earth and reverse the effects of Global Warming and Climate Change. In a major city like Atlanta, we serve as one of the greatest pollutants of CO2 emissions, which damage the atmosphere and increase Earth’s surface temperature. Here at Georgia State University, we hosted a program Melted Ice, to provide awareness for the cause. The Zeta Mu Chapter continues to encourage all of our peers to recycle, cut back on plastic and styrofoam usage, and even use public transportation to decrease CO2 emissions.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
Pledging Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. was an easy decision. After a year on campus seeing organizations constantly at events, making change on campus and in the community, I decided I wanted to take part in the journey. As a first-generation college student and first-generation Greek-life member, I had knowledge of the Divine Nine or Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. What I did know about Alpha Phi Alpha is how I felt in the presence of Alphamen. I felt motivated, encouraged, and inspired to be better than I was. Only Alphamen made me feel the way I did, so after long research confirming everything I thought about Alphamen, I made the decision in my heart to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and impact the World just as I was.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
The GQ Zeta Mu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., is the first Black Greek-Lettered Organization founded on a Predominantly White Institution in the state of Georgia. We are the 2019-2021 International College Chapter of the Year, and have been awarded the highest honor in Alpha twice (the first in 2011). We are the Chapter of the first-ever Miss Black & Gold in 1976, Miss Denise Smith. Additionally, we represent the largest university in the state of Georgia. While all these facts hold true, what makes the Zeta Mu Chapter so unique is consistent with our moniker, GQ “Gentlemen of Quality”, and our slogan, “It’s not just a fashion… It’s a Lifestyle.” The Zeta Mu Chapter has fully embodied the characteristics of Alphamen and have made it our life’s duty to serve the community. Moreover, we do what we do because we love to do it, rather than to fulfill a narrative or checklist. That is why the Zeta Mu Chapter is unique; because we are genuine.
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?
In a digital world, advancing more rapidly every day, it is imperative for undergraduate chapters to represent themselves not as individuals, but as a representation of a whole body. As Blacks, or members of any Greek organizations there is picture painted about our organizations that is easily tarnished by selfish, individual acts. Undergraduate members should understand that their actions not only affect them, but the entire body that they represent. We should represent ourselves with the utmost respect and dignity, acting with humility and integrity. Withal, we should represent ourselves with pride in who we are and what we represent. Not conforming to an image, but not moving in a way that tarnishes the representation of all.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me is walking with integrity– Doing what is right when no one is around. It is an honor to be a leader of an organization and a leader in the community but it is a large burden. As a leader many people have ideas about how you should lead and like to criticize one’s every action. Leadership isn’t always about leading. Often times, the best leaders are those that understand how to follow and take criticism well. I’ve learned that no matter how right you may feel as a leader, there’s no sense in implementing a strategy the team doesn’t feel is effective, because it won’t garnish any support. Going with the team, as a member and as a leader is always an effective approach.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
In Black Greekdom, Watch The Yard serves as a platform fro Divine Nine Greek organizations to be recognized for the work on campus and in the community. While Greek-life doesn’t exist to work for recognition it is always nice to be honored for doing good deeds that enhance the communities we serve. Many platforms downplay, criticize, and demean Black Greek-lettered organizations, yet Watch The Yard stands to ensure the names of our organizations continue to be held highly-esteemed in the Black community and abroad.
What does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood is the unwritten responsibility to hold one another accountable for their actions, protection from their enemies, and guidance when they are lost. Brotherhood is how I’ve managed to survive college so far. Without the help of my brothers, college would seem impossible for a first-generation college student with no close family members or mentors to seek guidance from. Alumni brothers and my current chapter brothers continuously affirm that I am capable of whatever I am determined to accomplished and that no matter how hard life gets they will be there to catch me when I fall. They are the people that motivate me to continue to do my best at whatever I put my name one and strive for excellence.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
As a military-dependent, my goal is to join the military as an Officer after obtaining my undergraduate degree. I aspire to give back to my country for giving me the opportunity to make a name for myself and have a different fate than those that came before me. The experiences that I received as a military-dependent were once in a lifetime, and I would like to offer my children the same experiences.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Avion Cainion for his work as the president of Zeta Mu Chapter Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 1968.
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