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Leadership Highlight

Leadership Highlight: JeNeika Smith Boone the Basileus of Zeta Phi Beta’s Lambda Zeta Chapter in Houston

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the sorority sisters of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.’s Lambda Zeta Chapter in Houston and did an interview with JeNeika Smith Boone the President of the chapter.

The position of Basileus/president of a Black sorority chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. JeNeika Smith Boone, who works as a Director of Human Resources, has been in the position of Basileus for two years.

We interviewed JeNeika Smith Boone, who is a Spring 1997 Delta Alpha Chapter initiate and talked to her about her 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?

I tell my sorors often that pursuing the role of graduate chapter president was not part of my plan. I had served as president of my undergraduate chapter and knew that it is a big job, but even more so within a large chapter. However, I was motivated to take on the challenge because I wanted to continue to elevate our strong legacy of service in the Houston community.

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?

Our International President and CEO, Dr. Stacie N.C. Grant, has deemed our international programmatic focus as “The Extraordinary Power of S.H.E., which is designed for our chapters to be intentional about Social, Health, and Economic Justice for women at home and abroad.

Because of the issues facing our country, and specifically here in the state of Texas, Lambda Zeta has the specific initiatives as our priority: Female and Maternal health justice, through our Breast Cancer Awareness activities, Prematurity Awareness and Stork’s Nest program partnership with the March of Dimes; Social Justice, through our Social Action program (voter registration and get out the vote for the November 2023 elections); and support of our elder community members through our Elder Care program. We are also excited to continue our international efforts in Ghana and Kenya through our literacy and clean water initiatives for women and children.

What made you want to pledge Zeta Phi Beta?

I joined Zeta Phi Beta after (1) researching the history and legacy of the organization and (2) seeing the bond of sisterhood on my college campus. Zeta Phi Beta has a rich tradition of community service, and volunteerism has always been important to me. Zeta Phi Beta’s history of innovative service programs was impressive to me. Additionally, The Zetas (and our Sigma brothers) had a truly unique relationship that I admired.

What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?

Our chapter is one of the largest in Zeta, and we are multi-generational. We are the oldest graduate chapter in the Houston area, and the second oldest active Zeta graduate chapter in the state of Texas. Our chapter was chartered through the efforts of graduates of Theta Chapter at Wiley College, which was the first chapter of any Black sorority to organize a collegiate chapter in Texas. We are celebrating 90 years of service to the Houston area in 2024!

We have the distinction of having two international presidents come from our chapter, the 12th International President, Dr. Lullelia Walker Harrison (deceased) and the 24th International President, Dr. Mary Breaux Wright. We were the first chapter to adopt the Stork’s Nest program in 1972 after it became a national program. Stork’s Nest aims to increase the number of women receiving early and regular prenatal care in an effort to prevent cases of low birthweight, premature births and infant deaths.

Finally, we are the birthplace of our sorority’s adult auxiliary program, the Zeta Amicae, celebrating 75 years of service in 2023.

How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?

As an undergraduate initiate, mentoring our undergraduate sorors is important to me. Lambda Zeta Chapter proudly sponsors 4 undergraduate chapters: Nu Alpha, Texas Southern University; Sigma Gamma, Houston City Wide; Phi Epsilon, University of Houston; and Lambda Eta, Sam Houston State University.

We support them through a dedicated undergraduate advisory council, comprised of advisors and other sorors interested in mentoring our undergraduates. We provide financial support for their operations and to assist them with attending sorority conferences. We also host a yearly retreat designed to provide training on topics specifically of interest to the undergraduate members.

Our undergraduates are AWARD WINNING on all levels of the sorority. We are also proud of the fact that during 2022/2023, each of our campus-based chapters also had the distinction of having their campus queen/homecoming queen as a member!

How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?

I previously served as First Vice President, which focuses on membership. Because we have a relatively large and multi-generational chapter, it is important that we find ways to bridge that gap and allow members to get to know each other outside of business settings.

One way in which we do that is through hosting social gatherings throughout the year. We’ve gone on outings to the movies and other shows, and hosted holiday gatherings at the homes of sorors and restaurants in different areas throughout the city. We encourage all members to participate in our chapter wide service projects, as well as projects sponsored by other organizations and the NPHC. Finally, I’ve found it effective to focus on getting to know sorors as soon as they join the chapter, assigning them a “buddy” or a mentor, and determining their interests, skills, and talents to help them find a place they wish to serve. Once they’ve plugged in, they are more likely to get to know other sorors one on one, and most importantly, to STAY active!

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?

I advise aspiring leaders to get to know your organization and your chapter. While we are all on the same team, each chapter has a culture and history that has led them to where they are today. Additionally, serve on one or more committees directly related to your area of interest, or even outside your comfort zone to learn more about the chapter and organization. Once you’re comfortable, volunteer to serve as the committee chair or coordinator.

Also, TALK TO YOUR OLDER MEMBERS. Those ladies are a wealth of knowledge and can provide great insight on the leadership journey.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to say yes to opportunities as they come your way.

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?

I have been so very blessed to be part of my current chapter, and to have access to so many leaders on the local, regional, and international levels right here at home! I could write an entire page of all the Zeta sorors who have poured into me over the last 22 years. Mentorship has been integral to my growth as a Zeta, and I could not have grown as a leader without all of the support, guidance, and conversations over the years.

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?

I believe Watch The Yard promotes the best and brightest of our respective organizations and shows that we can serve the community AND have fun while doing it!

Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?

In short, it feels like home. Zeta Phi Beta is a sisterhood of many firsts, and sisterhood is what guides our love for and service to our communities. Also, we have a principle unique to our organization-FINER Womanhood, and we embody that principle in all that we do!

​​Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?

Sisterhood is a kinship or bond with those with common interests. It is having a group of women who will have your back, but also get you together when it is needed. They care for you and look out for your best interest.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend JeNeika Smith Boone for her work as the Basileus of the Lambda Zeta Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1934.

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