AEPi to launch Gateway Program for philanthropy week
In an effort to improve communication between St. Louis police officers and urban youth, Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity has joined forces with Be In The Know About Bullying, Red Alert and the Washington University Athletic Department to develop the Gateway Program.
As part of AEPi’s philanthropy week, the fraternity will help launch the program by fundraising at the Gateway to Greatness dinner this Saturday, Feb. 28, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Holmes Lounge. At the event, a former St. Louis Rams MVP, linebacker Will Witherspoon, and Missouri State Representative Joshua Peters will speak along with numerous St. Louis City police officers.
Gateway serves as a program under Be In The Know, which is a community service organization that strives to support youth and families affected by bullying, violence and suicide by providing preventative education and programming to educational institutions.
Be In The Know founder Sean James was interested in spreading the organization to the Wash. U. campus, so he contacted sophomore Jake Shapiro, who is a family friend, to be a campus ambassador. Shapiro quickly agreed and brought Be In the Know to the attention of his fraternity, AEPi, to try to heighten its presence on campus. Sophomores Ben Jadow and Chase Wehrle, who are the co-philanthropy chairs of AEPi, were quick to support the opportunity.
“It’s something that I feel passionate about, and it’s something that’s worth dedicating time to and it’s something that can actually have an impact on people’s lives,” Jadow said. “I thought it was a great opportunity that we couldn’t really pass up.”
James then developed the Gateway Program and enlisted the help of Shapiro, Wehrle and Jadow to link it to the Wash. U. campus, noting its particular relevance to the St. Louis community after the recent death of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson.
“The whole point of this is aided communication to avoid events like Ferguson,” Wehrle said.
After receiving support from athletic fan group Red Alert, Wehrle and Jadow pitched the Gateway Program to athletic director Josh Whitman, who enthusiastically supported the initiative.
“I walked in to Josh Whitman’s office, handed him a flyer, and I was one sentence into explaining it and he was like, ‘Done. Partnership. Let’s do it,’ so that’s how it all worked out,” Wehrle said.
Although the program isn’t going to be launched formally until this weekend’s dinner, AEPi has already begun raising money for Gateway through various fundraising efforts. Earlier this week, the fraternity held benefit nights at Chipotle and Three Kings on the Delmar Loop, and it will be tabling at Saturday afternoon’s men’s basketball game to raffle off prizes and sell tickets for the dinner.
With the money raised, AEPi hopes to help implement Gateway in order to increase dialogue and foster relationships between the community’s police officers and local youth through education and shared experience.
“It’s going to go towards creating a program where different urban youth groups can interact with police more and from the beginning create a mutual respect. It will go towards creating that program, getting kids to and from, for instance, the police station one day and hanging out there and seeing what it’s like,” Shapiro said.
While Gateway is just beginning, AEPi is looking to sustain it for a long time to come.
“We definitely want to continue with this organization in the future and make it our main focus as our fraternity and as an organization that that’s what we’re going to focus donating money to and raising money for,” Jadow said.