By Gabriela Flores
Finding lifelong bonds is no easy feat. But for members of the Kappa Sigma Pi-Phi chapter at Brooklyn College, looking after one another is at the core of their brotherhood. From working in philanthropic initiatives like the Military Heroes Campaign, to pushing one another to pursue their professional and personal goals, the BC chapter remains steadfast in helping members grow and better themselves.
“That’s the thing that really matters to Kappa Sigma is just how do you want to grow. With all of us having that same kind of desire, even if it varies in what it looks like – what are own definition of success looks like – we all want that,” said Travis Matos, the chapter’s second vice president. “It’s like how can we get there, how can we get each other to get there.”
Stretching across states in the United States and Canada, Kappa Sigma is currently one of the largest fraternities globally. Since 2009, when the Pi-Phi chapter began at Brooklyn College, members have worked to uplift each other through their four pillars of “scholarship, leadership, fellowship, and service,” according to Matos. Housed in BC’s Newman Catholic Center on Glenwood Road, the chapter works to serve each of its members, including its 15 pledges, or students committed to joining their fraternity.
Through A Greater Cause, a philanthropic body of Kappa Sigma, the BC brothers have also contributed to volunteer and charity work. Collectively, all fraternity members have completed over 4.7 million hours of volunteering and raised about $22 million in donations for several causes, according to the organization’s official website.
In a recent trip to Washington DC, the Pi-Phi brothers joined an ongoing tradition of paying respects to fallen soldiers in the Arlington National Cemetery and honoring living veterans. Working with Veterans Moving Forward, a non-profit that provides service dogs and other resources to veterans, they remain aligned with their veteran cause. Once they returned to their home base in Brooklyn, the members continued their efforts through a charity flag football tournament in Prospect Park.
“There’s a lot of veterans that go unnoticed. They go to seek out help, they don’t get it. And these are people who put their life on the line to defend the country,” said Matthew Roman, the chapter’s president.
Despite running with the momentum of their philanthropic work and personal pursuits of better futures today, the Pi-Phi chapter underwent a dead zone during COVID. At the cusps of the pandemic, membership was dwindling, eventually leaving one member to keep the chapter alive.
“At one point, it was just me – just me,” said Simeon Karakatsiotis, the chapter’s first vice president and BC Greek Council’s vice president. With recruitment limited to online, Karakatsiotis struggled to find members who were willing to join him in re-envisioning and revising Pi-Phi. That is until one fateful day when the BC community was gradually returning to campus, he came across Travis Matos, a former high school colleague. Joining forces with another friend, Sami Akhtar, the trio planned for a chapter that would exceed their present challenges.
“And to quote one of our brothers, we want to bring a traditional college experience to a commuter college world,” said Karakatsiotis. Once they met Roman, and saw he was a natural leader in his own right, the wheels began churning and led the chapter to have its plans come to fruition. “I’m happy to say that no matter how low you go, you’ll always have a chance to rise up, as long as you have a dream to get there and the willpower to get it done,” Karakatsiotis said.
Though he joined the fraternity this past spring, Roman was elected president soon after. Since becoming part of Kappa Sigma, he has noticeably become one of the driving forces that led the organization to its strong standing today with a record-high 15 pledge count. Being 31 years old and a non-traditional pre-med student with experience coaching football and navigating through different colleges, Roman has taken his lessons learned and shared them with his fraternity peers.
“We are all ride or die,” said Roman. “When I joined and I became president, the one thing I really wanted to emphasize and try to portray to all the brothers and all the pledges was [that] I was trying to provide them with the college experience that I never got.”
Providing support, all while having the backing of the Kappa Sigma’s nationwide networking, Roman and each of the other members have been given the push they need to succeed beyond Brooklyn College. Achieving one goal after the next is a practice each member has been able to live out.
“Once you graduate, we want to make sure you’re set – you have a good job and become financially independent,” Roman said. “I know without a shadow of a doubt, I wouldn’t have made any other choice if given the opportunity to because I am set for life.”
In committing themselves to grow together, the Pi-Phi chapter has also ensured that hazing and other dangerous initiations for members do not exist within their collective. Through My Brother’s Keeper, a program that encourages members to keep one another accountable for any wrongdoing, the Pi-Phi brothers have vowed to be a “completely different side of Greek life,” according to Roman.
“Hazing has no place in this chapter, hazing has no place in this fraternity, hazing has no place in Brooklyn College,” he said. “We would be one of the first ones to speak up about that because of how strongly we feel that new members should be treated in an organization like this.”
Though faces within the chapter’s leadership will change over time as members graduate, the bonds they are currently cultivating will remain intact well beyond their undergraduate run.
“These are the people I want to spend the rest of my life with,” Karakatsiotis said. “These are the people I want to invite to my wedding, that I want to introduce to my child. These are the people I want to invite to a barbeque and just be reconnecting over a good meal.”