Back in 2014, Regan Smith, now a brother of Chi Psi at the University of Kentucky (ΦΔ ’23), was required to do service hours for his middle school. Like most of the other kids, he recalls, he was not very excited for the assignment. At the urging of his stepmom, he reluctantly walked into her place of work: West End School in Louisville, KY. The rest is history.
“She told me it was really cool and that I’d really like it,” says Smith, of his stepmom’s suggestion. “Sure enough, I went down there to do some odd jobs, and it snowballed over time into me being the volunteer in charge of all IT operations.”
West End School, which was founded in 2005 by Robert and Debbie Blair, aims to provide a “safe and structured environment for boys in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 8th in which academic rigor, character development, and responsible action establish the foundation for a purposeful life.” The Blair’s, as Smith explains, went on a tour of the West End neighborhood and realized there were few strong schools in the area.
“The Blair’s strongly believe every student deserves the opportunity to be successful, so they left Kentucky Country Day (a private school in Louisville) and started West End School,” says Smith. “They essentially gave up very comfortable lives to serve the underprivileged kids in the West End.”
Smith, who says the mission of the school is one he truly believes in and embraces, had to pull back on his volunteering when he enrolled at Kentucky for his freshman year. But when the Alpha was discussing new service opportunities, he saw an opening.
“I figured we could use our manpower to help them with some projects,” says Smith. “They are always looking for volunteers, as they are essential in running the nonprofit, tuition-free school. That crossover between my Fraternity helping West End School was really cool.”
The men of Alpha Phi Delta worked on basic projects like painting and repairing, but Smith says they all had a blast and are already planning a trip back to West End School.
“About a quarter of our members went and a lot of guys are excited to do another project with West End School where we can interact directly with students,” says Smith. “Everyone was amazed by the school and enjoyed the idea that we could change lives with our work.”
The West End School, according to Smith, is a tuition-free school where students can go to achieve their highest goals and aspirations. A place where students of all ages and regardless of personal circumstance walk up to you and look you in the eye, shake your hand, and introduce themselves politely. A place where most students test above grade level and get to further their education and change the world because of it.
“It was really fun for me to get back to West End School and help those kids,” says Smith. “It also gave me the chance to show guys in my Alpha the other side of the coin, if you will, and to count our blessings.”
This service outing, while mainly designed to benefit West End School, was also a chance for the Alpha to build its service resume and for the Brothers to bond over a positive experience.
“Obviously a big part of Chi Psi is service, so making this partnership will be mutually beneficial,” says Smith. “But it was also nice to bond over an event like this. We weren’t doing glamorous work, but we had a great time. It was truly an amazing, fun experience.”