He's a mentor, a high school fraternity member, president of the Programming Activities Board, a Lion Ambassador, government affairs chair of the Student Government Association, Orientation Leader of the Year, a THON member, handles public relations for the Black Student League, takes six classes (19 credits), and still manages time to run around campus meeting new people and taking part in—if not planning—activities. Not everyone has the time to be this active, but Penn State Brandywine sophomore Al Parks, Jr. makes it sound like a walk in the park.
A psychology major from Philadelphia, Al has always been interested in helping people and being involved. Even during high school when students were focused primarily on studying for their SATs and trying to get into a good college, Al was pledging John Bartram High School's very first fraternity, Alpha Omega, and impressing his peers as a member of the Air Force Junior ROTC. As a lifetime member and vice president of Alpha Omega, he helps plan step shows and block parties for the school and takes part in community service.
"My job as VP is to make sure the other brothers at the high school are keeping up their grades and the alums are doing their required community service," Al said. "I make sure all the fraternity members are doing the things they are supposed to be doing."
He spoke fondly about his experience as a fraternity pledge: "We had to endure social silence as pledges. We could only talk to other pledges and our teachers during school hours for eight weeks! My girlfriend wasn't very happy when I told her I could only talk to her after school."
As a junior member of ROTC, Al became a major his sophomore year of high school, the highest rank he could reach.
These days, he is even more active at Penn State Brandywine. To kick off his sophomore year, Al was named Orientation Leader of the Year by his peers during Freshman Convocation. As an OL he was specially trained to assist incoming students with the transition to college. He gave tours to prospective students throughout the summer, connected with parents and students to answer questions, and helped them get acquainted with the campus community. At the end of each summer, the OLs vote for the student they feel served as an outstanding role model throughout the summer. The winner receives the honor in front of the incoming class of new students, faculty, and staff during Freshman Convocation.
On why he thinks his peers voted for him: "I talk to everybody. The freshmen know my name and everyone told me 'who doesn't like Al?' I brought my own personality with me when I worked with the students and I tried to make every day fun. Every situation I made the best that I could," Al said after doing a funny dance on stage as he accepted his award.
Beginning in October, he will also serve as a mentor and tutor for middle school students in the area as part of the Penn State Educational Partnership Program (PEPP) designed to address the education-related issues that plague Pennsylvania schools. Al said he is excited to have a job during college that relates to his field of study. "I would do it even if I wasn't getting paid," he said.
As the president of the Programming Activities Board, Al will be responsible for booking outside vendors for student events, such as bands and comedians, and planning events. "This campus needs something more and that's what I'm here for," he said. Al will also act as a voice for the student body as the government affairs chair of SGA. He says he will fight for affordable tuition, student aid, and any other issues the SGA president and student body feel are important.
Al attributes his positive attitude and eagerness to stay involved as a result of having a good role model—his mother. And he plans to pursue a career doing the same for others. Al hopes to earn a Ph.D. and become a child psychologist or work in the student affairs department at a college or university. After working on the Programming Activities Board, SGA, and with students in many other capacities, he said he feels working with students is "right up my alley, although psychology is my first love." In the meantime, Al will continue to be a positive role model for his family and fellow students at Penn State Brandywine.