Olivia Moreno talks Greek life, her mother’s battle with cancer and the importance of community
Some do not understand Lee's Greek life and do not see its importance, but for others, these clubs are life-changing.
Senior pastoral ministry major Olivia Moreno said she credits Pi Kappa Pi for carrying her through one of the hardest times of her life: her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis.
Though to her it feels like she has been in Pi Kappa Pi for decades, she was tapped just January of this year. She said it was unexpected and the timing was a “God thing.” Shortly after her induction, her mother, whom Olivia refers to as her best friend, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Olivia's boyfriend Kendall Evans was with her when she found out that her mother, Shirley Little, had breast cancer. She said her mom told her boyfriend first to ensure that Moreno would not be alone when she heard the news.
“I’m someone who represses my emotions. When she told me, I didn’t tell anybody at first because I figured that, if I said it out loud, then it would be real and then I’d have to talk about it. I’d have to talk about my feelings and I really wasn’t down to do that,” Olivia said. “I’m very bad at receiving help or any comfort. I’m a mom for everybody. I take care of everyone else and don’t allow them to take care of me.”
Eventually, Olivia opened up to her best friend, then to her brothers and sisters of Pi Kappa Pi. The response of the club was an emotionally impactful one for Olivia, who said she has cried every time she's told the story.
“In March, we had little sister week. Joseph, who is now graduated, had a sweatshirt that Joseph’s big received from his own big when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It has Psalm 27:7-9 on the back all in Greek and a pink ribbon on the sleeve,” Moreno said. “Joseph looked at me and said, ‘Before my big graduated, he told me to pass this down to someone whose mom is diagnosed with breast cancer. This sweatshirt is rightfully yours. Pi carried my big through his mother’s breast cancer, and she ended up being okay, and your mom is going to be okay.’”
After that night, the whole club carried her through the hard times. Daily, she received messages and voicemails from people checking in on her and her mom. She credits Pi Kappa Pi with teaching her how to let people love her and that she was deserving of that love.
“It was the first time in my life that I let people take care of me other than my parents,” Moreno said. “I allowed them to love me because I needed it. If it wasn’t for getting into Pi last spring, I would’ve dropped out and [gone] home.”
Assistant Professor of Psychology Bryan Poole said that it makes sense that a community like Pi Kappa Pi had such a powerful and positive influence on Olivia Moreno’s well-being during this traumatic time.
“Social support systems, when they serve their function, really do protect us against stress. It’s because, in something like a Greek club, there are people we can rely and count on. It makes us feel like when things go wrong we can actually get help if we need it,” Poole said. “Community is not just important; it is necessary in order to thrive.”
Pi Kappa Pi has served sophomore information systems major Logan Harvey in a similar way. For Logan, Pi Kappa Pi has served as a family that truly loves him and has helped him through his own familial struggles.
“As someone who grew up in a good family and [saw] that fall apart, Pi has been my second home that turned into my first home. Pi is my go-to,” Logan said. “We are a family. We get food together, spend a lot of downtime together. We do regular things that I’d do with my brother or my sister. It is every definition of what a family is to me. I’m more comfortable around the people in the club than I am with a lot of those in my actual family.”
Olivia said she agrees that Pi Kappa Pi is a group that cares not only for members of the club, but also each member’s biological family members. Once Little went through her double mastectomy in October, members of the club asked Olivia for her mother’s number to congratulate her on defeating cancer. Olivia said she greatly appreciated this, as her fellow members recognized her deep bond with her mother.
“My mom is selfless. She is brave, and she is pure of heart. If it wasn’t for her, I would not have found the Lord,” Olivia said. “She is the closest thing I’ve ever known to seeing what Jesus was like on Earth.”
Though Olivia found it difficult to get through the days and to even get up for class before her mother was cancer-free, she said that she never missed Tuesday night Pi meetings.
“Tuesday night meetings were my flashlight because things became really hard,” said Olivia. “I went days without showering. It took so much just to get out of my bed and go into my bathroom. Things like that were just impossible. In contrast, being with Pi was so easy.”
For those who are struggling with the weight of a loved one's illness, loneliness or well-being issues, Lee offers programs for support. Some on-campus resources at Lee include:
The Counseling Center
Visit Lee University’s website to find out how to get involved.