Latina-Based Sorority Debuts at Arkansas Tech

Sigma Iota Alpha Founding Members 2024
The founding members of Sigma Iota Alpha at Arkansas Tech University are (from left-to-right): Noelia Santos, Sofia Guerrero, Jazzy Trejo, Andrea Arenales, Perla Ramirez, Jacqueline Hernandez and Yasmin Pacheco.

Seven Arkansas Tech University students are the founding members of the institution’s Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha Incorporada (SIA) chapter.

SIA states on its website that it is “a Latina-based sorority devoted to serving our community while fostering a sense of pride and respect in our heritage.”

Sofia Guerrero of Hot Springs is the first president of SIA at ATU.

“We get a lot of acknowledgement during Hispanic Heritage Month when we have events, but I made it a goal of mine this year and in upcoming years to have an ongoing awareness of our Hispanic population at ATU,” said Guerrero. “It’s important for us to be heard, seen and respected. We have come this far, not only for us, but also for our parents. SIA ties in the values, virtues and traditions we grew up with. One of our big goals is sharing that culture.”

Guerrero is joined in the ATU chapter of SIA by fellow members Andrea Arenales of Little Rock, Jacqueline Hernandez of Bentonville, Yasmin Pacheco of Hot Springs, Perla Ramirez of Hot Springs, Noelia Santos of Hot Springs and Jazzy Trejo of Rogers.

“For me, it was having that culture and bond with people similar to me,” said Ramirez.

The ATU SIA chapter was chartered on Sunday, April 7. Guerrero represented the group during the ATU Evening of Excellence on Monday, April 29, and the establishment of the chapter was announced to the ATU students, faculty and staff in attendance by Rhylie Gachot, ATU assistant director for campus life.

“I feel so proud,” said Trejo. “I worked for this. This is part of who I am. We’re all one. I feel like it’s made a big impact in my life already, and we just started.”

Founded in 1990, SIA was established by 13 women attending four institutions in New York: State University of New York (SUNY) Albany, SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY New Paltz and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Over the past 30-plus years, the sorority has chartered chapters in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Texas and California.

“Having that sisterhood is one of the best things because we can go to each other,” said Santos. “There have been so many times when we have motivated each other. Sometimes you just need another person to tell you that you can do it. It’s been really beneficial.”

SIA states on its website that it strives “to increase awareness of the Latino culture, promote sisterhood and leadership, serve as role models and achieve academic excellence.”

The sorority’s motto is semper unum et inseparabilis (always one and inseparable).

“It’s going to enhance our experience because we will meet people who are willing to help us socially and academically,” said Pacheco. “We’re going to have that support system to lean on, which is really important, especially for first-generation students. Going into this, I didn’t expect to get so close with the girls. I don’t go more than half a day without texting at least one of them. Some of us were already friends before this started, but we’re closer than that now. We actually are sisters.”

The ATU members of SIA are exploring community outreach options for the 2024-25 academic year, including reading to children at local elementary schools and volunteering at non-profit organizations that serve the local Hispanic population. They also plan on engaging in campus-based volunteerism opportunities such as the annual Green and Gold Give Back.

“I am a part of something bigger than myself,” said Hernandez. “I am SIA. I am part of that, and I represent that when I wear my letters.”

The founding members of SIA at ATU will continue to develop their colony culture during the fall 2024 semester with a goal of participating in new member recruitment during the spring 2025 semester.

“Wearing these letters is a remembrance that we did this, we made it, we overcame and we put in that work,” said Guerrero. “It wasn’t just for us, but for future generations that are coming to Arkansas Tech and want to find an organization that represents them, their goals, their virtues and what they want to develop in life. It’s a big wow moment for us.”