New ‘Latino-Interest’ Fraternity at Illinois Tech Attracts Massive Enthusiasm
When Illinois Institute of Technology student Laila Mendez (B.S. Mechanical Engineering/M.A. Engineering Management 4th Year) explored how to found a chapter of a national Latino-interest fraternity at the university, she was told to hope for five initial members.
“The [fraternity officials] said, ‘You’re very lucky if you get over five,’” Mendez says. “That’s the minimum you need.”
Instead, 30 Illinois Tech students expressed interest in joining the newest Chicago-based chapter of Alpha Psi Lambda, the first and largest co-ed Latino fraternity in the United States.
“It was shocking to a lot of people, including myself,” Mendez laughs. “Nobody expected that many.”
The fraternity—which accepts associate members (pledges) of all genders and nationalities—is the first Latino-interest Greek organization on campus. For Mendez, who transferred to Illinois Tech in 2023 from City Colleges of Chicago’s Wilbur Wright College through the In-State Transfer Pathways Program, it was important to address the isolation she felt. She wanted to find a community—so why not help create one of her own, especially one that focused on Latino-interest issues and events?
“There are a lot of minorities at Illinois Tech, but a lot of us are commuters. You go to class and stay at the library a couple hours, and go home. That’s why this is important,” Mendez says.
The 30 people who expressed interest were narrowed down to a “founding line” of 14 members who appeared most willing to commit time and effort to the fraternity. Mendez was elected as the chapter’s first president a few weeks after the chapter’s founding in November 2023.
“Alpha Psi Lambda is proud to make history at Illinois Tech as the first Latino Greek organization,” says Michelle Maday, vice president of expansion for Alpha Psi Lambda National Inc. “With both the campus and the city of Chicago having a growing and thriving Latino community, we welcome the opportunity to provide a space for students to promote leadership, service, and unity.”
Of the chapter’s 14 founding members, four of them are Chicago Difference scholars. The scholarship initiative provides support for graduates of Chicago high schools, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, allowing them more opportunity to explore extracurricular activities.
“I thought, ‘I’m not going to meet too many people this year.’ But I was wrong,” says one of the Chicago Difference scholars, Jacqueline Trejo (CHEM 1st Year). “[The fraternity] was really welcoming. I have friends at other sororities on campus, but it wasn’t the same thing. There wasn’t as much of a connection.”
Trejo adds that she likely couldn’t have joined the fraternity without the Chicago Difference scholarship.
“If I didn’t have [the scholarship], I would probably be working on campus. I don’t think I would have been able to join a fraternity or even chemistry club,” Trejo says, noting that she is her chemistry club’s recruitment and social media chair. “It let me do this.”
For now, Mendez is planning some Latino-focused events and activities in the new year, but she has a broader ambition.
“My hope is to inspire more multicultural—Latin, Asian—Greek organizations to come to campus,” she says. “Just because it wasn’t there before, doesn’t mean people aren’t willing to look for it.”
Alpha Psi Lambda National, Inc. was founded in 1985 at The Ohio State University, and is dedicated to its members’ “success and unity through education, leadership, cultural awareness, and community service.” It now has 43 collegiate chapters and eight affiliate chapters.
Photo: New members of the founding line of Alpha Psi Lambda’s new Illinois Tech chapter pictured with other members of the national organization at Perlstein Hall in November 2024. Photo courtesy of Michelle Maday.