Student Leadership Training, Part 1: The Alpha Program

by Nicole Chin '08

This is part one of a three-part series on student leadership training.

With September on the horizon, many freshmen are preparing for the big transition to college by packing their clothes, buying new furniture, and stuffing all of it into truck beds, SUVs, and U-Hauls. As move-in day draws near, they are anxiously awaiting their first few days at APU. And despite new students' growing fears about entering the unknown, an Alpha leader is ready and willing to help freshmen transition to college. Partnering with Strengths Counselors and the Beginnings class, the Alpha Program provides incoming freshmen and transfer students with a strong network of returning students ready to assist them throughout their first semester.

Alpha leaders arrived the second weekend of August to begin training for the upcoming year. They spent their first week of training on campus doing team building activities and dedicating one day of training to a different topic like the addiction process and men’s and women’s issues. For the second week of training, the leaders traveled to the Tenderloin District of San Francisco for a mission trip named “Bridges.” The third and final week of training is spent preparing for Orientation and the Beginnings Class.

“We help new students gain the tools they need to navigate the school,” said John Kozyra ’06, Alpha intern. “And we want to help them start the journey of understanding themselves and their relationships with Christ and with other people.”

More than 100 upperclassmen volunteer for Alpha, offering a third of their summer vacation and entire first semester to impacting the lives of incoming freshmen. Alpha leaders feel their main purpose isn’t just to guide freshmen through the waters of college, but to immerse themselves in the waves and take on life together.

The Alpha Program not only looks to serve freshmen, but also caters to developing APU student leaders. The Beginnings Class – a mandatory freshmen course – covers controversial issues such as sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the late Edward “Chip” Anderson’s strengths-based education.

Through Alpha training and Bridges, Phil Shahbaz, director of the Office of Student Success since 2001, teaches leaders how God works in places that people don’t expect Him to be. He strives to have Alpha leaders realize what kind of sacrifice is needed for the students under their responsibility – especially those students who are crying out to be loved.

Many Alpha leaders describe the program as a new way to express love to incoming students. “We want to love on them,” said Sarah Colome ’08, current Alpha leader.