A fraternity of one


Oscar Melendez, the lone member of Lambda Alpha Upsilon at the University of Florida, talks Thursday to Miguel Jimenez at Turlington Plaza. Melendez is trying to recruit new members.

HANNAH REICHEL/Special to The Sun
Published: Friday, January 27, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 8:52 p.m.
The Iota chapter of Lambda Alpha Upsilon at the University of Florida boasts the highest grade-point average of all the multicultural Greek organizations on campus.
And few can match the determination of this fraternity, but it's missing one thing - members. Oscar Melendez is a fraternity of one.
Since spring 2005, when two brothers transferred from UF, Melendez has been looking for other men to join, and if he doesn't find at least five by the end of the semester, the university - and the fraternity's national office - will no longer recognize the organization.
Lambda Alpha Upsilon aims to promote Latino cultural awareness and understanding, but membership is open to men of any descent. Melendez said Lambda brothers pride themselves on being professional and scholastic.
Melendez, 20, an applied physiology and kinesiology major with a 3.64 GPA, remains upbeat and has no plans to throw in the towel.
"People come up to me and say, 'If you're one person, why don't you join something else, or why don't you just give up?' " Melendez said. "I believe in our founding principles of brotherhood, scholarship and community service."
The Office of Sorority and Fraternity Affairs is doing all it can to help Melendez and recognizes that he is working hard to save the fraternity.
"He is a very strong-willed young man who's very focused on getting these goals accomplished for himself and his chapter," said Lisa Kendall, assistant director of the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Affairs and an adviser to the Multicultural Greek Council, of which Lambda Alpha Upsilon is a part.
In addition to schoolwork, Melendez works 25 to 30 hours a week as a student athletic trainer at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School.
He said he tries to follow the fraternity's motto: "venceremos porque nacimos para triunsar," or, "we will overcome because we were born to triumph," everyday.
Even without other members in the fraternity, he is active in the Greek community. He has never missed a meeting of the Multicultural Greek Council, which is made up of six Latino, two South Asian and two Asian organizations and one multicultural sorority.
He was the master of ceremonies at the MGC Showcase, an annual event to introduce the 11 organizations to students, and he said he participates in other chapters' events and pageants.
Melendez hopes these endeavors will help him get the membership he needs, but he said desperation to stay afloat will not compromise the national fraternity's values.
"We are a close-knit brotherhood here to uplift the Latin community," said Melendez, intentionally using the word "we." "By lowering our standards, we would be going against our principles, and we'd be hurting ourselves in the end."
Lambda Alpha Upsilon's small national brotherhood continues to encourage him.
"I'll do an event and I'll get a call from a brother in Wisconsin offering his help," Melendez said. "I always have constant support, and that's why I joined a fraternity - close friendship and brotherly love."
Melendez is looking for men who will contribute to that bond, and he is confident in the fraternity's future.
"I want to have our name publicly known as the fraternity everyone thought was going to die, but made it through."

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