Six Hmong-American Fresno State students, each sharing like-minded goals, came up with an idea to form a group designed to help its members to achieve new academic heights.
However, they wanted something more than to create a simple faction of students who care for their grades, nor did they want to start a club.
They decided to form a fraternity, and in August 2004, Eta Alpha Gamma was born—the first Hmong-American founded fraternity in the United States.
The vision behind the fraternity’s creation is split among three goals, said senior Xeng Yang, one of Eta Alpha Gamma’s founding members.
“We came up with three main purposes: One was to promote academic achievement, the second one is to provide insight into the Hmong culture and (third) to represent the men at Fresno State,” Yang said.
The founding of a Hmong-organized fraternity in the heart of the Central Valley is a natural choice.
According to News America Media, census information taken in 2009 reveals that the Central Valley is home to around 47,000 Hmong-Americans—32,000 of those live in Fresno County alone.
The census also revealed that 24 percent of that population attended college or a graduate school.
Eta Alpha Gamma opened its doors to allow new members shortly after its recognition by Fresno State in 2005.
Since then, the fraternity has grown to 14 active members, 30 in total including Fresno State alumni.
Though the majority of the fraternity consists of Hmong-American men, as it grew, it extended its invitation to students of all ethnicities.
“It’s not just for Hmong men; it’s for everybody—we are a multi-culture fraternity,” Yang said.
The fraternity hopes to invite even more members, and as it grows, eventually find a place for them to call home.
“One of our main goals is to one day have a house,” said graduate student and fraternity president Fuechi Lor. “We want to have the same title as these other fraternities that have national chapters all over the United States.
“Being in Fresno, the first chapter, I think, sooner or later, we are going to have a house or at least an apartment so we can really connection with each other.”
The fraternity currently has eight rushes, or members who have just begun the joining process, Lor said.
In an effort to get more members, Lor said that the fraternity participates in fundraisers as well as community events.
Since 2004, one of the fraternity’s common fundraising events is to earn money for high school scholarships.
“That’s one of our biggest reasons why we fundraise, is to give out these scholarships,” Lor said.
Lor said that the scholarships aren’t given just to students going into Fresno State, but any form of higher education.
The fraternity also assists other Greeks, said junior and member Efrain Rodriguez.
Eta Alpha Gamma has often lent extra hands to fundraisers and other events led by Fresno State’s fraternities and sororities, Rodriguez said. They also support Fresno’s Hmong community.
“While we help the Hmong community, we also promote our name,” Rodriguez said.
“We go and support them. That way they know who we are so in the future hopefully they can do the same thing for us,” Lor said.
Lor said that the fraternity is currently planning to work with Stone Soup Fresno, an organization that aids Southeast Asian refugee families struggling to make it in the Central Valley. The organization offers workshops and provides education for young children.
“We want to start either a winter clothing drive, or we want to just help them fundraise for Christmas presents or something along that line for the children at Stone Soup,” Lor said.
On occasion, Eta Alpha Gamma participates in a Hmong New Year event, a yearly celebration in the community.
“Everybody comes together to celebrate family union,” Xeng said.
The group is proud to say that it has consistently ranked number one or number two in grade-point average within the Universal Sorority Fraternity Council, which it belongs to, Lor said.
That comes as no surprise, as Lor has worked hard to promote a study program that keeps Eta Alpha Gamma’s members’ noses to the grindstone, or, more specifically, in the books.
“When we see one brother study, then it really motivates the other brothers that want to study,” Lor said. “It just helps everyone’s GPA. It helps everyone succeed in college, hopefully get out a little earlier, get out a little faster, then be able to go to the workforce with your degree.”
As the fraternity continues to grow, its members look forward to bringing in new brothers who share the drive for community and education.
Rodriguez said: “We’re hoping that in the future everyone will know Eta Alpha Gamma and what we stand for and what we do for the community.”