Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Alexis G. Ditaway
Ridgeway High School
In high school, organizations usually serve one purpose: curricular or extra-curricular.
Whether it is student council, BETA club, or any other activity, they usually lean one way or another. In the past few years, students have discovered groups that create the perfect balance of volunteering, personal development, and fun.
High School Organizations (most commonly known as HSOs) are all-female or all-male groups around Memphis that work to create development within their members and their communities. HSOs function similarly to college-level sororities and fraternities, with executive boards, chosen colors, and traditions such as Founder’s Day. Self-development has become the most beneficial element of HSOs, as many members enter an HSO their freshman year and continue into their senior year.
“At first, my friends were talking about it, and I was like, ‘Oh, this would be fun,’ but when I started my research, I realized it was more serious,” said Alexandria Claxton, a senior at White Station High School and Vice President of Modern Distinctive Ladies (MDL). “I’ve learned how to be more out-spoken and not so soft-spoken. I gained social and communication skills, because I felt like I wasn’t that good at communicating well with people, especially large groups of girls.”
“I joined MDL Inc because from what I heard through others, MDL was a sisterhood before anything else.” says Kristina Jennings, a junior at Ridgeway High School and a member of MDL. “I am a middle child of two brothers, and I wanted girls I could talk to that are closer in my age range. Also it seemed like a good opportunity to prepare me for college sorority life. Although it is a high school organization, I’ve learned many qualities about how to respect yourself as a young lady and how important it is to stay focused on your long-term goals.”
Michael Curtis, a senior at Central High School, is the current president of Kappa Leadership League, otherwise known as KLL.
“I was initiated in Fall 2011, and I’ve been involved for about three to four years. Being that I’m president, I’ve gained leadership skills. I went from being a very insecure boy to a self-sufficient young man,” he said.
From the outside looking in, it appears that HSOs revolve around parties, since many local teen parties in Memphis are hosted by these organizations. However, speaking from their members, HSOs also embrace community service as a principle.
“My favorite community service event would have to be our “Girls In Pearls,” said Jennings. “MDL Inc. has dedicated ourselves to Shannon Elementary, and we are mentors to the girls of that school. We go over to their school and we tutor them on their homework, do TCAP drills with them and also talk about what it means to be a lady.”
“KLL hosts so many community service projects,” said Curtis. “My first year, we partnered with Phi Gamma Kappa (PGK) at a foster home with young children. We served food and played games with them. It was like we were their big brothers and sisters for an hour.”
While HSOs appear to provide opportunities to students, it’s not always easy to become a part of one.
“It takes a lot of things to be MDL,” said Claxton. “You have to be strong-minded and not resistant to learning from others.”
“To be an MDL, you must have individuality, intelligence and most importantly heart,” added Jennings. “Most people think HSOs are all about parties and having fun, which some are, but many don’t know the many things MDL does to help our community.”
“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” said Curtis. “But in the interview process, I look for someone with confidence, who uses sufficient vocabulary, that can be verbal, and who is humble.”
In short, HSO may be another opportunity for students to develop and grow outside of school in various capacities.
“People think that we are conceited young men that shimmy all the time at parties and ‘please the ladies.’” Curtis added. “But KLL is more than what everyone thinks. I was at the bottom, now I’m at the top. And all of it is due to KLL.”