Hello there!

Have you ever heard about something and been a little skeptical? Like — the "duck stack," a fancy schmancy dish at a restaurant in Oregon that involves pancakes and duck gravy? (I'll stick with bacon, thanks.) 

I was on the fence about joining a sorority in college. I didn't have a lot of experience with them besides stereotypical movies about them or Facebook posts from people a few years older than me deriding them. I didn't get the system — when I hung out with a new friend during the summer in college, she wasn't allowed to post the photos of our day together until *after* recruitment. And another friend had to put me on her sorority's official "list" of unaffiliated women she could talk to during the same process so that we could continue editing the newspaper together.

My bewilderment turned into intimidation, and I never got more than several arms' lengths closer to joining a sorority, overwhelmed by the Greek system and the stereotypes. But I also really felt like I was missing something by not participating.

I've since graduated, moved on, and never really ended up missing being part of a sorority. But as I saw different conversations online about making friends in adulthood, at least one person would suggest joining the Junior League. This I had truly never heard of before, but it vaguely sounded like a sorority.

Googling "Junior League stereotypes" (hey, I do the same thing when I'm looking to move to a new city/neighborhood) comes up with a few defensive results: "The JLW was originally organized by women who wanted to contribute to a society that offered them little opportunity to do so outside the home," wrote two members of the Junior League of Washington in response to a Washington Post column in 1993. And another woman proudly asserts her membership and the causes the League supports financially and with their volunteering time in a piece from Dallas's D Magazine in 1987.  More recently, the executive director of the Junior Leagues International wrote in HuffPost about how the Leagues of Charlottesville, Birmingham, Abilene, and more are using volunteerism to unite their groups and communities last October. 

You know what is better than Googling? Talking it out with someone who is already involved with it. (That can go for the duck gravy thingy, too. Let me know if anyone has an in there!) Alejandra, a member of the Junior League of Phoenix, walked me through her Junior League experience. She works for a law firm as a marketing and events coordinator and lives with her boyfriend (and their two dogs!) and just joined the JLP. Here's what she had to say:

Your friend,

P.S. Want more info about the Junior League? Here's a map of their chapters and a HowStuffWorks breakdown about the Junior League's background.
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Christine: How did you find out about and decide to join Junior League? What was the process like? What does being a member involve?

Alejandra: I had heard people mention it before and I was familiar with the cookbooks they put out in the past (they were awesome). I was involved with a sorority in college and really missed having a network of women who were passionate about making a difference in the local community. After attending the informational meeting for the Junior League of Phoenix (JLP) I knew this was the network I was looking for! One important thing to know is that each League operates differently, for the JLP the process of joining was very easy, I had to attend an informational session and pay my dues. My provisional year (first year) consisted of a crash course on the JLP. The JLP operates on a point system. Depending on your year in the JLP the number of points required to remain an active member vary. I was required to earn 26 points, which can be done by attending meetings, training opportunities, and community impact shifts. Now that I am a first year active my point requirement is 16. 

Christine: What is the biggest part of Junior League for you?

Alejandra: The involvement with the local community is definitely my favorite thing about JLP. We work with local organizations such as Halle Hart Museum, Ronald McDonald House, Feed My Starving Children, UMOM - Read to Me, and United Way (to name a few) and to see the direct impact of our efforts is really amazing.

Christine: What do you think people often don't understand about it?

Molly: I think when people hear "Junior League" they think of rich white women who don't work. That couldn't be further from the truth: We have women of all nationalities/races, some are stay-at-home mothers/wives, and many are working women who are leaders in their field. I also think that people may associate the Junior League with being strictly social. There are many opportunities to socialize and network (which was a big reason for my interest in the Junior League) but I think the volunteerism and training that takes place is often overlooked.
The mission of the JLP is: "The Junior League of Phoenix is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers."
Christine: How did Junior League help you, in particular, build friendships? 

Alejandra: Making friends as an adult is hard, your network tends to be the people you work with. In my case, I work with people twice my age who are mostly male. While my main focus for joining the JLP was to be connected to my local community through volunteerism, all the friendships I have made are an added bonus! Once I joined the JLP there were so many opportunities to meet people: we have our own Toastmasters Club, there are a few book clubs, a moviegoers group, a travelers group, etc. If you are interested in it, there is probably a group for it. I also think it is awesome that when I move out of Arizona in a few years, no matter where I go I will be able to connect with a local Junior League and have an instant network!

Christine: What would you say to anyone thinking about joining Junior League? What should people know before they go into it?

Alejandra: I would encourage anyone to attend an informational meeting. No matter your reason for joining, chances are Junior League will have what you are looking for. I think the most important piece of advice I could give someone is to remember "You get out what you put in" so if you give it all you've got then you will see all the benefits it has to offer. 

Go sow: Challenge for the week. 

Think about something you wrote off that maybe, with a second look, could help you build friendships and develop a community. Maybe that's going to a Bible study group or other religious event. Maybe that's joining the Junior League. Maybe that's trying out for a roller derby league! What is something that perhaps you didn't seriously consider when you first heard of it? 

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Zoom into the full map here.

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