Philanthropy is one of the core values of Greek life at any college. Every year, sororities and fraternities at Colorado College hold various events, fundraisers, and gatherings to help raise money for charities of their choosing. While Kappa Alpha Theta has Kicks for CASA and Delta Gamma does Anchor Freeze, the sisters of Kappa Kappa Gamma have been trying to start an annual event of their own for the past few years.
Enter CC’s Next Top Tiger: an all-inclusive talent show that Kappa hopes will be its own philanthropy tradition. As the sorority’s philanthropy chair, Grace Cooke ’19 is “the person who provides different ways for Kappas to get involved in the Colorado Springs community,” in addition to making sure all of the sisters are adequately involved in community service. Cooke has been organizing various philanthropy events since taking the position last year, usually planning one big function per semester. In the past, one such event was Mr. CC, a male beauty pageant that served as their annual fundraiser.
“Mr. CC was really popular, but it was actually really controversial toward the end. It was very negative and didn’t have a great impact,” said Cooke. Instead she asked herself, “why don’t we do something similar, and make it our own, without all the bad things it encouraged?”
The event was initially a “multi-component talent show — so talent, spelling bee, and fashion — but after talking about it we decided to keep it simple, especially since it’s the first year and we’re trying to get Kappa’s own event,” said Cooke. With help from Zita Toth, the paraprofessional for the Office of Residential Life and Campus Activities, Cooke went to the Events Summit to pitch the idea and find out how much funding they could get.
“We tried to make it different from the Show of Talents because it’s open to all CC students, staff, and faculty, rather than just to athletes,” she said. All donations from the event will go to Reading is Fundamental, Kappa’s philanthropic partner, which “tries to make it so that every child in America has access to books.”
In addition to getting the event approved, Cooke had to figure out how to put on a show — something she’d never done before. During the first few weeks, Cooke focused on promotion by tabling in Worner and talking to potential participants. Kappa aimed to make it as easy as possible to sign up to perform in order to encourage more participants. Though she ended up only seeing the show from backstage, Cooke was pleased with the turnout for the event.
“I know that all of my acts and the A/V guys and MCs were having a really good time. Everyone was just laughing, and there was a lot of camaraderie. Even if someone messed up or there was some kind of glitch, everyone just rolled with it,” she said. “It was a really fun environment to be in.”
Cooke emphasized that people came to watch the whole show, rather than just to see their friends perform. “It was really cool to have people say, ‘Oh! I didn’t realize that this person I was in class with could do this,’” Cooke said. “I also wanted to get a bunch of people together and have a really fun night that didn’t necessarily involve going out and drinking.”
Education professor Manya Whitaker, classics professor Richard Buxton, Dean of Students Mike Edmonds, and President Jill Tiefenthaler were the judges of the event, ultimately choosing Jordan Larsen — also known as Sarah Bellum — as the winner.
“While Jordan works at CC in the Rastall kitchen, Sarah is everywhere and anywhere she can be,” said Bellum. They heard about the event from the posters hung around campus and decided to showcase “one of her normal drag mixes.”
“You never know how people are going to perceive anything anymore, especially when it comes to drag and drag queens,” Bellum said. “I hope that this experience shows that we are just people as well who want to do a talent show to entertain.”
The leadership positions in the sorority are changing soon, so Cooke hopes to pass her position onto someone who will carry on the event after her graduation in the fall.
“They can build off of what we did this year and have a little bit of fun with it,” Cooke said. “You kind of get out what you put into it, and although it was a lot of work and I’m exhausted, it was a really good time — we raised a lot of money and everybody left very satisfied and happy.”
“The experience was one of the best I could have asked for,” Bellum added.