Students often find themselves torn between standing out on campus or blending in. It is this dilemma that can often instill doubts inside students' minds as to whether or not they are truly making the most of their college experience here at Kean. For Jonathan Ibarra, it was with unwavering certainty that he wanted to leave his mark on this campus.
Ibarra, a senior business management major, reflected recently on his decision to make his time at Kean as meaningful as it could be.
"My academic career has been challenging yet rewarding all at the same time, [ultimately] learning as much as I can in preparation for a long career ahead of me," Ibarra said.
This preparation for his future began when he decided to join Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc. — the very same fraternity that had only one active brother at the time.
"We faced a lot of adversity, but we decided to take on the challenge and make a change," Ibarra said. "I wanted to make a name for myself, for my organization."
Within a year, Ibarra and company transformed Lambda Theta Phi from a zero star chapter into a five star chapter. Despite this tremendous accomplishment, Ibarra maintained a humble spirit.
"I honestly couldn’t have accomplished anything in the organization without the huge support of my right hand man, Lucas Lopez," said Ibarra.
Through his undying commitment and resilience, Ibarra is now the president of Lambda Theta Phi. Although Ibarra was not hesitant to join a Greek organization, a majority of students on campus tend to have a substantial level of uncertainty. Ibarra kindly prompts individuals to take advantage of the Greek organizations on campus.
"For someone that is uncertain about Greek life, I definitely recommend checking out all of the organizations, seeing what they all have to offer and choosing which one they feel the most comfortable with," Ibarra said. "[Also it is] always [important to] think ahead. There’s much more to Greek life than just the undergraduate [years]."
Ibarra further emphasizes that joining a Greek organization is not a trivial matter.
"If and when the [student] does choose an organization, one must realize that it isn’t just about the letters across your chest. It’s a commitment to represent and better the organization in the best way that you can."
Another testament to Ibarra's involvement on campus and in the community is his frequent volunteerism. Whether it is helping out at the Community Food Bank, assisting at open houses or being environmentally focused at the Adopt-a-Park outreaches, Ibarra tends to fill his spare time with volunteering.
He even skipped out on the fun-filled possibilities of spring break and served on the alternate spring break trip. Amidst the many service events he has participated in, Habitat For Humanity stands out as his favorite.
"When I volunteered I saw how much of a change I was actually making," Ibarra said. "Maybe I didn’t see it right there at the moment, but I know someone out there was thankful for the food prepared at the food bank or the things that were built during a Habitat For Humanity [outreach]. A big lesson I learned is that it’s not simply volunteering. It’s us serving people that truly need it."
Ibarra's determination and involvement have not been overlooked. In fact, he was hailed Volunteer of the Year and Outstanding New Greek Member of the Year. Moreover, he was inducted into the Order of Omega National Honor Society, an undergraduate Greek society that recognizes fraternity and sorority members who display top-tier leadership in all Greek matters.
"I never would have imagined myself doing the work I’m doing now. Although I received such recognition and awards, I never did it to chase the awards. I did it because I felt like I had to put in work [both] inside and outside the classroom, and it had to be done," Ibarra said.
Sue Figueroa, the managing assistant director for community service and civic engagement, is the Greek adviser for Ibarra. Throughout the years of getting to know him, Figueroa has witnessed Ibarra’s tremendous growth as an all-around individual.
“Jonathan started off as a commuter student who decided that he was going to become more involved at Kean University. I remember the first time we met and how he shared that, although he commuted and worked, he wanted to immerse himself in the Kean Community in a more meaningful way,” Figueroa said.
Ibarra continues to be considerably involved and diligent throughout his time here at Kean, and he plans to carry this top-notch work ethic over into his future endeavors.
"My career goals include hopefully achieving my master's degree in the next years after graduation, and I would one day like to achieve my goal of managing my own company. I hope that, with the experience I currently have with working in my family business, I will [be able to] obtain my goal."
To Ibarra, Kean University has indubitably prepared him for his future. Ibarra mentioned that every student experiences trials and triumphs throughout their academic career, which ultimately transforms them into better students and individuals alike.
All in all, Jonathan Ibarra sets the bar for students who are devoted to being active on campus and in the community. It is through his dedication and desire to serve that he is able to continuously be a prominent student on campus, one whom others can aspire to be.
For more information on Lambda Theta Phi, please visit their Cougar Link webpage. Also, if one is interested in service opportunities, visit the Center for Leadership and Service (CLS) in the Miron Student Center (MSC), Room 219 or visit Cougar Link for all the available service trips.