A New Chapter Begins ARTICLE BY SHERRY EGAN ANDERSON, ANGELOS EDITOR; VIDEO INTERVIEW BY KRISTEN ARCHER, SENIOR MULTIMEDIA MANAGER "You think when you have your college experience, you're done. Then all of a sudden you start meeting people in your adult life who are KDs and your sisters, and that immediate draw of friendship and sisterhood starts all over again. That's how it's been for me." Sheila Vaughn Vahey gets tears in her eyes and a catch in her voice talking about the Kappa Delta friendships she has made since she was initiated in 1982 into Beta Sigma Chapter at the University of Southern Mississippi. The bond of KD sisterhood is woven throughout Sheila's personal and professional lives where there also is a seamless commitment to helping children. In her role as a clinical educator in the pediatric intensive care unit at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Sheila trains new nurses for the critical care experience, in addition to providing nursing care and advocacy for her young patients. It is rewarding work that comes with difficult challenges. Beyond providing medical care, Sheila and the other nurses in her unit are helping families cope with their children's long-term illnesses or traumatic injuries. She says, "They do not plan for that in their lives, so being patient, understanding and a good listener helps them through the process ... even if it's just sitting there holding their hands when there is nothing we can do to help their child." Compassion is the biggest skill she has acquired, and one she began developing in Beta Sigma Chapter where she learned sisters are together as one and can always count on each other for support. Today Sheila has the unusual good fortune to mentor and work closely with nine Kappa Delta women in her nursing unit. "I have a very special relationship with my KD sisters . . . When we have a hard day and need a shoulder to cry on or just a hug, they know they can come to me, and I'm going to be there for them. It makes me feel really special," Sheila says. As one of the more experienced nurses in the unit, Sheila makes an effort to build confidence in the younger nurses. She says: "I'm committed to them. I encourage them to be strong. Follow their dreams. I truly believe in them." The Kappa Delta nurses know they can call on Sheila or each other any time of day or night if they have questions or just need a listening ear. "This support has made a big difference in the retention in our unit and the way the nurses believe in themselves," Sheila says. Their confidence is noticeable. "The sisters in my unit are looked to as the leaders . . . and they're well-respected by others. We always smile and say, 'It's the KD spirit.' " Thirty years ago when Sheila packed up everything she owned into a Nissan Pulsar and headed from her hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, to her new job and life in Atlanta, her Beta Sigma sisters were there to boost her confidence. She says: "My sisters at home encouraged me and told me I could do this, I have a place in the world, and I'm here to make a difference." The nights she was lonely or sad or doubted her abilities, her KD sisters would tell her: "You've got this, you can do it, and we're very proud of you." "Then I believed in myself," Sheila says. Today she experiences a "sparkle" when she realizes a new nurse she's just met is a Kappa Delta. "I tear up thinking about it, because [Kappa Delta] is so incredibly special, and it lasts a lifetime. I thought that was so cliche, but it's so true . . . And now I find myself being more involved in KD than I ever dreamed I would be in college." Sheila is a member of the Greater Atlanta Day Alumnae Chapter and the Greater Marietta/Roswell Alumnae Chapter, which she recently helped reorganize. Atlanta has five alumnae chapters to reach members in the different areas of the city and to accommodate their lifestyles. Sheila says: "We try to help [KDs] wherever they are in their life cycle... There is a place for them . . . They can still be a part of Kappa Delta and still be committed to their families and communities." Sheila has seen how staying involved in Kappa Delta after college has benefited others. Women who have come to the alumnae chapter get-to-gethers have found roommates and new jobs through KD connections. Talking about her own experience, she says: "Every time I come to a [KD] meet-and-greet or a State Day, I meet the most incredible women from across the country who now live here. You walk into the room, and you truly have this sigh of relief that these women believe in you . . . Sometimes you can't put it into words; you just look across and see them smile, and you have this instant connection. They care about you as a person and want to hear what you have to say." In addition to the benefits of sisterhood, Sheila enjoys the community service she has an opportunity to provide through an alumnae chapter. As the Greater Marietta/Roswell AC was getting going, members looked to their local community to see where there was a need for their help. "We knew we wanted to do something with Prevent Child Abuse America," Sheila says. "We looked for a [children's] advocacy center near us and reached out to Safe Path." AC members toured the facility, met with the staff and realized what a huge need the center had. So far, they've held a clothing drive and supplied Christmas gifts for families. "Our hearts were so filled when we left there," she says. "I literally sat in my car and smiled because I knew we made such a difference." Currently, they're creating a flower garden at the center to provide a serene environment for therapy, and they hope to help the center obtain service dogs. Community service, especially helping improve the lives of children, has always been important to Sheila, and Kappa Delta's commitment to service was one of the things that drew her to KD as a collegian. In recent years, she has been involved with her children's Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, volunteered with the Children's Advocacy Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and served as a member of the Atlanta Panhellenic Association, where she works to develop sisterhood across the 21 member groups currently represented in the city. Sheila has noticed others in the Panhellenic look to the Kappa Delta women as leaders. She says: "The mission [Kappa Deltas] have to build each other up as women and support each other is what we're all about, and we're very passionate about finding that in others... together we can make a difference. If we show we can make a difference in the world... we shine and people see that, and that's how we stay in the forefront." She takes this same positive message to Eta Omega-Kennesaw State where she serves on the chapter advisory board. She says: "They look to us for guidance and support, and I've met incredible women who are great leaders." When she participates in the senior ceremonies that welcome graduates into alumnae life, she tells the collegians: "The Kappa Delta experience does not end in college as I thought it did . . . It's truly the beginning of your Kappa Delta experience, and you make it what it is. You have the opportunity to make a difference in your community. The confidence you can gain and the networking is just the beginning of a whole new chapter."
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