In a college environment, sometimes even the most important issues are swept to side amidst the hustle and bustle of campus life. But Penn State’s Sisters on the Runway chapter aims to take a stand against a problem that affects students everywhere: domestic violence.
Since the national organization’s original founding in 2005, SOTR has grown immensely. However, Penn State didn’t have its own chapter until current president Layla Taremi decided to initiate the movement in 2011. Once she chose to attend Penn State, she knew she wanted to continue her previous high school involvement with the cause — since then, the mission has skyrocketed.
“After starting the Cambridge Rindge and Latin Division chapter, dozens of my high school peers joined me in the fight against domestic violence, raising thousands of dollars for Transition House,” Taremi said. “Upon high school graduation, and after committing to Penn State, my next goal was to start a chapter at Penn State.”
Taremi officially opened the Penn State chapter in 2014 with fellow student and friend Lauren Shearer. Since then, the organization has worked tirelessly to raise funds for the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, as well as increase awareness about domestic violence as a whole. The organization hosts various events each year, such as Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, the SOTR Annual Benefit Fashion Show, self-defense classes, and a date auction alongside Her Campus and Delta Upsilon. Throughout the past three years, the members have learned what it truly means to participate in philanthropy, spread the word about an important mission, and become leaders in the journey to end domestic violence. SOTR also aims to foster relationships with other organizations on campus in order to strengthen the cause. At first, the organization started out small — now, the chapter collaborates with multiple organizations, faculty, and fellow students across campus.
“One of SOTR: Penn State’s biggest goals is to gather as many other Penn State organizations [as possible] to join us in our fight,” Taremi said. “The specific way we love to spread additional awareness around campus is by inviting other Penn State orgs to collaborate or partner with SOTR, or simply by inviting other organizations to attend our event to help spread awareness to as many Penn State students as possible.”
Though Penn State’s chapter of SOTR is still quite new to campus, the organization has already been able to witness the incredible impact the group’s work has on the community. SOTR’s membership and fundraisers continue to grow each year — for example, the fashion show had a humble start in the Smeal College of Business, but this year’s event will now take place in Alumni Hall. Taremi will pass the president position on to current member Alexandra Couch after the end of this year, but she hopes to see the event move to the Bryce Jordan Center one day.
SOTR also participated in its second annual date auction on March 28 — the event garnered support from a large audience and raised $825 for the Centre County Women’s Resource Center. The total was more than $300 higher than last year, and the highest bid was an impressive $72. Overall, it’s safe to say the organization appears to be well on its way to even more growth in the coming years.
“My favorite part of SOTR is seeing how much our chapter at Penn State has grown over these past few years and how much people care about our cause,” Head of Models Hannah Steffe said. “It’s really nice to see students take time out of their busy schedules and show that they care.”
For everyone involved in the cause, membership has been nothing but rewarding. One of the most important aspects of SOTR lies in the relationships sparked from working to combat such a prominent issue. The organization aims to teach women how to empower each other, as well as stress the importance of supporting someone going through a dangerous situation. In fact, one of the most important parts of fighting the issue is simply taking a stand to start honest conversations throughout the community. As the group continues to reach more people each year, bonds between SOTR and the rest of Happy Valley grow stronger.
“Domestic violence affects so many people,” SOTR model Elle Roberts said. “If I am lucky enough to not be directly affected by domestic violence, I want to do everything I can to help those who are.”