Brian Weaver, assistant communication professor at Community College of Denver (CCD), had not always been academically successful in high school and, like many students, encountered challenges such as bullying.
When the role of faculty advisor to CCD’s national honor society Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) opened up in the fall of 2019, Weaver jumped at the opportunity to help other students find themselves in PTK like he had. A member of PTK himself while a student at Arapahoe Community College from 1991-1993, he’d experienced the power of its benefits first-hand, including landing a full scholarship to attend The University of Denver.
“One of the greatest values of PTK membership is the scholarship opportunities it opens up,” Weaver says.
“Community college and the very real validation of PTK membership also allowed me to see myself more accurately — as a scholar, a leader, an academician and philosopher. Being part of a society of like-minded colleagues was exponentially powerful. I’m 46 and I still feel like I belong. I want our members to feel that, too. They’re in for a lifetime.”
Together with PTK’s robust student leadership, led by President Kelly Shanley, Weaver helped channel members toward the goal of earning five-star status. PTK membership, in general, is prestigious, but the more stars a chapter has, the more prestigious it becomes — and thus is more valuable in helping students land scholarships.
“It’s rigorous and includes objectives to earn each star according to a standardized metric provided by international headquarters,” Weaver says. “The hardest to meet are the fourth and fifth stars that require a large service and research project.”
The fourth star involved a “college project.” To earn it, PTK partnered with Mile High United Way to create “Students for Collaborative Change” to address challenging Denver issues including homelessness and lack of access to quality education. The project enabled students to volunteer through the Mile-High United Way website for projects that inspired them while having their service hours tracked.
“They let us create our own mini organization within theirs to get out into the community,” Weaver says. Instead of all these separate student organizations doing little projects on their own, Students for Collaborative Change enabled them to join together for greater impact.
For its fifth star, “honors in action,” PTK members partnered with Community Resources, Inc. (CRI), an organization that works directly with Denver Public Schools to provide needed resources.
“Our partnership allowed students to volunteer to judge a science fair and participate in school family nights and related events that we used as a centerpiece for our research project that asked, ‘how do these kinds of connections impact the community’s greater good?’” Weaver says.
Weaver sites the scholarship opportunities PTK offers students as a primary membership benefit.
“A lot of the big scholarship funds such as Coca Cola Foundation pull from PTK first,” he says. “We’re a kind of clearinghouse for scholarships. Members can log in twice a year in scholarship rounds and submit one application that goes to all recruiting organizations because they know and trust the credentials of our candidates. As an advisor, I also can push forward a few more names of deserving students for consideration by the scholarship committee.”
PTK provides members with outstanding leadership opportunities and frequently receives invitations to join city- and state-wide committees.
“The governor came to our school last semester to discuss college costs and some of the bills in legislation and asked PTK people to meet with him for discourse and debate.”
Finally, PTK students revel in fellowship and support.
“At any moment my office and the PTK area is flooded with members having tea, planning schedules, doing homework, collaborating, going through life’s hard times together.”
Weaver is proud to call his role as advisor a “miracle job.”
“That kind of fellowship, that sense of belonging PTK membership offers, did so much for my self-esteem and self-concept that it’s really immeasurable,” Weaver says.
“I’m not blowing smoke or trying to inflate myself; that’s really how it feels It’s so rewarding. These people are wicked smart and crushing it. When they get together, they push each other to do even more in a healthy, cooperative. way. They do it in a way that supports them all to achieve their goals.”