Americans know sorority girls for their love of red cups and "cunt punting," but this month in Murray, Kentucky, the girls of Alpha Sigma Alpha accepted a bid from Alexis Cain, a Murray State University college sophomore with Down syndrome, breaking stereotypes about everyone's favorite sisterhood. The news has shocked the Midwest, becoming news in local papers and on disability-awareness blogs.
From the get-go, Alexis knew a sorority would accept her. But her mother, a Murray State University program development assistant named Camme Cain, worried rush week could have turned into a nightmare. "I was more nervous [than Alexis]," Camme told me in a phone interview. "I'm surprised I didn't get an ulcer from that week." Despite her fears, Camme supported her daughter and went along with her decision to rush. Throughout rush weeks, Alexis's classmates visited Camme to tell her it would be OK.
"Bless their hearts," Camme said. "They took care of mom."
Alexis went through the sorority process like any other student. Over the course of five days in early August, she visited different sororities, eventually choosing Alpha Sigma Alpha. Then, on a Sunday assembly captured in a YouTube video below, the sorority announced the results. Alexis stepped out from behind a black curtain. She walked onstage wearing pink shirt, a long braid running down her back. Her new sorority sisters announced Alexis's acceptance into Alpha Sigma Alpha, and Alexis lifted her hand in the air in triumph. She jumped off the stage, and her new sorority sisters immediately embraced her.
According to Camme, Alexis wanted to rush after seeing her friends, who belong to sororities, posting Facebook photos from sorority events. "[She dreamed about] how great it would be to have all these sisters," Camme told me over the phone. "She talked about it all summer."
When Alexis found out about fall rush, she decided she would try out. Camme had never participated in Greek life, so, like the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter, she encouraged Alexis to read about each sorority to pick the house that was best for her. Alexis told Camme her top two and made a list of other sororities she would try to join. From Wednesday to Sunday in early August, Alexis rushed at different sororities.
"She's got some stamina," Camme said. "When they told me what the schedule was gonna be, I was very surprised, but she did it, and [the sorority] said she was a trooper."
Camme picked her up on Friday afternoon. In the car, Alexis told her mom her top sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha, shocking Camme. Alexis hadn't mentioned Alpha Sigma Alpha in her top three at the top of rush week. Camme asked her why she suddenly considered Alpha Sigma Alpha her top choice.
"I just know," Alexis told her.