Despite being opposite College Night sides, Michael Cleary and James Powers are brothers for life.
Two days before the College Night Mixer on Sept. 22, students from both Purple and Gold sides gathered together to decorate the bricks with College Night propaganda. Purple side wants YOU. Gold side wants YOU. It seemed like a regular College Night gathering with the exception that something was missing. The usual tension between the sides was nowhere to be found.
The College Night chalking was a time for both sides to put their differences aside and come together for the cause of helping students who had yet to find their home away from home. The importance of this is something this year’s male leaders know something about.
“I think Montevallo in general is just a place for wayward travelers and people who didn’t necessarily feel at home wherever they were from, or they didn’t fit in at their high schools. They come here, and they get to find a home,” James Powers, Purple leader said. “And I think Purple side is that home for a lot of people.”
Powers found his side his freshman year when Korey Wilson, a student who would go on to become Purple side leader, came up to him when he was sitting alone in the caf. Wilson invited him to sit with some other Purples. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I got to sit with these people who I had never seen before from all these different cultures and backgrounds,” Powers said. “And [Korey] was just like ‘Hey man, you never have to sit by yourself again. You can sit with us.’”
Feeling that some things didn’t quite click with him on Purple side, Gold side Leader Michael Cleary made the switch after his freshman year.
“Gold side is a place where we don’t want anyone to feel like they have to be a Gold,” Cleary said. “We want people to come to our side and be like ‘Yes, this is a place where I know I can thrive.’”
It’s no secret that College Night is somewhat of a cut throat game. What started off as a way to honor alumni and bring students together has since turned into a battle of the sides. But that’s about to change. By putting their friendship on display and leading by example, Cleary and Powers are showing students that it is possible for both sides to coexist and play the game harmoniously.
Cleary and Powers met in passing during their freshman year, both being theater majors, but their friendship really began to solidify once they joined Lambda Chi Alpha in 2012. Since becoming side leaders, Cleary says it’s made their friendship stronger.
“We’re both very similar individuals ambition wise, and there’s a mutual appreciation for what the other is doing,” Cleary said. “Yes we are competing, but ultimately we’re just trying to do our best for our school and for our side.”
During the summer, Cleary and Powers occasionally got together to talk about the upcoming College Night season and the way they wanted things to go as far as easing the animosity between the sides. So far their efforts have proven profitable.
Powers noticed the change at the annual ribbon hanging when he saw Purples and Golds crossing over from their sides to talk and hang out with each other. College Night can’t be played without both sides. Who wins or loses shouldn’t be the end-all be-all of the season.
“At the end of the day, both me and Michael realize that this is a game,” Powers said. “The purpose of College Night is not to win. The purpose of College Night is to promote school unity. At the end of the day we’re still brothers and great friends.”
There’s been a strain on this year’s College Night season because the shorter school calendar has resulted in a shorter amount of rehearsal time. Nevertheless, both sides have soldiered on to put on the best show they can.
Both leaders are excited for opening night because it will give them the chance to put their friendship on display and show the University how easy it is to get along. Once we achieve that, it will be a victory for everyone.