Monday, December 5, 2016

Dance Marathon 2016 - by Sam Lee '20

It’s Friday, November 4th. 6:58 pm. UNC Charlotte students and their friends from Levine Children’s Hospital are lined up side by side, decked out in beads, tu-tus and other festive attire to represent their color group, preparing to dash up the steps of the Popp Martin Student Union to kick off one of the most exciting events of the year: Dance Marathon.
The weeks leading up to Dance Marathon are some of the busiest of the year for my fellow Levine Scholars, who are a force to be reckoned with on the Dance Marathon committees. They headed many of these committees from Catering and Entertainment to Morale and Family Relation. Hours of dedicated planning went into the events leading up to Dance Marathon that culminated in the longest, most fun night of the fall.
From nine in the morning, until five in the afternoon (just enough time for a very quick power nap before the event officially started), various scholars, joined by building services and other volunteers, gathered at the Union to put the final touches on decorations and other preparations. My job was to cover the stairs in streamers from top to bottom, and to help paint the signs for color rooms. Others helped with decorating the top level, blowing up balloons and hanging signs. Some members of the catering committee spent the day picking up food for the event.
After the legendary stair climb, we all entered into the main room, greeted by disco-like lights and the fun decorations from this morning. Everyone immediately began swaying and shaking to the music. One of the Miracle Kids took center stage in a group I was dancing with, twirling her wheelchair to the beat of the catchy pop music. We later learned that she loves to dress up as Disney princesses, and that for Dance Marathon she wore her very favorite dress: Elsa from Frozen’s blue dress.
Soon after seven, the mastermind behind the organization of Dance Marathon and sophomore Levine Scholar, Danielle, got up onto the stage and announced the official kickoff of the night. She also explained that periodically throughout the night we would be able to hear the stories of some of the Miracle Families that had experience with Levine Children’s Hospital and sometimes, even see the amazing children speak themselves about their time at Levine and how they’ve grown up since.
The night began to fly by as the families told their stories between lessons from the Morale Committee on the official 2016 DM dance, many more songs, and plenty of opportunities to chow down on the delicious food. Each individual story was simultaneously inspirational, heartbreaking, and hopeful. Hearing about the hardships and challenges that the carefree children I had just been dancing with have already faced in their lives was tough, but seeing their bright faces when they got down with us to a group dance lifted my spirits. No matter what they’ve faced, these kids are strong and resilient.
As the final few families had the chance to tell their story, many of the kids started to get sleepy as the hours of dancing wore them out. Many of the Miracle Kids had to go home to get some rest through out the night. UNCC students stuck around for another seven hours, showing their respect for the families and their dedication to the cause. The rest of the night was filled with dancing games, drawings for prizes, tons of food, Zumba, and a DJ Battle. Students sustained themselves on cake pops, bagels, coffee, fried chicken, tacos and a variety of other food, all donated.
Finally, as the sun rose, those who made it through the entire night gathered in the main room for the big reveal. After awards for spectacular fundraising and a big drumroll, the leaders of Dance Marathon took the stage and raised the numbers one at a time. $50,858.52! The culmination of months of work and dedication from every participant, 2016 brought the most money raised in the history of Charlotte Dance Marathon. Everyone went home exhausted but proud of the spectacular work we had all done “for the kids.”

Monday, November 7, 2016

CoopStrong Homecoming Tailgate - By Addy Goff '17

Over the course of the last four years, UNC Charlotte has become my home away from home. The Levine Scholars Program has provided me with a support system resembling a family, with fellow scholars becoming more like siblings than classmates, and faculty members looking out for me both in and out of the classroom. Just like any family, the Levine community has demonstrated to me the importance of encouragement and lifting others up, especially during difficult times. When Jefferson Cooper, a best friend and a member of my cohort, shared that his father Nelson had been diagnosed with ALS, I knew that I could count on this Levine community to rally and show their support for the Coopers. 
Since the beginning of Jefferson’s time as a Levine Scholar, The Cooper family has been a constant presence and support within the program. Volunteering as panelists at Finalist weekend, making rounds at the annual Chancellor’s dinner, cheering on the Niners every fall with season football tickets—it is likely that most people have crossed paths with the Coopers at some point or another. It is safe to say that you can count on a fun sports conversation with Nelson or big hug from Mary Ann whenever the Coopers are around. Because the Cooper family is so special to the LSP, I quickly recognized that many scholars, faculty, and family members wanted to show their support and encouragement. I immediately starting thinking about ways that we could show our support on a programmatic level and decided that Homecoming Weekend served as the perfect time to bring everyone together. 

With help from the Levine office, I partnered with the Richardson family to host the “CoopStrong Homecoming Tailgate.” In addition to making event buttons that were sold at the event, we also launched a GoFundMe page during the weeks leading up to the tailgate. Of course no tailgate is complete without food, and Dr. Mike and Kelly definitely out-did themselves by preparing an entire Thanksgiving spread. The day was filled with so much happiness as of scholars, friends, and family members came together to give Nelson a hug and to show him how much he means to us. To my surprise, Mr. and Mrs. Levine even stopped by the tailgate. More than anything else, the success of the event proved to me just how strong the Levine community actually is. While this was the last time that I will attend a Homecoming Game as a student before graduating in the spring, I know that the Levine Scholars Program and UNC Charlotte will always exist as an extension of my own family. This year’s Homecoming Game showed me what it truly means to “come home.”

Monday, October 24, 2016

NOLS Reflection - By Noah Shaver '20

I never thought a Brazilian man named Felipe could change my life. I never thought I would actually look back at NOLS and say “I wish I could go back.” Then again, I never thought I would be crazy enough to go to Wyoming and spend twenty three days in the wilderness. NOLS completely changed my perspective on everything, it taught me to approach tasks with an open mind and to re-evaluate items in my life that were truly “needed.” The relationships built on trail at NOLS are relationships that can prevail through much more than those built while at a leadership conference in the air conditioning. If we can climb mountains, cook food, and live in the same tent together, what is there that we can’t do? 

I’m not going to lie, the first few days of NOLS were tough; I missed my home, I missed toilet paper, and, most of all, I missed my family. The first 5 days of the trip were definitely the least enjoyable for me. This period was increased in difficulty with the triple evacuation of Seth, Kaylyn, and Daiana; seeing them go was like losing members of a family. Re-starting our expedition after the unexpected evacuation was not easy, but I feel it honed our leadership skills by forcing us to uplift one another, to “carry on,” so to speak, and to value ISGE (independent student group expedition) more than before. The evacuations were a clear picture of how dependent we were on the instructors and the branch; we knew we had a long way to go until we were truly prepared for ISGE. When the time did come, I was voted designated leader by my peers to be the “instructor” for the remaining three days. The second day of this three day ISGE period was the most fun I had over the course of the entire expedition; there were no trails for miles. Part of the reason I was chosen as DL (designated leader) was due to my navigation skills using the GPS and maps, it was fun for me to be able to travel without trails and only utilize my brain. This second day of ISGE was perfect for this type of travel, we hiked off trail for nearly twelve hours! Day 22 left me with a clear reflection on what it meant to be successful as a Levine Scholar: utilize your brain, don’t let the trails of others misguide you on your journey to success. We were able to utilize our brains to blaze our own trail on day 22, and at the end of the day it was awesome to look back at the map and say “We just did that!”

NOLS is something I will never forget. When I say it changed my life I truly mean it; it changed the way I do all things throughout my daily routine. I can’t thank our instructors (Audrey, Jason, Felipe, and Kate) enough for all that they did for us to make sure we all returned home in one piece. Before we went on NOLS I wondered why Billy would ever want to do it every summer, but now I can see why: it’s the trip of a lifetime every year. Looking back on all that we accomplished in Wyoming, this semester doesn’t seem so difficult, it’s just another mountain. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Charlotte Immersion Tour - By Kaylyn Groth '20

     When the Levine Scholarship Program was established one requirement made between the University of North Carolina and the Levine Foundation, was that the freshman should be taken on a sort of tour, throughout Charlotte, to immerse them in the history and culture of the city.  This would be dubbed the Charlotte Immersion Tour.  This year, our class continued the tradition by going on a bus and walking tour of many areas of Charlotte, including places in and near uptown, and around campus and the University City area.  

     On our tour, we discovered all of the culture Charlotte has to offer—much that is hidden in plain sight.  It was an incredible and humbling experience to start your day knowing little about an area, especially being from out of state, then going home that afternoon with a whole new knowledge and appreciation of it.  We were very fortunate to be in the company of such an intelligent and fun historian as our guide for the day.  

     We started the tour exploring the east side of Charlotte.  We were told to look out for the "cultural landscape," meaning, how the landscape changes from location to location based on the demographics of the population living there.  We even stopped at an apartment complex that had a slave gravesite in the center of the complex.  That shocked me!  

     Visiting the Levine Museum of the New South was another very interesting part of our day, as we were able to see a lot of the history of how Charlotte has progressed from its establishment to the present.  With the museum being another part of the Levine family’s contribution to Charlotte, it is yet another example of how prevalent they are here and how we can carry that name with us to continue making a difference. 

     When then made it to the west side of Charlotte, exploring West Charlotte high school and the surrounding areas.  We learned a lot about segregation and bussing in Charlotte.  

     Although we really enjoyed the touring part of the immersion tour, I think it is safe to say that lunch at Mert’s was one of the best parts of all of our days.  With a menu full of southern comfort food that made it nearly impossible to choose between everything, we had an amazing meal and a fun experience.  Overall, it was a great introduction to a growing community full of culture.

Monday, September 26, 2016

My Brexit Experience - By Randy Staples '18

The European Union (EU) is one of a kind. Comprised of the strongest countries in Europe, monopolizing the oldest former empires in the West, this Union started from nothing more than a gathering of leaders to discuss coal and steel trading. From coal and steel a glut of history, influence, and wealth blossomed that the world has not seen on such a united scale. Europe in all its rich history has seen countless wars over territory, inheritance, and legacy. For the continent to put aside it’s tumultuous past and come together as a united front is nothing short of a miracle. It is hard to find another a functional supranational alliance in all of modern history that has enjoyed so much power.  Today, the EU is a collection of pooled resources, talent, and knowhow that was poised to be a major player on the world stage for decades to come. 


On June 23, 2016, Great Britain held an extremely rare nation-wide referendum that would determine whether they remained in the EU. The backdrop is that months earlier Prime Minister David Cameron conceded to allow for the vote in order to settle disputes and infighting within his Conservative Party, never thinking that the country would vote anything other than to remain committed to the ideals and strength of the EU. The day and the vote came and went, and with it went more than half a century of planning, innovation, history, wealth, cultural norms, borders, and established tradition that were hard fought to put in place. London voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, but the rest of the country voted to the contrary, and that was enough to tip the scales backwards in a time-travel exercise that landed Great Britain 23 years in the past.  A move that was initially - as we know now self-sacrificing on Cameron’s part - afforded as nothing more than a concession, a throwaway, became the biggest vote in the UK in over one hundred years. 

Great Britain has always been a hotbed for what is known as Euroscepticism, or distrust and animosity towards the EU. As one of the most powerful and influential countries in the Union, many in the country consider national interests far above the interests of Europe as a whole. Many tend to think domestically first, before, if ever, turning their heads to the happenings in other countries around the continent. Since its official inclusion in 1993, Britain has never looked kindly on the institution. With London being the exception, the country has long been a hotbed for xenophobia, which many think led to the unprecedented voter turnout. 

I had the pleasure of matriculating at the London School of Economics and interning with Resurgence (headed up by the spectacular Mark Harvey) over this past summer, and I was on the ground before, during, and after the vote. The atmosphere before was interesting. It was like nothing I’d seen in the US, really. There were various ‘Stay’ and ‘Leave’ campaigns with volunteers outside every tube stop, handing out stickers and literature, but other than that, no one seemed especially excited about this particular demonstration of the democratic process. Everyone, regardless of stance, seemed anxious at best and indifferent at worst.  Conversely, Americans are an interesting bunch when it comes to politics. We’re very excitable in many segments of the country.  Our excitement is typically fueled and/or extinguished by our differences like race, socioeconomic status, age, etc. In London, politics are enthralling, maybe even more so than in the States; primarily because of how the voting process is structured. That said, people never wanted to discuss it until after the vote. No one had any strong opinions until the results came out, and then - chaos. 

Voting took all day on the 23rd, and they were counted well into the night. Sometime in the early morning, British Summer Time (BST), the results were official. After the announcement the city came alive, as if someone had made the mistake of disturbing a sleeping lion. The British Pound plummeted by 10-15% and stock markets worldwide reacted accordingly. In a city where the majority of people treaded the line between apathy and ignorance, the news rumbled through the streets like a bull through a china shop. I was bombarded with the solicited and unsolicited opinions of my classmates and colleagues on the 24th. I was truly taken aback. In one fell swoop, palpable outrage and disbelief sprang up from every direction. As a visiting American with dollars in my bank account, the subsequent developments were financially beneficial; but as a supporter of global progress and democracy, I could not help but express my disappointment with the results. 

How could a country so storied, bemoaned, and hailed for its historic global relevance turn back decades of progress overnight? How could a cornerstone of the EU arbitrarily decide that the strength and power that comes with a united Europe just wasn’t for them anymore? It left my head spinning. If my head was spinning, the heads of the British citizens had long ago spun right off. Over the following weeks, I came across too many people who had declined to make it out to a voting station because the weather was bad. On the flip side, I also encountered indivi
At London School of Economics
duals who thought that voting leave meant leaving Europe as a continent. 

If the voting electorate is not educated when they go to the polls, it is impossible for democracy to fully function properly. Here in the US, if we are not engaged and active as informed citizens, we too could see democracy work in ways it isn’t ideally meant to. Many were wholly unfamiliar with the EU as an institution, and they were especially unfamiliar with the rights it afforded them in Europe, like free and easy passage in any EU member country or residency status in any of the 28 countries just with EU citizenship.

Taking the temperature of the city and of the country in the weeks and months following the decision proved difficult at best. On the surface, it seemed the populace had summarily slid back into the nonplussed attitude that I had seen previous to the shakeup, but under the surface, everyone was and is still boiling and it was always the trending topic of discussion in most places I frequented. Many are still trying to process the magnitude and meaning what occurred that day.  A myriad of anticipated and unintended consequences will be felt and realized for generations to come.  It’ll be interesting to watch it unfold as the ‘conscious uncoupling’ ensues.  Called Brexit, June 23rd, 2016, will be a day that will forever live in infamy.  I believe America could learn a few things.