Friday, March 24, 2017

Attending the Women's March on Washington - Casey Aldridge '17

On Saturday, January 21, 2017, I took to the streets of Washington, D.C. with anywhere between five hundred thousand and one million marchers as part of the Women's March on Washington. Caroline Fowle, Addy Goff, and I carpooled together on Thursday evening to prepare for and attend the march. When Saturday morning came, the metro was packed over capacity, as more people flooded to the mall than had the day before for the Inauguration. I've been to some massive protests before, including the People's Climate March in New York City in 2014, but I don't think I have ever seen this many people in one place. As far as one could see was a crowded but beautiful sea of pink hats and protest signs.

Several other Levine Scholars and Alumni attended the march, some of whom I did not realize were in Washington until I saw protest photos on Instagram or Facebook later that evening. I was -- to my knowledge -- the only Levine Scholar at the D.C. march to not identify as a woman or as female. The scope of the march, however, was by no means limited to any single issue or constituency. Janelle MonĂ¡e led the crowd in her #BlackLivesMatter anthem, "Hell You Talmbout." Native American demonstrators made their presence known, carrying the slogans of the movement in Standing Rock for clean water and against the North Dakota Access Pipeline. Muslims, Jews, atheists, and Christians marched together against religious bigotry. LGBT folks voiced their concerns and their demands in the face of the new administration. Many immigrants at the march carried signs declaring that they were "undocumented and unafraid." 

The march was a beautiful reminder of what our world can look like, even if it doesn't look that way today. Millions across the United States marched that day, in Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, New York, and Charlotte, just to name a few. I knew family, friends, and fellow Levine Scholars at the march in Charlotte, which drew nearly twenty thousand people. The numbers, of course, are less important than the people themselves. It was an honor to march with friends and make new friends in the streets at the Women's March, and to be present in their frustration, anger, fear, sadness, and defiant joy. Feminism and other justice-oriented social movements flexed their muscles on January 21, and that ought to be encouraging to us all.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Finalist Weekend 2017 - Reginald Harper Jr, '20

This year’s finalist weekend was a success. Being a freshman, seeing the other side of the program was beneficial to me, as I was able to witness the logistics that went into the production as a whole, and gave clarity to some of the questions that I filed away last year.

I enjoy meeting people in general, so this weekend particularly piqued my interest. While it is hard to meet seventy or more students and their families in depth, I found it valuable to see such a successful class entering next year, regardless of who is selected. Even further, I know that those who may not receive this scholarship have endless opportunities in other ways. It is encouraging to see the amount of students who are making differences in their own individual ways, as it indicates the impact that they will make on our, or other, universities, and eventually, on our society as a whole. 

On the other hand, as we approached the event, I found myself reflecting on how much of a blessing the program is. Being able to have directors who are invested in seeing us succeed and fellow scholars who push each other to go above and beyond encourages me to excel in every facet of life. I am so comforted to have found a family in those that I have bonded with over the last year, and I know that there is no other program like this one.

I am eager to meet those who continue their studies here, whether through the program or not, and for them to experience such a network that will help highlight their strengths, improve on their weaknesses, and become productive citizens of our society.

Monday, December 12, 2016

'Twas the Week Before Finals - Ryan Mach '17

‘Twas the week before finals, when all through the school,
Not a student was stirring, not even the frat boys who think they’re so cool.
The papers were written with the finest of care,
In hopes that we would avoid that final semester scare.

The students were snuggled ‘neath blankets of wool
Filled to the brim with their studying aids, coffee and red bull
And freshmen in the ‘brary, and I in my exam
Had just amped up our brains for a long winter’s cram

When out on the quad there arose such a clatter,
That I sprung from my chair to see what was the matter
Away from that class I flew in a flash
For I was looking for any excuse to get out in a dash

The fog lying low to the ground
Helped muffle my footfalls til I made not a sound
When, what surprise I did see
But the fluff of fur that belongs to a puppy

For it was that time of year around here
When UNCC brought the pups to quell student’s fears
In walked their owner with a chuckle of glee
Delighted knowing he’d help prevent student’s C’s.

“Now Roger! Now Daphne!
Now Mojo and Lexi!
On Dash! On Delilah!
On Fido and Maxi!
To the back of the library,
To the lap of the students,
Now cuddle away! Cuddle away!
Cuddle away all!”

So shouted their owner with force,
And the dogs did love all, as they will of course
So up to the laps the puppies did fly
And now the sad students no longer did cry

‘Twas then that the students did double down on school,
For they had finally found their secret weapon, their tool
The love of the pups did bring them around
And now it was easy to do exams they found
And at the end of the week the owner did leave
But not before students took their exams and achieve
With school over for the semester and students going home
The pups were now free to go roam

As the owner was packing his truck to depart
Away from him one puppy did dart
And I picked him up and gave him back to his owner with ease
Then to me the owner said “Listen closely, if you’d please

‘Tis the season of exams and of stressing,
But if you could listen for just one final lesson,
For following this season of stress
There is one final thing you need to address

Remember that the holidays are about to begin,
A time to pig out and meet back with kin
So remember as you’re about to take flight
Good luck on finals to all, and to all a good night!”

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.”