Friday, May 5, 2017

A Levine Scholar and a Dance Major - Lauren Tooley '20

Nothing is better than seeing people's reactions when I tell them that yes, I am a Levine Scholar but yes, I am also a dance major.  Some people are intrigued, some are confused, and most think that I am going to open my own dance studio (I'm not).

Choosing to be a dance major seemed obvious to me, as I have danced all my life.  I am combining it with a marketing degree to have something "practical" that will diversify my education and help with getting hired upon graduation.  However, my dance major is really what has made my time here at UNCC challenging, rewarding, and enjoyable.

Funnily enough, I tried to hide my dance major from LSP when I was applying.  I told them I was interested in business, but I put dance on my original UNCC application.  At finalist weekend, I sat down at my table for dinner and I met with Dr. Amato, the director of the Business Honors Program, and Dr. Amin, an assistant professor in the dance department.  I was pleasantly surprised to have my two intended majors represented at the table. This was only the beginning of the support and encouragement I have received from LSP about my uncommon major.

Now that I am one year into my time at UNCC, I am so happy with my decision.  Because of the advising I have received, I have been able to combine both majors and fill my schedule with exciting opportunities and activities.  I performed in the spring dance show, attained an internship on campus with a start-up company, and joined multiple student organizations in both the business and dance fields.  Being a student at UNCC, especially being a Levine Scholar, means that your opportunities are endless and the only one preventing you from doing the things you want is yourself.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Not Your Average Alternative Spring Break - Kevin Smith '20

On March 5th, 2017, nine Levine Scholars from the Classes of 2019 and 2020 departed Charlotte, NC on their way to Lewisburg, West Virginia for the program’s first-ever Alternative Spring Break trip.  Accompanied by the LSP Director, Dr. Zablotsky, the LSP Scholar Coordinator, Billy Roosenberg, and an integral LSP consultant, Richard Smith, the 12 members set out not to achieve success but to create a lasting impact on a community in need of a helping hand.

I can’t speak for the group, but I had no idea what we were about to experience. We had prepared well for the trip by hosting multiple orientation sessions and recruiting experienced faculty from the Geography Department just to educate us on the Appalachian region. We became familiar with where we would be, but there is no preparation for the type of people we might expect to meet. Upon arrival, we met the director of Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity—Lori Greene. She welcomed us to West Virginia and briefed us on our team leads for the week-long project as well as the work we would be doing. It was unsurprising to learn that teamwork was going to crucial for the week ahead—between the Habitat work and the preparation of meals, we had to be efficient with our time and communicate effectively to make a difference.
Our first trip to the work site was Monday morning. The work began with a meaningful prayer by Team Lead Luther (known to many by the name of Lord Luther). This tradition would carry on for the remaining days of work. We would arrive early, get briefed on our assignment, and participate on a group prayer lead by Luther. The group prayers were a fantastic metaphor of our presence in West Virginia and that’s why I looked forward to them as my favorite part of the day. We came together and, with a similar goal in mind, set our attention on the job at hand.

Lewisburg, West Virginia was not randomly selected as our alternative Spring Break location. We were there to help families who experienced excessive flood damage to their previous homes. Habitat works with these families and provides them extremely-low interest rates so that they can begin to live a normal life again and still maintain the title of homeowner. While working inside the house, you could find the future homeowner busy on job assignments of her own. She painted, measured, and consulted a number of projects within the home. That’s one of the reasons this trip hit home for so many of us because of who benefits the most from this trip.

We showered in a different facility from the one we slept in. It wasn’t an inconvenience though, because we shared the showers with other groups working in Lewisburg to make a difference. Communicating with these folks helped to remind me of the kindness of people. I made the decision to go to West Virginia based fractionally on the lack of activities I planned for Spring Break, but the other groups made the conscious decision to come, not because they had nothing better to do, but to improve the lives of others and that’s important.
We had  a few extracurricular during the trip, but the most representative one was our Tuesday night trip to the Heritage Music Hall and here is where we meet Pauline, an 81-year old widow from Monroe County (she drove 30 minutes to get here and wouldn’t let us forget that!) She divulged to us that very few of the women present tonight were actually married despite their multiple dances with one man. She explained this to us in an effort to display the dominance the men have over their favorite women. While not representative of the whole of West Virginia, this idea resonated with me the rest of the trip. I believe it’s a side-effect of the deep-rooted culture of the Appalachian region, but there are a plethora of articles out there right now explaining just how wrong I am with that observation.

What a week it was! From exploring caves to swinging sledgehammers, the Levine Scholars Inaugural Alternative Spring Break was a success. Everywhere we went, we received thank-you’s for the work we were doing. If you asked any of the nine scholars (including myself) if they would do it again, I’m positive all nine would confirm. Habitat loved us so much that Lori asked us to sign an agreement for next year! While we politely declined Lori, be on the lookout for more Alternative Spring Breaks from the Levine Scholars Program in the future.

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.