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Campus Y welcomes two new committees

March 2, 2020 • Erin Reitz • No Comments

The number of Campus Y committees will jump from 31 to 33 next year when the Campus Y welcomes Carolina Defender and Refugee Community Partnership into its community of student-run student organizations. To become a Campus Y committee, student organizations must:

  • have aligning missions and values as the Campus Y
  • submit a comprehensive proposal
  • pitch their committee to the Campus Y Cabinet (which is made up of the co-chairs of all the Campus Y committees)
  • receive at least 2/3 acceptance vote from the Campus Y Cabinet

Meet our newest committees below!

Carolina Defender

Carolina Defender, named to echo the spirit of the historic Chicago Defender, is a year-old organization that aims to cultivate positive experiences for marginalized and underrepresented identities at UNC. Carolina Defender hosts events throughout the year that are meant to engage and uplift students who are looking for spaces on campus that feel inclusive and welcoming. Carolina Defender’s founder Jayma Graham believes that these opportunities are critical for students who are learning to call Carolina “home.”

“In my first-year seminar class so many people shared about their experiences not feeling like they belonged or were accepted,” Graham remembered. During Graham’s first year at Carolina, 60% of the undergraduate population was white. “I found it really hard to transition to UNC as a first year, especially as the removal of Silent Sam intensified the campus climate here.”

She wanted to counteract the discomfort that many of her peers shared by starting an organization that would help underrepresented people connect. Carolina Defender’s first event this year was a candlelight service at the Unsung Founders Monument before classes started in August. Other events have included game nights, movie nights, and student-led seminars on how to succeed in the classroom at UNC.

Graham hopes that joining the Campus Y will allow her to learn from other students about how to grow and strengthen the Carolina Defender community over the next few years.

“What’s really nice is that other people are connecting with my mission and helping me build upon it,” she said. “Together we’re finding our spaces on campus by creating those spaces.”

Refugee Community Partnership

As high school students, Mia Colloredo-Mansfeld and Sienna Zuco joined an after-school tutoring program that opened their eyes to the growing number of refugees in Orange County. Through working with refugee children and attending events like The Burmese New Year Water Festival, their perception of the Chapel Hill community transformed.

“I’ve lived in Chapel Hill for 12 years and didn’t know how bubbled I was until I began to volunteer,” explained Colloredo-Mansfeld. “It helped me see that my version of Chapel Hill wasn’t the only version of Chapel Hill.”

Today, Colloredo-Mansfeld and Zuco continue to partner with refugees as the co-chairs of the UNC branch of Refugee Community Partnership (RCP). RCP is a local nonprofit dedicated to providing relationship-based support, language justice, and cultural stewardship to local refugees.

Carolina students who volunteer with RCP, like Colloredo-Mansfeld and Zuco, are known as RCP “Bridge Builders.” Each year, dozens of Bridge Builders go through training about ethical service before matching with a local refugee family. Bridge Builders commit to spending at least one hour per week helping refugee families with a range of important tasks like applying for jobs, completing social service forms, going to doctor’s appointments, and learning English.

In these roles, Colloredo-Mansfeld and Zuco have continued to expand their awareness and understanding of refugee experiences in Chapel Hill.

“RCP has opened my eyes to Chapel Hill as a whole,” Colloredo-Mansfeld said. “It’s showed me a lot of this town’s flaws, and also its humanity.”

Next year Colloredo-Mansfeld and Zuco hope to bolster their organization by dedicating additional energy towards advocacy and education so that more people on Carolina’s campus are aware of the challenges that refugees face here – because the families they work with are more than just partners, they are neighbors and friends.

“Yes, I’m offering support as a volunteer; but I’m also receiving so much back from them,” said Zuco. The family she works with is teaching her Karen and plans to attend her graduation in December.

Colloredo-Mansfeld and Zuco hope that RCP’s partnership with the Campus Y will help them expand the Bridge Builder community, offering more students opportunities to learn about their town and themselves by venturing outside the campus bubble.

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