No matter the location, Love Chapel Hill wants to worship with all

By Nicole Moorefield

The call to ministry came when Matt LeRoy was 12 years old.

He realized he wanted to serve God while at church camp. His father led a church in Chapel Hill and grandfather was a pastor. It’s safe to say that ministry runs in the LeRoy bloodline.

As a shy kid, he says it seemed like the worst option for him. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that he had found his calling.

Outdoor worship

It’s a crisp Sunday morning in Coker Arboretum. A small crowd has formed, seated on folding chairs and blankets. Among the gathered are college students, families with children, people experiencing homelessness, business professionals and the occasional dog.

This is Love Chapel Hill.

After worship concludes, Dan LeRoy takes the microphone. He is guest-preaching in his son’s stead.

Midway through his sermon, he says something that makes the crowd grin. He’s explaining how he moved his family from the Bagley Swamp area to Chapel Hill to start a church.

“We thought we were coming here because God called us to plant that church,” Dan LeRoy says. “I think he called us here to get Matt here to Chapel Hill.”

LeRoy saw his father make that move as a 10-year-old and it gave him the confidence to start Love Chapel Hill years later.

The evolution of Love Chapel Hill

Growing up in Chapel Hill, LeRoy fell in love with the town.

He remembers walking down Franklin Street in high school with friends when he realized that the Varsity Theatre would be a great location for a church.

Before coronavirus struck, the Varsity was Love Chapel Hill’s regular meeting place.

But that’s not where it started.

Love Chapel Hill was born in Wilmore, Kentucky, at Asbury Theological Seminary. After completing undergrad in South Carolina, LeRoy headed to Asbury to continue his studies. He and his wife, Sarah, moved into one side of a duplex.

At the same time, Justin Simmons and his wife, Jeanine, moved into the other. The couples became friends, hosting movie nights and growing in their faith together.

It became clear that LeRoy and Simmons had complimentary gifts — LeRoy for teaching and Simmons for administration.

When LeRoy shared his vision for a church plant in Chapel Hill, Simmons could tell there was something special there. In 2008, he and Jeanine moved to Chapel Hill with the LeRoys to help bring the church to life. Today, Simmons is the executive pastor and “director of LOVE-gistics.

At its conception, Love Chapel Hill was four couples meeting by the Old Well.

“That was an intentional thing for us that we wanted to be out in the community, not closed in behind walls,” LeRoy says.

In October 2009, the church moved into the Varsity. At the heart of downtown Chapel Hill, LeRoy says the makeup of Franklin Street reflects the diversity of God’s kingdom.

That diversity remains to this day, with around 30 percent of churchgoers in college and 15 percent experiencing homelessness. However, LeRoy stresses the importance of Love Chapel Hill not having a college ministry or a homeless ministry

“We have a church family where everyone belongs,” he says.

LeRoy points back to scripture as the blueprint, noting that the disciples, despite being all Jewish men, came from very different walks of life.

Changes with the pandemic

He says both the best and hardest part of running Love Chapel Hill is building community amongst a diverse group of people, a challenge heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Love Chapel Hill decided to go online even before the governor mandated it.

“From the earliest days of the church, we know that we were meant to be sent out in the community,” LeRoy says. “If we don’t think we can be the church without meeting in one room together, then we’ve completely lost the definition of what the church is.”

In May, the church began to “regather” outside on Sundays, first in the Forest Theatre and then in Coker Arboretum.

The church also maintained its presence at the Varsity to serve members of the community experiencing homelessness, a group at additional risk for COVID. Every Sunday morning, members provided breakfast, masks and COVID education. In the winter, they ran warm clothing drives.

Demonte Fowlkes, who started attending Love Chapel Hill in 2015 after staying in a shelter, says Love Chapel Hill stands out for how the church cares for its congregation.

“When the pandemic hit and we weren’t having service, they would still come out and bring everybody McDonald’s food and coffee,” he says.

LeRoy’s reach

Fowlkes got to know LeRoy better by joining the set-up and tear-down crew on Sundays.

“If you actually get the chance to sit down and talk to him, he’s just a regular guy,” Fowlkes says. “But he has so much knowledge.”

Simmons says LeRoy stands out for his authenticity.

“The experience that everyone has with Matt, especially in that initial meeting, he’s going to give you the smile of a lifetime and it is the most real and genuine smile you could ask for,” he says.

LeRoy is also a father of twin boys, and Simmons says he is just as inspiring in that role.

Bob and Vicki Stocking, who attend Love Chapel Hill, expand on LeRoy’s gifts for fatherhood.

Vicki recounts a time when one of LeRoy’s sons was feeling anxious. LeRoy told him, “This is what you feel before you’re brave,” she says.

Bob highlights the discussions LeRoy has with his young sons on the ride to school every day.

“He uses the time in the car as almost like mini Sunday school,” Bob says, where they can ask each other questions. “He doesn’t want any wasted time with his kids.”

Sarah Propst, a graduate student at UNC, describes LeRoy as both personal and personable.

“He really seeks to get to know people, to remember their names and details about them that are important to create a personal relationship,” she says.

She also says she appreciates Love Chapel Hill’s choice to not have a college ministry because it has pushed her to get to know people outside of her own age group.

“It’s been a neat experience to almost be forced to become a part of the body of Christ throughout my undergrad, and then transitioning to grad school has been easier by having those connections with people who are not my same age.”

Joel Philbrook, the connections pastor, says it’s LeRoy’s humility that makes him different from other pastors.

“He’s a dynamic personality in all the good ways and still a very humble way,” he says. “He could be very popular if he chose to put emphasis on being popular. He doesn’t.”

Bob Stocking refers to it as “a total lack of ego.”

“Matt is so brilliant that if he decided at the beginning, I want to have a 10,000-person church with seven sites, I think he could have done that. But his call is to this community in this way.”

As they say every Sunday, “Our name is our mission: to love Chapel Hill with the heart of Jesus.” And Matt LeRoy is doing just that.

Edited by Sterling Roberts

Creatives of color make spaces to tell stories of marginalized communities

By Charity Cohen


As a bright-eyed, first-year student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Salena Braye-Bulls made it her mission to find a space that would allow her to create and fully express her Blackness. 

Coming to a predominantly white institution from a primarily Black community in Tuskegee, Alabama, she quickly experienced a culture shock prompted by the scarcity of publications and media outlets that truly reflected her community 

Her experience was simply a reflection of the larger media landscape’s lack of spaces that allow for genuine, well-rounded storytelling for communities of color. 

It wasn’t until Braye-Bulls discovered Black Ink Magazine, the official publication of the Black Student Movement at UNC-CH “dedicated to revolutionary media,” that she truly understood how vital it is for minorities to have a space dedicated to their storytelling.

“With mainstream publications, a lot of times Black stories and Black narratives get reduced to one dimension, and sometimes that dimension is overwhelming tragedy, or maybe that dimension is just some area of entertainment or media or something,” Braye-Bulls said.

Braye-Bulls, who is now the upcoming editor-in-chief of Black Ink Magazine, believes that sharing stories that encompass all facets of communities of color will be attainable through media outlets and newsrooms that create spaces for such exploration.


“A space for us that we can just breathe” 

Historically, stories of marginalized communities have either been erased or mishandled in mainstream media. 

When Courtney Napier, founder and editor-in-chief of Black Oak Society, first began her career in journalism, she held spaces for conversation amongst the Black community in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was during these forums that Napier learned just how much of her community’s history she had not been told.

In December 2019, Napier established Black Oak Society — a publication dedicated to the Black stories, journalists and creatives in the greater Raleigh area —in an effort to uncover those hidden stories and explore the complexity of her community in a way that the mainstream media wouldn’t.

“I just wanted a space for us that we can just breathe and share and feel empowered and important and vital,” Napier said. “Like our voices aren’t just important, and they’re not just beautiful and good, but they are critical to us as a people.”

This erasure and oversight of Black stories has led to the distrust in the media that is often held by the Black community and other communities of color.

“Part of marginalization is the control of the flow of information,” Napier said. “[People of color] can’t trust whatever The Daily Gazette is to get their story right. They already know they’re a threat to the way of life of the majority in that space, so they can’t trust that.

Napier holds the belief that white journalists aren’t equipped or properly trained to handle the telling of stories of color.

Maydha Devarajan, a UNC-CH student who serves as the editor of Elevate — a section of The Daily Tar Heel that amplifies stories of people of color — echoed Napier’s sentiments, expressing that there is a certain level of empathy and cultural competence needed to tell stories about marginalized communities. 

“I think anytime you’re a person of color or you have an identity that’s outside of the white supremacist structure we live in, you’re going to be thinking about things differently than a white reporter probably would,” Devarajan said.

Devarajan noted that as a member of the Indian American community, there is a wealth of knowledge regarding the stories within her community; a bank of information that those outside of her community don’t have access to.

This idea of this “bank of information” not being known or shared is an idea that Napier found to be true with her creation of the Black Oak Society.


Moving beyond “doom and gloom”

Napier shared that there is a specific level of comfortability and trust that she feels from her sources when telling their stories. She believes this comes from a mutual understanding that she won’t tell stories that dangerously criminalize Black people —a practice that predominantly white media outlets fail to do.

 “Sometimes journalists get so wrapped up in the story that they just forget about the people that they’re talking about,” Napier said. “You can write a messy story about a white person and it doesn’t have the same type of impact if you write a story about a Black person.”

 This is a habit in mainstream, white-centered newsrooms that Devarajan hopes to break with Elevate. Her mission as editor is to integrate the stories of the communities of color, without focusing solely on the “doom and gloom.”

 “Having a dedicated space will mitigate that, because that’s really what we want to do, is tell more complex stories and have it be a space that also centers those people to tell part of their lived experience and not to be exploitative,” Devarajan said.

Devarajan is currently working with her team and editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel Praveena Somasundaram, another woman of color, to create an action plan for prioritizing these stories of communities of color.

 “We’re trying to figure out ways to do this — changing this power imbalance that exists with the DTH is sort of on this pedestal,” Devarajan said. “You’re coming to all these other organizations and being like, ‘Give me your stories,’ where it should be a much more of a level playing field and not just coming to a subsection when some tragedies occurred for quote because it fits.”

 Sofia Martinez Querecuto, a senior at UNC-CH and senior advisor for The Bridge — a student-run publication through UNC-CH and Duke University that seeks to uplift the stories and creativity of women of color — believes that creating these spaces will also encourage creatives and storytellers of color to be bold in their craft.

 “I think it’s easier for people of color to feel comfortable experimenting around other people of color,” Martinez Querecuto said. “I think that they feel more safe in terms of experimenting just because, sometimes our voices as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) folks get minimized.”

 This balanced exploration of storytelling among people of color is something that will come about as more marginalized groups begin to make their own spaces for their stories. A mission that Martinez Querecuto feels is long overdue.

 “Make the space, elbow your way up to the table,” Martinez Querecuto said jokingly.You deserve to be there,” she added with a tone of sincerity.


Edited by Brian Rosenzweig

A study abroad dream ends as borders close due to COVID-19

By Colton Hartzheim

A volcano erupted. Ash filled the air, shut down the airports and trapped Jordyn Verzera in Europe for a couple of weeks. She was there for a fourth-grade class trip. With no way back home, Jordyn and her classmates stayed and explored several different countries.

Jordyn, now fresh out of college, said this aspect of traveling is why she is so passionate about it. She never knows what will happen.

Her fervor for travel had always tempted her to study abroad. After years of rejections, Jordyn was finally able to during her last year of college.

It went smoothly until COVID-19 nearly trapped her and her boyfriend in Europe with no means of getting home.


 A poorly-timed visit

In March 2020, Jordyn had been studying in Luxembourg for two months. Her boyfriend, J.T. Mocarski, was back home in Arizona. It was near the end of Northern Arizona University’s spring break, and J.T. was packing. Jordyn made him get a passport a few months into dating, and he was about to use it for his first time overseas to see her.

J.T. left on Friday morning, only a few hours before the U.S. banned nonessential travel. He texted Jordyn before boarding his flight to Frankfurt that he did not know if he could enter the country.

Jordyn stared at her phone. The first case of COVID-19 in Germany was in January. Earlier in March, she and thousands of others went to the Cologne Carnival. How could it be such a threat now?

J.T. made it into the country. It took five trains to make up for missing her bus, but Jordyn made it to the airport to meet him. After the airport employees’ rude glances that seemed to ask, “Why are you here?” J.T. felt more at ease amid the uncertainty when he saw Jordyn.

After one day in Luxembourg together, the “new normal” of the pandemic began to show. The couple’s trips to restaurants became trips to grocery stores. Exploring iconic landmarks became exploring abandoned buildings. Countries began to close their borders. First, a country far away, then a neighboring one and then Germany’s, the country from which J.T. was supposed to leave.

“We might as well stay put and figure this out until travel picks up a little more and gets everyone out,” J.T. said.

Jordyn agreed until she pulled out her phone to check her email. A message from her school stared at her.

“If you are not on or in transit to U.S. soil in 48 hours, you will be dropped from all of your courses, and your tuition will not be reimbursed.”

The school sent the email the day before, but she had missed it. Now, Jordyn had only 24 hours. Airports were canceling flights. Train stations were canceling trips. Taxis were out of service.


The race home

Jordyn called her mom, each of them exchanging their panic from over 5,000 miles away.

Jordyn’s sister Kalli was not as concerned when her mom told her the news. While her mom lay restless in bed for the next two days, Kalli laid back and watched TV.

“Jordyn always figures her way out of whatever the situation is,” Kalli told herself. “She’ll be fine.”

Kalli remembers when her family moved to Arizona and her mom went out of town for a few days. Jordyn did not crumble under the pressure of having to balance classwork, navigate a new city or take care of her two sisters. Instead, she sat her sisters down and immediately figured it out, giving them their whole schedules for the week in five minutes.

Kalli knew her sister would be just as quick on her feet now.

Jordyn stormed the U.S. embassy with phone calls, demanding they told her how to bypass the closed borders.

“If you want to get out of Luxembourg, you have to go through Paris or London.”

She whipped out her laptop and booked a flight to Paris that left in six hours. Jordyn and J.T. rushed to pack. Jordyn called her friends one by one until she found someone who could drive them to the airport. A friend of a friend of a friend Jordyn had never met came to the rescue.

They crammed their bags and some stuff Jordyn’s friends left behind into the Kia. No traffic stood between them and their flight.

The airport boomed with anxiety. A woman argued with staff because they would not let her on the plane. Jordyn and J.T. sat and observed the chaos in silence. They watched the board as it passed out the dreaded “Canceled” to unsuspecting flights. The flight to Paris before theirs fell victim.

They only knew they were safe when they boarded the plane.

The plane was less than stellar: propellers on the wings, only about 30 seats, and a carry-on space so small that the flight attendant had to strap Jordyn’s bag into an empty seat. At least the flight attendants gave out beer.

The propellers revved up, and the plane took off. They were one step closer to home.

As they flew into Paris, they saw the Eiffel Tower lit up against the sunset.

“We should go —,” Jordyn began to say. The glow of the city mocked her.


Leaving a life behind

They landed and explored their second airport of the day, going to the gift shop and getting the most filling meal they could find: ladyfingers.

They knew they would have to spend the night in the airport. They tried to go to the part of the airport with chairs, but security stopped them.

“Your flight is in the morning. You can’t come through.”

“What are we supposed to do?”

“Figure it out.”

The two scavenged the room and found an empty corner to spend the night. Jordyn laid down her blanket and got as comfortable as she could. The room was silent except for the sound of a guitar. The guitarist played for a circle of people, their heads lying limp in each other’s laps.

Jordyn and J.T. woke up with stiff limbs as the sun entered the windows. They got up and passed the terminal for the plane that would take them back to America. As they waited, they bought a sandwich to share.

“I spent the past two months eating the best food of my life, and now I’m eating this,” Jordyn thought as she ate her first real meal in 24 hours.

At last, the speakers announced their flight. The couple hurried to the plane that would take them away from the continent. It was the last plane leaving the airport that day.

For every breath of relief Jordyn took, she took another of distress. She would make it home in time, but she was leaving behind the home she made in Europe.

She turned her attention to the in-flight movie, “Chinese Puzzle,” to distract herself. Jordyn was familiar with the film. It was the third in a trilogy about studying abroad. The first movie made her want to study abroad. The second fueled her excitement. The third ended her trip.

Edited by Isabella Sherk

53 years in classroom 4B at Norfolk Academy, what made it so special?

By Christian Randolph

“Nico, don’t swallow the magnet!” said the fourth grader to his friend on Halloween.

But of course, as a mischievous ten-year-old, Nico swallowed the magnet. For Diane Wallace, the boy’s teacher at Norfolk Academy, this was not a surprise – as she had pretty much seen it all.

“I didn’t have time to panic because I had dealt with similar situations like this before,” said Wallace.

After calling Poison Control, taking a trip to King’s Daughters Medical Center, and waiting hours for the magnet to pass through her student’s system, Wallace could finally catch her breath.


As a Kentucky native and University of Kentucky graduate in the early 1960’s, Wallace began at Norfolk Academy with her husband in 1967. The two taught at the school together for one year before Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Wallace died in  the Vietnam War in 1968.

In light of this tragedy, Wallace had found her forever home. Classroom 4B, with a different group of fourth grade boys each year for 53 years.

At Norfolk Academy, students are split by gender until fifth grade. While this trademark policy of the school may seem a bit odd to outsiders, Wallace promised that there were more benefits than drawbacks, at least in her classroom.

Wallace loved handing out some tough love. As an avid Kentucky basketball fan, she often found herself arguing with her boys over who was the best team that year.

“Every day she would remind me that Michael Jordan was drafted third in the 1984 NBA draft – behind Kentucky graduate Sam Bowie,” remembers former 4B student Ranny Randolph.

While Wallace was certainly grateful that her boys could handle this tough love, she became even more grateful that she wasn’t dealing with fourth grade girls across the hallway. As any parent knows, elementary school girls are very sensitive.

“Oh, girls would start crying because their classmate looked at them the wrong way or because they have a freakin’ hangnail,” recalls Wallace.

Watching the many temper tantrums from afar made Wallace even more grateful for the 1,060 boys that came through her 4B classroom.

One might wonder how Wallace managed to keep 20 new boys entering her classroom each fall from wrestling with each other every day. Thankfully, she was able to rely on a few steadfast rules that stood as pillars of 4B for 53 years.

Friendship, forgiveness, and reading!

As she will note, reading became less prominent in education as the digital wave transformed classroom curriculum. As a result, Wallace insisted that her students participate in pleasure reading and writing every day – mainly reading fictional books and writing creatively.

“I remember free reading and writing time every day,” said Will Spivey, a former 4B student.

But it wasn’t just the reading and writing time that expanded the imaginary minds of the young boys. Wallace would often read aloud stories and books by her own favorite authors because she believed it was beneficial to listen to others.

Although not every boy in 4B thoroughly enjoyed their free reading and writing time, it is certain that everyone enjoyed the most unique part of the 4B classroom curriculum.


“You can’t forget about the extra recess time,” said Hunt Stockwell. “Recess was her mojo.”

Certainly intentional on her behalf, Wallace would allow her boys to spend extra time on the playground after the other classes had left. To them extra recess created more time for roughhousing and scraping on the fields and courts. But for Wallace, this extra time spent outside served a much greater purpose.

This was time for the boys to exhaust themselves. Rather than expending their extra energy in the classroom distracting one another, Wallace’s boys spent their extra energy chasing each other around the playground. So, when the time did come for the troops to rally back into 4B, everyone was wiped out and ready to quiet down.

“No wonder why free reading time was always right after recess,” recalls Mr. Spivey.

Not all fun and games

Although every 4B boy remembers the happiness that came from extra recess time, there were many memories that weren’t so positive.

Wallace still remembers the sadness of 9/11. She can still remember the day when Lee Wynne, one of her student’s younger brothers, passed away. And she can still remember the death of her student’s parents like it was yesterday.

But just like everything else that made the 4B boys so unique, there was something positive that came from tragic moments like these. “The boys let things go,” said Wallace.


In her mind, it wasn’t as if young boys move on from tragedy more quickly than other young children. It was that her fourth grade boys would come to school the next day looking for normalcy. As a result of the pillars Wallace preached about every day in 4B from the day she stepped onto campus in August of 1967 until the day she left in May of 2020, her boys were able to come to class and find that normalcy again.

She made sure that anyone who came through her classroom learned to treat one another with respect. Whether it meant including everyone in a game of tag, picking each other up off the playground mulch, or listening to a classmate read aloud their favorite poem, she wanted the boys of 4B to love each other.

Looking Back

From 53 years of experience, Wallace knew that her boys would not remember the weekly math times tables or the grammar quizzes, but they would remember the friendships forged in 4B. Up until the day she retired, fathers who were once students of Wallace found themselves returning to the same classroom only to see their own son learning to embrace the same values of friendship.

For Wallace, this was why she loved her job.

“Every day is different,” she said. “And when you are working with people who are always in a good mood, it’s easy to enjoy.”

While the faces and characters that came through 4B constantly changed, the pillars of her classroom never faulted. Those who were fortunate enough to be students of Wallace will always remember the time spent worrying about their classmate who had just swallowed a magnet, the time spent arguing with their teacher about who was the best college basketball team, and most importantly the extra time spent on the playground.

Edited by: Anna Blount

‘Write me something good’: A writing teacher’s unconventional methods

By Hailey Stiehl

Students flooded the halls of Middle Creek High School searching for their first-period class on the first day of the new school year. About 30 students made their way into creative writing class. When they entered the dark classroom, the students looked around apprehensively, confused by their teacher’s apparent absence from the room. 

Then they spotted someone in the back corner of the room, perched on a table and posing like Spider-Man. It was their teacher, Mr. Josh Matteau. 

Students looked to each other for answers, not finding any. They stifled their nervous laughter at the situation. All the while, their spiderlike teacher just stared at them wordlessly. 

Their eyes began to wander around the still dark room as they slowly found their seats and noticed that the classroom was covered in posters of Spider-Man. Figurines of the superhero hung from the flag, sat on the whiteboard and were scattered around on tables. 

As the shrill bell signaled that classes had begun, Mr. Matteau leaped from his table, walked over to flip the lights on and turned to his new class, uttering a simple phrase to begin the journey that would change some of their writing forever. 

“Write me something good.” 

He walked back to his desk, cluttered with more Spider-Man figurines, and didn’t say another word. Students looked to one another once more for any clarification, slowly pulling out notebooks and pencils. Music began to play softly throughout the classroom as students put their pencils to paper and started to free write.

That was how a new class of Middle Creek students began their journeys with the wonderfully strange Mr. Matteau. 

Unconventional methods

Brianna Tucci hasn’t taken a class with Mr. Matteau since her freshman year of high school, but now, as a senior in college, she still vividly remembers her time with the Spider-Man-obsessed teacher. 

Entering her first class of high school, Tucci was expecting to be met with anything but a grown man in the back corner of a classroom posed like a superhero. Yet, the lessons that Matteau presented to her and the rest of her class linger in her writing years later. 

“The lessons he used to teach us about how to become a better writer were, for the most part, so incredibly strange that you wanted to pay attention,” said Tucci. “I didn’t think that some creative writing elective I had decided to take would end up teaching me things that I still think about and use in my writing today.” 

Matteau didn’t want to teach for a living. He wanted to write. But when the opportunity to teach was presented to him, he decided to teach something he was passionate about, as he knew he liked helping writers become better at sharing their thoughts with the world. 

“I love to see how raw a student’s emotions can get when they write them down,” said Matteau. “So that was my ultimate goal when I got into teaching, was to help students figure out how to do that well.”

The Baltimore native studied English and education during his time in college. Immediately after, he joined the Army to pay off his student loans. He began his teaching career after his time in the military, arriving at Middle Creek about a decade ago. The rest is history. 

Matteau’s methods of teaching are described by most of his students as incredibly unconventional. But according to Matteau, that’s the beauty of the strangeness.

“Creative writing isn’t like traditional writing and shouldn’t be taught like that,” said Matteau. “I don’t like to just sit there and lecture my students. Frankly, that’s boring.”

One afternoon a few years ago, Matteau rounded up his class and sent them outside. He paired them up and handed each pair a blindfold. 

Matteau’s class had been focusing on using details in writing, and he was planning on teaching his students to become better at using their words to describe scenes to readers. His lesson was slightly more unusual than a presentation, but he was hoping it would resonate better.

“He sent us outside that afternoon to take turns guiding each other around and sharing what we were seeing using our words,” said Emily Andersen, a student in his class. “We couldn’t physically show our partners around because they were blindfolded, and we couldn’t touch them, so we had to rely on descriptive language to make sure they knew where they were going and what was around them.”

Andersen said the unconventional method of the lesson made it more impactful and meaningful than a lecture. 

“A true mentor”

For Will Selph, another former student, Mr. Matteau wasn’t just a goofy writing teacher, but a true mentor in his writing career. Selph enrolled in Matteau’s upper-level creative writing course after taking the introduction class.

 In the upper-level class, each student was responsible for creating a portfolio of work, including a screenplay. Selph had an idea for a screenplay and after some words of encouragement from Matteau, he ran with the idea. 

“That screenplay that I worked on had been one of my favorite things I had written up until that point,” said Selph. “I got Mr. Matteau’s feedback on the screenplay, and to hear him say that it was one of the greatest things a student had ever given him completely changed my outlook on my writing. It was the confidence boost he knew I needed.”

Every teacher has to have their “why” of teaching. It’s not an easy job, the pay isn’t great and no one has ever thought that working with high school kids was a breeze. For Matteau, it’s all about seeing the work that his students turn in and the progress they make as writers.  

“The day that a student delivers a piece of writing to me is the best day of class,” said Matteau. “I look forward to that moment with every new student I have the pleasure of teaching.”

The Spider-Man-obsessed creative writing instructor has provided more than a few laughs to his students over his teaching career. How can students not start to giggle when a grown man dressed in his favorite superhero outfit is trying to teach you the basics of writing? 

But beyond the laughs and the unconventional lesson plans, the wonderfully strange Josh Matteau has left meaningful impacts on many of his students’ lives and writing. And that’s one of the only things you can hope for as a teacher. 

Edited by Sara Raja

Resident advisors find friendship in difficult times


By Eric Weir

Just before noon on Saturday, Aug. 21, a residential advisor wakes up on the third floor of Avery Residence Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill.  He reaches for his phone after rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. The phone lights up with countless messages from a residential advisor staff group chat. He unlocks his phone and the messages relay the same key words: cluster, COVID-19, Avery Residence Hall.

Jose Rodriguez Gomez opens up his laptop to see the email regarding a cluster of COVID-19 cases in Avery and a mandate requiring every Avery resident get tested for the virus.

Gomez gets dressed as he tries to process what comes next while still half asleep.

“I was pretty sure I was safe and I think the part I was most worried about was mainly for the safety of my residents,” he said.

While clusters were always a possibility with a full campus of students, many were fearing a repeat of the previous year.  Students had been sent home weeks into the fall semester due to several clusters on campus.

Later that day, several of Gomez’s residents asked him if everyone was going to be sent home again and if the dorms would close.

Gomez said that he did not know.

A new semester, same pandemic

As UNC-CH reopens its campus to full in-person activities, several problems from the previous year have returned. Many students are navigating the mobs of students in the Pit for the first time, while some are still using maps to find Davis Library.

Some resident advisors are dealing with these issues just like regular students. On top of that, they must keep the community safe by enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols, build an atmosphere of trust among all residents, and dedicate hours at night to be ready at the ring of a phone to assist if someone needs help.

Bonds bring hope

Despite this, the RAs of the Carmichael and Parker neighborhood believe they have experienced relative success because the staff have become close friends.

The Parker and Carmichael neighborhood is situated along Stadium drive and consists of Avery, Carmichael, Parker, and Teague residence halls. The four dorms can hold up to a total of 1,051 students according to the Carolina Housing website. This semester, there are 19 RAs in the community.

Gomez was interested in becoming an RA since he transferred to UNC-CH as a junior in 2020. After sitting down with his previous RA to ask about the time allotment, stress, and experiences that come along with the job, he knew he would be an RA this year.

Under the sweltering heat of the late July sun, RAs began reporting for training. For Bassem Elbitar, it was his first steps on campus as a student. The sophomore was able to converse with fellow students without to pressing unmute.

For a week and a half, Elbitar socialized while the campus was still quiet. He learned that most of the RAs in the community were first-time RAs like him. He also met other RAs including Olivia Mwangi, his partner on the third floor of Carmichael.

Mwangi, Gomez, Elbitar, and the rest of the staff found themselves coordinating more than floor programs. Mwangi said that many RAs get dinner together regularly and meet up to go to every home soccer game. It is common to walk by the community desk in Carmichael and see three or four people behind the desk when two are scheduled to work at the desk at a time.

“It’s so weird, I’ve learned that this is not like the same environment in other like residential communities,” said Mwangi, “but we all hang out pretty much every day.”

A separate group chat for more friendly conversations was created and named “Chicken Parmichael,” according to Olivia. The name originated from RA training where during roll call, the RAs from the Parker and Carmichael neighborhood noticed the other community had a chant. The community of RAs huddled together and began to slap together a chant.

A furious debate took place before, within a few seconds, an RA said, “Let’s go Chicken Parmichael.” This was followed by a wave of laughter and agreement. When called, the Parker and Carmichael neighborhood shouted, “Chicken Parmichael!” followed by several chuckles.

Finding solutions together

One of the duties as an RA happens during the night. From 8 p.m. to 9 a.m., two RAs are ready for calls on the dorm hotline and walking rounds in each building.

This can sometimes be inconvenient and tiresome.

“I was on duty this Tuesday and had an exam on Wednesday,” said Gomez, “so I had to balance studying for my exam on Wednesday and staying up late to do my shift.”

The RAs have been able to balance this by relying on each other for help.

On Tuesday Aug. 21, Mwangi rolled out of bed with a fever after a restless night. She sweated through two midterms and a three-hour lab before returning to Carmichael and dreading her shift at the community desk that night.

Mwangi had taken this shift from another RA so they could study for an exam they had on Wednesday.

Mwangi texted some RAs to ask if someone who could take her shift because she was ready to pass out.

Gomez responded and stepped in to cover for Mwangi, even though he had an exam the next day. He insisted that he take the shift so Mwangi could get some rest.

The next day, Mwangi was at the community desk laughing over bad jokes when she received a text informing her that a resident was dealing with a mental health issue.

Elbitar and Mwangi responded to the incident and mentioned the resident struggling with mental health, but no specifics were given.  RAs are required to keep any personal information about their residents confidential.

Mwangi panicked and started crying. She struggled to calm down and focus on the next steps.

“In a situation like this, we’re trained for it,” said Mwangi, “but once it happens you never really know how to react.”

Veteran RA Fabryce Joseph began calming Mwangi down. Joseph reassured Mwangi and walked her through what she needed to do, who she needed to call, and how to inform the RA who was on duty.

With help from her staff members, Olivia was able to assist the distressed resident.

On that Friday, the RA staff were able to go get dinner as friends, knowing they would be able to deal with whatever problem that came their way.


Edited by Eva Hagan