Seaboard Cafe to close: regulars reflect on their ‘home away from home’

By Meg Hardesty  

Norwood Pritchett orders the same meal for lunch almost every day while he sits in the same white plastic chair on the outdoor patio of Seaboard Cafe. 

At this point, he doesn’t have to order his old-fashioned chicken salad on whole wheat with Lay’s potato chips and a blueberry lemon muffin. Pritchett is a regular customer at Seaboard Cafe in Raleigh — the staff know his order by heart.

Since 1991, Seaboard Cafe has been located inside Logan’s Garden Shop, a repurposed space in the historic Seaboard Railroad Station. Logan’s sold its property in 2021 with plans to relocate, but without the local cafe.

For many customers, Seaboard Cafe is more than somewhere to eat lunch. It is a gathering place, an adopted family… a second home. As the news broke that Seaboard Cafe would be closing soon, Pritchett and other regulars will lose that sense of community.

A Safe Haven

Pritchett’s wife preceded him as a regular. She ate lunch at Seaboard Cafe multiple times a week for seven years while working for the Wake County Public School System.

He had accompanied her a couple of times before she died in 2007. To honor her memory, Pritchett began to eat lunch frequently at Seaboard Cafe.

“I decided in my mind I was not going to be the kind of person to sit at home and watch television,” Pritchett said. “After losing a loved one, if you turn inward it can be very dangerous.”

Her sacred lunch place became his favorite spot to socialize and get out of the house.

“That was my therapy, to be around other people,” Pritchett said. “While I’m retired and live by myself, it helps quite a lot.”

Seaboard Cafe became Pritchett’s second family, the staff always greeting him by name. Every year on his birthday, the cafe staff celebrates with a song and cupcakes. With the cafe closing soon, Pritchett is sad to abandon his happy place.

“Go crazy and go starve to death is what I’ll do,” Pritchett said. “That’s what our concern is, that we’re all going to starve. I really just might.”

Another regular, Candy Lewis, remembered how she and her mother, Polly Horton, once shopped for flowers at Logan’s in the spring. Stopping inside, the two made a ritual of grabbing one of Seaboard’s homemade muffins. 

When Horton was diagnosed with dementia 20 years ago, Seaboard Cafe and its customers became like a big family for them; Lewis called it a home away from home.

“She felt so safe there because everybody was so friendly,” Lewis said. “My mother never forgot that.” 

Over the years, people who have frequented Seaboard Cafe have dropped off family pictures and Christmas cards at the restaurant. The cafe’s founder, Richard “Rick” Perales keeps a bulletin board to house these mementos. 

“Rick still has the picture of my mother’s 88th birthday we had there up on the bulletin board,” Lewis said. “I look up there every time I go in.” 

When Horton died, Lewis found herself in Seaboard Cafe to seek familiarity and a sense of community.

“The thing I like most about it is you feel like you’re sitting on your own home patio,” Lewis said. “You feel like you’re comfortable there.” 

Lewis said she tries to limit herself to a maximum of four days at Seaboard’s a week, but it’s hard to stay away from her place of refuge. 

Dining until close

Seaboard Cafe has a plethora of regulars — if it’s not for the food, maybe it’s something about the lack of air conditioning. 

“For 31 years, there’s been no A/C,” said Michael Evans, another Seaboard Cafe regular. “Ambience, that’s the most important.” 

Surrounded by eclectic knickknacks and original paintings from North Carolina artists, Evans frequents the cafe three to four times a week, always on Saturday. Recently, he reconnected with an old friend over Greek and chicken salads at his favorite lunch spot. 

Evans had not seen his former co-worker, Corliss Wilson, in over two years. Time escaped the pair in the cafe as they talked for hours. 

“He’s gotten to know people who come here daily,” Wilson said about Evans. “I would have never come if not for him.”   

For some regulars like Evans, they are guaranteed to see someone they know every time they step foot in the cafe, spending hours catching up. Oftentimes, Evans and his newfound friends are ushered out of the restaurant’s big greenhouse doors when the staff closes up shop — it’s like they never want to leave.

‘Everybody thinks they’re his favorite customer’

When Perales first opened Seaboard Cafe in 1991 in the historic Seaboard Train Station, he did not anticipate his restaurant’s impact. After recovering from alcoholism and sustaining multiple layoffs, Perales thought he would sell hot dogs from a cart.

“All I wanted to do was look people in the eye and make them feel comfortable,” Perales said.  

Now, he greets the majority of his customers by name. 

“Rick loves people and he makes it evident when you come in the door,” Lewis said. “Everybody thinks they’re his favorite customer.”

Perales built a family by making people feel special. He kept his family by making Seaboard Cafe a home.

The news of Logan’s relocation means that Perales and Seaboard Cafe will not be coming with the garden shop. As of now, the land may be used for up to 20 stories of apartment towers and a parking deck. What was once a historic landmark — and a home away from home for many — will be gone in the property’s future establishment.

“Every day is my favorite day over there,” Lewis said. “It’s going to break my heart. They’re taking away our paradise.”

Edited by Macon Porterfield and Kaitlyn Schmidt

Traveling the states: Two BYU ‘Sisters’ spread the message of Christ

By Renata Schmidt

Every woman in the congregation is wearing a dress. A 2-year-old runs down the aisle while her ruffled dress is caught in her diaper. An 80-year-old woman moves slowly through the congregation wearing a straight, light-blue dress over black tights.

Sister Danielle Pace and Sister Sophia Madsen are no different. Their mid-calf floral dresses are styled classically with understated wedges. They are approachable. Elegant, but not intimidating. Clean, but not boring. 

Nobody in the congregation sticks out until Sister Pace ducks out during a prayer and guides Jhania Wilchr in. 

Wilchr is wearing a onesie. It looks like a cow suit, but the graying white hood has yellow horns and the costume has no udders. 

Although the church is known for its conservative views, traditional gender roles and limited caffeine intake, members welcome Wilchr’s version of Sunday best.  

“They’re really happy,” Wilchr said, describing her first impression of the Sisters. “I was really nervous.” 

Wilchr met them after filling out a request on the church’s website to meet with missionaries. Her goal is to be baptized. What transpired in the congregation that Sunday is exactly what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints promises.  

Request a visit from missionaries,” the church website says. “We’ll help you know what to expect at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then we’ll be at the door to greet you and sit with you on Sunday!”

The Sisters

Pace and Madsen are two of the many missionaries the church sends out each year. The church reported it had 53,539 full-time missionaries in 2021. Male missionaries are Elders and female missionaries are Sisters, but their goal is the same: spend up to two years encouraging others to join the church and come closer to Jesus. 

Madsen is from La Grande, Oregon, and is studying to be a speech pathologist at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She just celebrated her one-year anniversary of mission life.

Her companion, and fellow missionary, Pace, is a 19-year-old student at BYU from Ventura, California. She’s a surfer when she’s not on the opposite coast wearing long dresses and spreading the church’s message.

Their church is distinguished from other Christian denominations by its emphasis on the Book of Mormon, from which its members get their name. However, Pace said they prefer to be called “Latter-day Saints of Jesus Christ.”

“He’s at the center of everything we do,” she said.

 Paintings and printouts of Jesus cover a wall in their two-bedroom apartment. 

The women share a bedroom as it is an expectation for missionaries to always be in each other’s company for safety. This measure is also to ensure proper behavior. If they are meeting with someone of the opposite gender, they need a fourth person present as well.

They even share a SIM card, which they pass between their phones every few days so they can each take point on communicating with prospective members.

The bulk of their day is made up of heading into public spaces and speaking to strangers about the church and Jesus Christ.

The ‘good stuff’

Pace and her previous companion were strolling in a park when they passed a homeless man with an open wound on his arm.

“Oh, that conversation was actually really funny,” Pace said. “We were walking along the Tobacco Trail behinds Sprouts and he said, ‘Oh, y’all are nuns, aren’t you?’”

After explaining that they were missionaries, Pace discovered that the man, Ryan, had been in a severe accident last month and was scheduled for open-heart surgery in a few days.

As they walked with him, they assured him that God knew him and loved him. They told him about the Godhead: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And then they prayed together.

Madsen and Pace admit that approaching strangers about their faith was strange, at first.

“I like to compare it to Nutella,” Pace said. “I love Nutella. And I could go up to anyone and be like, this is good stuff.” 

“It just kind of dawned on me when I was scared of going up to strangers: this is one of the greatest messages of all time. That Jesus Christ is our Lord, our savior. I’m like, why would I not want to share that?”

While Nutella occupies shelves worldwide, The Church of Latter-day Saints is not universally loved.

The church and its members have been critiqued for their conservative views on controversial topics, like abortion and LGBTQ rights. One of these topics is the traditional gender roles within the church.

According to the church, the priesthood is God’s power and authority, and it can only be held by male members of The Church of Latter-day Saints.

Sisters account for between 20% to 30% of the church’s missionaries, according to BYU. This means that between 10,000 and 16,000 young women spent 2021 promoting a church that does not allow them to become bishops, priests, deacons, or take up any of the roles within the priesthood.

Garth Despain is a member of the church and a spokesperson for the Raleigh, North Carolina mission. The priesthood is less about authority and more a reminder of the need to humble oneself, Despain said.

In his experience, women don’t need the priesthood as much as men. 

“Most women that I know already possess those attributes,” Despain said. “They’re more loving, they’re more nurturing. They don’t need that reminder to act that way, which many men do.”

The restriction does not bother Pace or Madsen, either. They have access to the benefits of the priesthood, like blessings, so they don’t need the positions.

The belief

Pace separates questions within the church into two categories: primary and secondary. There are four primary questions: Is God the heavenly father? Is Jesus Christ the savior of the world? Was Joseph Smith called to be the Prophet? Is the LDS church God’s kingdom on Earth? 

These primary questions are the backbone of the faith and church. Secondary questions involve issues like abortion, the history of the church or the hierarchy within it.

If a person believes the primary questions, the secondary ones become less relevant — Pace and Madsen believe all four statements.

They have received revelations from God which they say have made their testimonies strong.

One of these revelations happened to Madsen when she tried to visit a friend who lived in rural North Carolina. Madsen and her companion drove up a long dirt road, but the light was fading quickly and the house looked empty and unkept. They had barely gotten out of the car before deciding to leave.

“I definitely felt like that was God trying to protect us from something,” Madsen said.

Edited by Brianna Atkinson and Jasmine Baker

Biden’s loan forgiveness plan provides relief for range of students

By: Sara Raja

CHAPEL HILL– Elizabeth Ranatza was having dinner with her mother at Que Chula Craft Tacos & Tequila Bar when she received a notification on her phone. President Joe Biden announced a new student loan forgiveness plan that would eliminate $10,000 of debt for most borrowers. 

She was relieved, but her mother thinks loan forgiveness is unfair. 

Ranatza, a master’s student at UNC-Chapel Hill, will graduate with about $65,000 in student loan debt. The new legislation means she will have a sizable chunk of her debt forgiven and a cap on how much she has to repay each month. 

Students and graduates across the country felt a similar relief when Biden announced the plan on Aug. 24. Up to 43 million borrowers could get relief, with about 20 million borrowers being eligible to have their full remaining balance canceled, according to a fact sheet from the Biden administration.

46% of graduate and professional students at UNC-CH receiving student aid utilized loans, according to data from the fall 2020 Census Enrollment.

Ranatza has taken out loans every semester of college so far. When she was a first-year student, it seemed like the normal thing to do. She only realized the depth of her debt when she started graduate school and saw how much money she would owe.

“I was like, these are real numbers,” she said. “I have $150 in my bank account. This is not good.”

Ranatza also had to work many jobs to make it through college. She decided to be a resident advisor to avoid the high housing costs in Chapel Hill, but found it time consuming and emotionally taxing. She quit and started working at Wegmans, where she had crazier experiences.

“I had a guy put his arms in the lobster tank, I had people fight, I had people steal, I had people get jumped,” she said. “I had someone give birth while I was working. Their water broke on aisle 14.”

Now, she works at a gymnastics studio and does Instacart on the side to make ends meet.

Ranatza said her parents think it’s unfair for her to receive student loan forgiveness. They argue that because they helped her with living costs when she was a first-year, they believe they’re entitled to some kind of compensation as well. 

Biden’s plan has its fair share of critics. Some people feel loan forgiveness is unfair to those who chose not to go to college or not take out loans. Others who have already paid their student debt feel it’s unfair they missed out on any forgiveness.

But Ranatza doesn’t agree. She said people who have already paid back loans should be happy that the student debt situation is getting better.

To counter her parents, Ranatza pointed out that she feels it’s unfair for her to be paying into social security, when she thinks it’s unlikely she’ll ever see that money again. 

When she found out about the plan, she immediately texted the news to a childhood friend, Nikki Thrower.

Nikki Thrower

Thrower, who graduated with a degree in printmaking from UNC Charlotte in 2021, it was a huge relief. She took out about $11,500 in loans, which means most of her debt will be forgiven.

Like Ranatza, Thrower had to work to get herself through college. She has been a server at Mama Ricotta’s in Charlotte, NC for over three years. Managing school and work was challenging and she wishes she’d had the time to get involved in more extracurricular activities.

“My first semester when I got the bill to pay for tuition, I got so scared that I wasn’t able to afford it,” she said. “I almost dropped out and actually called Elizabeth. She convinced me not to.”

Thrower is pursuing a career in art and said the debt forgiveness has changed her outlook on the future. Instead of making monthly student loan payments, she might be able to move to Charlotte to be closer to art events or even rent an art studio.

Jacob Hester

Jacob Hester is a senior at UNC-CH studying drama and music. He is a Pell Grant recipient, which means he could have up to $20,000 in debt canceled. He has around $11,000 in loans, which will all be forgiven.

Hester knew attending college would only be a possibility for him if he received enough financial aid in grants or scholarships. He worked hard in high school to be the first person in his family to go to a four-year university. 

Though he says UNC-CH wasn’t his first choice, he chose it because of the financial aid he was offered. Although he has most of his tuition and fees covered, he also had to work throughout college.

He dreams of moving to New York City after graduation to pursue music and acting, and loan forgiveness has made those dreams feel possible.

“It gives me more confidence in the idea of being able to move and really take my time with exploring myself and exploring the world and being a new adult in a new place,” he said. 

Looking forward

Hester and Ranatza both said they hope this plan is only a starting point and that debt forgiveness will increase in the coming years. 

Though loan forgiveness will ease the burden of Ranatza’s debt somewhat, her plans for the future are affected by what she will owe. She’s been with her partner for over a year, and they plan to move to Charlotte next year. They have talked about engagement, but paying for a wedding is something they’ll have to put off for a while, she said.

“I have friends who have had extravagant large weddings in the last few years, but I don’t see that being something I’m going to be able to do because I don’t need to add on to any of this,” she said.

Ranatza doesn’t regret her choice to take out loans and have multiple jobs to be able to attend UNC-CH, but she hopes this plan and future legislation will make things easier for the next generation of students.

Edited by: Eric Weir and Monique Williams

‘Two heart surgeries deep’: one UNC student’s journey across the finish line

By Guillermo Molero

Sept. 15, 2022

It’s 11 p.m. on a school night, but Hannah Collett doesn’t care.

The air outside is heavy and humid, but she’s still in her oversized sweatshirt, running around the turf at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hooker Fields. She’s been running down there for an hour, and she’ll keep running for at least one more. 

Hannah’s been preparing to compete in the TCS New York City Marathon this November. But every day, she runs the risk that her heart might stop before she even reaches the starting line.

Hannah started running in the summer before she started high school to get into better shape. When she started, she thought it was awful. But the more she ran, she started to appreciate how awful it was.

And even though she didn’t love running yet, she wanted to get better at it.

One evening that July 2016, she heard her dad telling her mom that he’d just run 4.8 miles. Hannah had never run more than three. Once she heard him say that, she knew she had to run five. 

That same day, Hannah left home at 1 p.m. and started running. She didn’t bring any water. She didn’t tell anyone else where she was going. She didn’t say how long she’d be gone. She just ran. 

“I’m so stubborn,” Hannah said. “It’s just crazy. I’m an all-or-nothing person. Either 100 percent of my effort is going into something or zero percent. And when I’m in it, I’m in it.”

And when it came to running, she was in it. 

Hannah worked her way up to running several miles a day, gradually increasing her stamina throughout high school and upon her arrival to UNC-CH.

She’s often joined on her runs by Spencer Higgins, her girlfriend of one-and-a-half years. Spencer is no fan of running, so she usually tags along for Hannah’s longer treks on her bike, bringing along water and snacks to help replenish her partner’s energy. The two use the time to catch up, talking about their schoolwork or duties as midshipmen in UNC’s Naval ROTC battalion.  

An unexpected challenge

On Oct. 7, 2021, Hannah and Spencer embarked on one of their normal training sessions on Hooker Fields. This time, they were preparing for Hannah’s inaugural marathon in Durham at the end of the month. It was a lighter run than usual for Hannah, Spencer recalled. Suddenly, Hannah stopped in her tracks.

“Catch me,” Hannah said.

Spencer rushed under her and did just that, helping her to the ground. 

“Feel my pulse.”

Her heart was beating quickly — too quickly. It felt more like the heart rate of a rabbit or a baby bird, Spencer said. It didn’t feel human.

The pair weren’t sure what to make of the incident, though, and figured it must have been brought on by fatigue. Hannah decided to keep running, and continued to prepare for the marathon that Halloween. 

She went on to post a respectable time for an amateur, clocking in at just over five hours and eight minutes in her baggy UNC-CH t-shirt. She was the youngest competitor in the field at only 19-years-old, and later found out that she ran the race with a stress fracture in her right foot. 

Hannah’s injury didn’t keep her off her feet for long, with only a few weeks passing before she was able to return to her nightly runs. However, those nights were afflicted with more incidents like the one in early October. After consulting her girlfriend and her parents, Kelly and Rich Collett, Hannah made an appointment to see a cardiologist on her native Long Island, New York. 

Her parents didn’t realize the scope of the problem either, and let Hannah go to her appointment alone; a decision Kelly says they soon came to regret. 

Coping with a diagnosis

Hannah was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a rare condition that develops before birth and causes a faster heart rate. 

She got the phone number of the surgeon that would go on to perform her first surgery that same day, and passed it along to her parents.

“We had no idea how this all worked,” Kelly said. “We didn’t know what it would be or if she was going to be okay. We just didn’t know at that point in time. It was just a very scary little while.”

After her first heart surgery on Jan. 3, 2022, Hannah would get the news that the issue was far worse than doctors had thought. The structure of her heart had been so altered by the disease that the likelihood the syndrome would cause sudden cardiac death jumped from 1-in-200 to 1-in-20. And if that were to happen, there would be no saving her.

Spencer said Hannah usually tells jokes to try and cope with the difficult position her condition has put her in. As a certified EMT, though, Spencer knows how serious the situation really is.

“It’s more like, ‘Don’t let yourself think about it, and keep making jokes.’ It’s a facade,” Spencer said. “But, statistically speaking, running more increases the amount of time your heart beats. And increasing the number of heartbeats increases the likelihood that it’ll just stop.” 

Hannah says she often hears about how well she’s handling the situation, even from doctors. 

But she’s not. 

Hannah says she’s handling it extremely poorly. There are times when she can’t help but think about how she went from finishing a marathon and being in the best shape of her life to being diagnosed with a fatal heart condition. She can’t help but think about how she doesn’t know where she and her heart actually stand after an inconclusive surgery. And she can’t help but think about the chances, slim or not, that she might never see her family or friends again.\

How could she not?

After undergoing another surgery on June 1, doctors still aren’t sure whether her heart has fully recovered. But she isn’t going to let that stop her. She’s been training to race in New York City since her doctors cleared her to run. 

Hannah says she doesn’t want her heart to be the reason she doesn’t run the marathon – she doesn’t want to give her heart the satisfaction. 

“I know I had the heart condition when I ran the last marathon, but it doesn’t feel like that in a way,” Hannah said. “Now, I’m two heart surgeries deep, and I want to cross the finish line of my next 26.2 and prove to everybody — and, I guess, mostly to myself — that I’m OK.” 

When she laces up for one of the world’s most famous races, her parents will be watching from the sidelines. Kelly says it’s been hard not being able to look after her while she’s at school, but they’re excited to be back with their daughter soon. 

And when she crosses the finish line in November, that moment will mean everything. 

Edited by Jane Durden and Mackenzie Frank

‘Feeling lost and free’: Student overcomes adversity to follow passions

By Hannah Kaufman

Laura awoke in pain, as usual. The fluorescent lights were blinding and her right leg felt as if it was being crushed and burned simultaneously. Her curly hair was tangled after the six-hour surgery, and the thin hospital gown offered little warmth. 

With last night’s narcotics still in her system, her eyes were nearly shut, but she could feel the presence of her mom and doctors — their hushed voices a mix of anxiety and anticipation. 

The surgeon checked her incisions and hovered around the area, every light touch causing winces of pain she couldn’t mask. Then came the physical exam. 

“Laura, can you wiggle your toes?” asked the doctor.

She did.

“Can you pump your ankle?”

She did.

“Can you wiggle your toes, Laura?”

Laura was confused. She couldn’t see her legs under the weight of her eyelids, but she had already done what the doctor asked. Right? A deafening silence filled the room. She forced her eyes open and saw the look on her mom’s face. 

The look told her more than any doctor ever could.

At 17 years old, Laura Saavedra Forero had just undergone her third surgery following a hip injury five years ago. Now, what started as a tear in her hip left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Laura’s Injuiry

She was taking a corner kick, something she had done thousands of times, on the day of her injury. Her team was playing on the field near her home in Charlotte. Their opponents were the Wilmington Hammerheads, a familiar foe. 

Laura jogged over to the corner mark, her hair in a high ponytail and her No. 8 jersey tucked neatly into her shorts. As her teammates scattered around the opponent’s box, she carefully placed the ball on the grass. In preparation, she took a step with her left foot, made contact with the ball and lofted it into the box.

The other team intercepted the ball and countered, but something else was wrong.

At first, she refused to go down on one knee. She knew her absence would hurt the team, and to Laura, this team mattered more than anything else. Her coaches relied on her natural leadership skills, and she had an intelligence and understanding of the game far beyond her 12 years of age. 

But soon the pain in her right hip became unbearable, and No. 8 was on the bench. What followed was a series of consultations, physical therapy appointments and MRIs, where most doctors told Laura she was fine to continue playing, regardless of her pain.

Finally, one doctor listened. He told her she had a labral tear and femoroacetabular impingement. This meant her hip bone didn’t fit into her joint properly, causing the surrounding tissue to tear. The only fix was surgery, he insisted.

After nine months of excruciating pain, the Saavedras were just happy to have a plan. The surgery’s typical recovery time was only four to six months, and Laura was already placed on a new soccer team for the upcoming season, excited to return to the field.

The season came and went. Laura, still stuck in recovery, played a total of zero minutes. The surgery had failed.

In 2016 came a second surgery to redo the first — with no success — and psychologists began to replace doctors. She was told the pain was in her head and was sent to a pain rehabilitation clinic in January 2020, where she was forced to walk without crutches, even when her knee buckled with every step.

She came home in February. Her third surgery — a hip capsule and labral reconstruction — was scheduled for August, a few days after her birthday. No one could explain why Laura woke up completely paralyzed from the waist down that morning, but some doctors theorized it was her body’s neurological response from the trauma.

Over the next 11 days in the hospital, she gained a little mobility and sensation back, but her legs were zapped of almost all their strength. She found herself adapting to life in a wheelchair. Her mental health waned as she battled depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Laura needed something new.

She got a tattoo of an anatomical heart with a bouquet of flowers growing out of it — a daffodil, aster, gladiolus and two morning glories — each representing the birth month of one of her family members. She fell in love with activism, experimented with adaptive sports and created her own organization to support immigrants. 

However, her love of soccer still shined through. 

Laura remembers the first time she played soccer when she was about three years old. She was dribbling down the field, sporting an oversized Colombian yellow jersey and blue shorts. As she dribbled, she had a feeling she can only now put into words.

“I felt lost and free at the same time,” said Laura.

She later became the manager of her high school soccer team and subbed in for the first minute of senior night, so she could kick the ball — if only once — during her final game. 

Laura came to UNC-Chapel Hill as a Morehead-Cain Scholar in 2021 and began navigating life as a gay, Latinx wheelchair user at a campus that wasn’t built for students with disabilities. 

She made lasting friendships and built a community as the manager of the women’s soccer team and co-president of the Campus Y, however, her chronic pain wasn’t going away. Her family began looking out of state to see if there was a doctor who could help. This past summer, a team in New York City finally decided to take a chance on her. 

“It was the first time I felt some sort of sympathy or empathy from a doctor, being like, ‘you don’t deserve to live like this,’” said Laura.

In New York, one weekend before the date of her June surgery, her best friend from Chapel Hill traveled to attend appointments with her while her family was in Colombia. 

Coincidentally, it also happened to be the weekend of the NYC Pride March.

The next day, Laura and a group of friends showed up to the parade covered head to toe in rainbow colors. Most people at NYC Pride jump the fence to get in, but after bribing someone to open the gate so Laura could wheel in, the group accidentally ended up in the middle of the street with the performers.

The seven students screamed and waved at the sea of people as they walked, skipped and wheeled down the colorful street. Someone asked an older couple if they could borrow their 8-foot-tall pride flag, which they handed to Laura.

The crowd went wild.

In that moment, all Laura felt was love pouring out from every glittery face, every waving hand and every stranger at the parade. She pressed all the way down on her speed control and zoomed past her cheering friends. Laura swerved back and forth to greet the crowd, the flag in her left hand swaying in the wind and her tattoo a blur of ink and daffodils.

Feeling lost and free at the same time.

Edited by Chloe Teacher and Madison Ward

UNC-CH student uses music to cope with pandemic, on-campus living

By Noah Monroe

As UNC-Chapel Hill junior Justin Watson relaxed on his couch, he reminisced about the day he was accepted into the university in 2020.

Watson described the feeling of getting into his dream school and the innocence of who he was on the winter day decisions were released.

He was unaware that in 49 days, his high school career would be cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For this Concord, N.C. native, his first taste of college wouldn’t come for another 567 days.

Watson’s demeanor changed as he recalled how he had grown since that January day.

‘It was crushing’

Watson walked around his neighborhood to get his mind off the conversation he had just had with his parents.

He couldn’t believe it; he was staying home for his first year in college.

How could this have happened?

How did COVID-19 evolve from being an extended spring break to a global pandemic that forced him to miss out on his first year on campus?

“It was crushing,” Watson said. “I took time to process high school and COVID ruining things. I was just in college mode, and that’s where I put all my chips. And then COVID ruined that as well. It sucked.”

Several states away, Griffin Fuetsch, who was supposed to be Watson’s roommate, was dealing with the same dilemma in New York City.

The two met on an Instagram page designed to help incoming UNC-CH students find a roommate, suitemates and ultimately, make friends.

The two started talking because Watson thought it was cool how Fuetsch was from New York City. They talked more and more, and Fuetsch soon became Watson’s first friend “at” UNC.

“Watching those two weeks go by where everyone is meeting people was stressful,” Fuetsch said. “Knowing I had a roommate who was going through the same thing as me and was going to start at the same place I was, it meant so much.”

Still though, not being on campus affected Watson.

Two of his high school friends, Christian Thomas and Jordan Nance, noticed this when they interacted with him in Concord.

“He was frustrated,” Thomas said. “He was cooped up at his house, so he just felt like there was no escape. It was weighing down on him that he couldn’t be on the campus and interact with classmates.”

Once that disappointment wore off, Watson knew he had to make the most of the situation so that when he finally stepped foot in Chapel Hill, he’d be in a good spot.

He got more involved with fitness, buying a punching bag and dabbling in calisthenics. Though Zoom was not the ideal introduction to college classes, Watson honed in to continue his track record of making excellent grades.

“(Being stuck at home) sparked a drive in him, and he kicked it up a notch,” Nance said. “I remember he was extremely determined to get through the classes. He was saying, ‘Just wait until I get on campus,’ and he proved himself when he was able to get on campus.”

‘Everyone has to learn, and I learned a different way’

In a friend’s basement during the summer between his first and second year, Watson began to rap Lil Baby’s part in the Drake song, ‘Wants and Needs,’ a song he had familiarized himself with since its release in March 2021.

Music had always been influential in Watson’s life, but while at home during his first year, he listened to it more, often to manage his emotions.

When he moved into Morrison Residence Hall at the beginning of his sophomore year, he knew his transition from living at home to college wasn’t going to be all smooth.

His suitemates had developed skills the previous year, like meeting people and balancing academics with social activities. Since they had experience with college life, they were able to give him advice.

But even with help, there were still growing pains.

“I was still a little bit immature sometimes,” Watson said. “Sometimes I felt like I could’ve handled things better. Everyone has to learn, and I learned a different way.”

Watson needed a way to channel his frustrations, and found a familiar avenue his sophomore year – music.

“It calmed me down,” Watson said. “When I felt anxious, I’d put on my headphones, and I’d walk through campus. It was mainly music that got me through a lot of things sophomore year.”

Walking through campus without his headphones was a rare occurrence, but a symbol of his growth throughout that year.

In combination with his experiences on campus, music helped Watson adapt to college life and learn what to expect on a daily basis.

He advanced ahead of the curve and improved his time-management.  He knew his schedule and what it would take so that he could attend class, do his homework, have time to decompress, hang out with friends and attend social events.

He found time to start a website with a friend, giving students a platform to discuss improvements for their respective colleges. Watson even found time for a girlfriend.

By the end of his sophomore year, Watson was comfortable with who he had become. He’d walk through campus with his signature headphones, taking them off to talk anytime he ran into someone he knew.

“Seeing who he is today, it’s the best feeling a friend can have,” Nance said. “In high school it seems like we were all pretty young, not knowing what we wanted to do. When I’ve seen him, I feel a sense of confidence in the drive that he has and knowing that he’s doing well in college.”

Edited by Collin Tadlock and Caleb Sigmon

Veteran becomes first Green on NC ballot for US Senate

By Kyle Ingram

“I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on, I’ll be mad.” 

This quote from 13th century poet Rumi, a mantra learned after over a decade of working within a system at the expense of his own morals, is tattooed in a circle of Arabic over Matthew Hoh’s heart. 

Running as a Green in North Carolina (or anywhere in the country) is certainly not a prudent choice — but Hoh, disillusioned from decades of failures by Republican and Democratic administrations, is unwilling to pursue any other path.

After a highly public resignation from the State Department, intensive counseling for PTSD and the disastrous end to the war he lost so much to, Hoh is the first ever Green Party candidate to make it on the ballot for U.S. Senate in North Carolina. 

From Iraq to Afghanistan

Although he was active in leftist communities throughout his early adulthood, Hoh wasn’t always the anti-war activist he is today. When he joined up with the Marine Corps in 1998, he thought he could do good in the military. 

He rose ranks quickly and found himself working for the State Department in 2004 with a reconstruction and governance team in Iraq. 

Hoh was working on a project to rebuild athletics facilities and youth centers and was given a $20 million budget. But only a few weeks into the planning phases, he was told that money would be redirected to security. 

It ended up going to militias, just as the Iraqi civil war was beginning. 

“$20 million buys a lot of Kalashnikovs and RPGs,” Hoh said, grimacing. 

By the end of his first year, Hoh no longer believed in the government’s mission, but he thought he could at least do some good by saving lives as a commander. 

But after another year, Hoh was suffering from severe depression and alcohol misuse. When he was offered a job as a political officer in Afghanistan, he had no illusions that it would be any different than Iraq. 

“My attitude was like ‘it’s better I die over there than just die here,’” he said. 

Though the Obama administration had promised to handle things differently, Hoh saw the same pointlessness and political motivation.

“You had that type of arrogance and chutzpah, if you will, this hubris that ‘because we’re not Republicans, we’re going to do it better,’” he said. 

Then came the final straw that made him leave behind what could have been a promising career in civil service. In September 2009, in the Zabul province of Afghanistan, he received an email from his dad. 

“If you don’t believe in this,” his father wrote, “then what are you doing?”

Over the course of several weeks, he drafted a four-page resignation letter.

“Thousands of our men and women have returned home with physical and mental wounds, some that will never heal or will only worsen with time,” Hoh wrote, “The dead return only in bodily form to be received by families who must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy of futures lost, love vanished and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence such assurances can anymore be made.” 

Nearly two weeks after submitting his resignation and resisting the government’s repeated attempts to convince him to stay, Hoh flew home. Upon his return, most of his possessions were still in storage, but his resignation letter was in his pocket. 

After the Resignation

While watching Monday Night Football at a Virginia bar, the bartender introduced Hoh to the man next to him, an editor at the Washington Post. 

Eight hours of interviews later, Hoh’s story, as written by Karen DeYoung, was on the front page of the Post. 

The following few weeks were Hoh’s “big celebrity moment,” as he remembers it. He appeared on The Today Show, spoke with Fareed Zakaria on CNN and fielded 75 media requests in one day. 

But eventually, the attention died down.

The war did not end, and Hoh was left to deal with PTSD, alcoholism and a traumatic brain injury. Those days, after the initial shock and media frenzy of his resignation died down, were some of the darkest of Hoh’s life. 

“It gets to the point where I’ve gone from trying to drink myself to death to I’ve actively got a suicide plan,” he said. 

Hoh’s then-girlfriend helped get him into counseling. He stopped his anti-war work and moved to North Carolina to be with his family. He spent a few years distanced from anything to do with his past life: working the front desk at a YMCA or spending a few months as a car salesman. 

He couldn’t stay away forever, though. 

Turning Green

By 2014, Hoh was a member of Veterans for Peace, protesting the war. His activism expanded — a few years later he was arrested protesting the construction of the DAPL pipeline through indigenous lands. He was losing his faith in the ability to make any change via conventional means. 

“I started to have the understanding that you really have to be outside to effect change, and you have to put that pressure on a system where it hurts,” he said. 

It takes a mindset like that to decide to run for the U.S. Senate as a Green Party candidate. 

The N.C. Green Party had a massive uphill challenge ahead of them just to get on the ballot in 2022. Tony Ndege, the party’s co-chair, said they needed a candidate who could energize people — 13,865 people, to be exact — the amount of petition signatures required to make the Greens an official party in the state. 

“I was hoping that with his background, he would be able to bring in another layer of recognition, but also excitement about getting on the ballot,” Ndege said. 

It worked, though not without a series of well-funded legal challenges from the state and national Democratic party. 

Hoh is aware the race is more than a long shot. 

“If someone like Matt really wanted to increase his political ambitions, there were better ways to do it than this,” Rose Roby, Hoh’s campaign manager said.

It’s not really about winning, though. For Hoh, this may be the first time he’s ever been able to act fully in accordance with what he believes, the first time he can make the things he cares about front and center without equivocation. 

“I’ve disavowed my principles, my values, I’ve allowed my agency to be used for others’ purposes  — even when I didn’t fully agree with it,” he said. “I think that’s brought me here.”

Edited by Emily Gajda and Annie Gibson

‘Rooted in truth’: UNC’s Modshakes offer a different theater experience

By Matthew Ng

Trigger Warning: mention of suicide and childhood abuse

“Everyone, please rise for our national anthem,” echoes throughout the Hanes Art Center auditorium at UNC-Chapel Hill.

As an audience begrudgingly stands at attention, Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” suddenly blares from the overhead speakers. A roar of laughter washes over the crowd, which begins to sing with the same conviction that a baseball game might have for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

A first-time guest might be shocked by the sight of people saluting the bikini-clad rapper projected onstage and by the headline “The Modern Shakespeare Society Presents: 30 Dead Queens in 60 British Minutes” on a whiteboard standing stage right. (The late Queen Elizabeth II had passed away just one day earlier.) 

For longtime fans of the theater group The Modern Shakespeare Society, a neo-futurist theater group of UNC students known colloquially as the Modshakes, this brazen display is hardly a departure from the ordinary.

“This type of theater focuses on the tenants of truth and performance that we attempt to recreate with our own artistic visions,” said Mia Lerner, a member of the Modshakes since her freshman year at UNC.

Lerner, who is from High Point, North Carolina, has a traditional theater background and acted in productions throughout high school and college. However, she found herself drawn to the misfit theater group once at UNC. 

“I had heard about the form of theater when in high school and I was looking for a community that would fulfill a need for creativity and friendship,” Lerner said. “I found an incredible community in Modshakes.”

Variety as the standard 

Several times a year, the Modshakes attempt the harrowing task of performing 30 plays in 60 minutes. These short plays are different from what a casual theatergoer might expect. Rather than scripted works of fiction, shows might consist of monologues, slideshows, or silence—anything that the Modshakes can conceive. 

“The Modshakes are a unique performance group that can reach people outside the traditional theater scene,” said Thomas Davids, a senior at UNC and a longtime member of the group. “We offer original and truthful plays based on our lived experiences.”

Lerner, now entering her final year at UNC and as a Modshake, said “For us, each play has a different goal that we hope to achieve. The beauty of this art form is that every two-minute play is telling a story.”

A wide variety of plays is a defining characteristic of a Modshakes show. The spectrum of emotions these plays might evoke can be jarring for some; because of this, the Modshakes include content warnings for potentially traumatic topics on their “menu” of plays. At the troupe’s most recent show, plays ranged from a monologue about suicide to a slideshow inviting the audience to name several of the Modshakes’ sex toys. 

One Modshake performed a piece depicting their childhood abuse, leaving the audience speechless. Not long after, Davids was given a makeshift car boot and stood onstage forbidden from moving for the rest of the night.

Connor Culpepper, a former UNC student, was introduced to the Modshakes by mutual friends and has attended their shows since last year. “I am constantly surprised and amazed at how they can show such creativity within the restrictions that they impose on themselves,” said Culpepper, citing the unpredictability of the shows as a reason for his continued attendance.

Drafting the unexpected

Planning a Modshakes show is as frenzied as the performance itself. 

On the Sunday night of performance week, the Modshakes pitch their shows to one another. As a group, they decide on 30 of their best pitches to arrive at their signature blend of humor and vulnerability. For the next week, the Modshakes gather at Hanes Art Center and spend two hours each night vigorously writing, creating, and rehearsing in anticipation of their Friday or Saturday evening show. 

This rather brief process, which begins and ends in the span of just one week, is unthinkable for most traditional theater groups. For the Modshakes, this short time frame is a deliberate process. 

“It matches the brevity and honesty of what we do,” Lerner said.

Each member of the Modshakes, as well as those who watch their plays, may have their own interpretation of what inspires such a raw, bizarre, and emotional brand of theater.

For Lerner, it is clear where her own inspiration stems from. 

“Modshakes is rooted in truth,” she said. “In place of traditional theater that takes on a character and story, Modshakes and neo-futurism are based around vulnerability and honesty from its performers. This allows for a heightened connection between performer and audience member. It’s short, real, and exciting. It’s different in every way.”

Edited by Ryan Mills and Clay Morris 

Sophomore finds home on the water: a look inside UNC women’s crew

By Ivy Young

An alarm goes off. Sophomore Chloe Schneider rolls over in bed. Her twinkle lights come on, and she forces herself to put her feet on the floor. Above her, in the top bunk, her roommate, Lydia, groans. It is 5:30 in the morning. 

After scarfing down a granola bar and changing into navy spandex, Schneider is out the door and heading to Carmichael Gymnasium. She checks her watch, only to realize that she’s running a few minutes behind. If she doesn’t run, she won’t make it.

An hour later, she is in the middle of the boat with eight other girls watching the sun rise over Jordan Lake. 

Six days a week, Chloe Schneider is up at 5:30 a.m. to practice with the University of North Carolina women’s crew team. Starting at 7 a.m., the team rows for more than an hour before returning to campus. And, after a day’s worth of classes, she will have practice again, this time lifting weights in the basement of Carmichael Gym. 

Beginning her athletics journey 

A year ago, she was an ordinary college first-year. Now, she is a Division 1 athlete at one of the top public schools in the country. 

Last fall, Schneider was walking back from a campus ministry event when she started talking to the girl walking beside her. The girl told her that the women’s crew team took walk-on athletes, and that tryouts were the week after Christmas break. 

“I said that she should let me know if she heard anything else,” Schneider said. “But I never saw that girl again.”

Prompted by the exchange, she emailed the new coach, who sent her a recruiting questionnaire and told her how to prepare for tryouts. 

Although walk-ons usually try out in the fall, the team had just gotten a new coach, Erin Neppel, the former assistant coach at the University of Virginia. Because of the change in leadership, the team’s schedule was thrown off and tryouts were held in the spring. 

Walking onto a college sports team is no small feat, but Schneider felt that she had a good chance. Because she was tall and muscular, people were always asking her if she was a rower or a swimmer. 

“I just thought it would be so cool if I could finesse my way into becoming a D1 athlete,” she said, laughing. 

Seeking community

But beyond the glamour of becoming a college athlete, Schneider was looking for something on the crew team that she was having a hard time finding anywhere else: a real community.

Her sister, Emma Schneider, graduated from North Carolina State University last year and loved every second of college. Although she lived in the same dorm as a number of her close high school friends, Schneider was having a hard time getting that same experience. 

She said that because UNC is so big, it does not always feel supportive. It seemed like students were being pitted against one another and forced to compete for limited resources and opportunities. Her mother, Lynn Schneider, said something similar. 

“N.C. State is very collaborative, but it feels like Chapel Hill is more fragmented,” said Lynn Schneider.

One benefit of being a student athlete is that UNC pays special attention. Student athletes have access to tutors, advisors and academic coaches, often without the student having to seek them out.   

There are also all the side benefits of playing a sport. Athletes walk around wearing special gear and navy backpacks, instantly recognizable. Schneider does not have to go to Lenoir Hall anymore, because she can get food from Loudermilk Hall, the dining hall specifically for student athletes. 

“I think being able to go to the Fueling Station is my favorite perk,” she said. “I get like four points a day, and every snack is a point.” 

Sitting at a picnic table outside the Student Union, Isabel Inman, one of Schneider’s best friends, said that she wishes Chloe still ate at the regular dining hall but understands why she made the change. “I’ve heard the ham sandwiches from Loudermilk are to die for,” Inman said.  

‘Courage doesn’t mean not being afraid’

Before Schneider tried out for the crew team, Inman didn’t even know that it existed. After all, women’s rowing has only been an official UNC sport for about 20 years. Before Title IX, both the men’s and women’s teams were club. Now only the men’s team is. 

The UNC women’s rowing team is one of the only D1 rowing teams that does not have its own facility. Typically, the team will practice on erg machines on the basketball courts in Woollen Gymnasium, where there is no air conditioning. Recently during practice, two girls passed out from heat exhaustion. 

The team also cannot host regattas, or rowing competitions, because it lacks the capacity to host them. Kathyrn Cummings, a sophomore on the team, said that this is one of the reasons people assume women’s rowing is just a club team. 

“There’s kind of a stigma against us, because people think that it’s not a real sport,” Cummings said. 

Lynn Schneider remembers her daughter’s high school fear of public speaking and recalls how the thought of a presentation would keep her up at night. She said that Chloe chose to pursue student government, a position that would force her to speak in public and represent her high school class. 

“She refused to let it defeat her,” Lynn Schneider said. “She’s always made me think of the saying that says courage doesn’t mean not being afraid but being afraid and doing it anyway.” 

Despite all these difficulties, Chloe Schneider has earned a spot on the team and is respected as a strong rower. Cummings said that Schneider typically sits in the middle of the boat, a place reserved for the more powerful rowers. 

And even though the other students in her ECON 410 class might not know she is on the team, Chloe likes it that way. Sitting on a bench in white tennis shoes and patterned shorts, she said that her experience in college athletics has never been about the glamour. 

“I like that I do hard things and no one else has to know that,” said Schneider.

Editing by Brooke Dougherty and Hannah Collett