A bonding experience for any gamer: the UNC Rocket League Club is growing

By Eric Weir

When Alex Ho arrived on campus as a freshman in 2018, he believed he was done playing his favorite video game, Rocket League, competitively.

It’s not that Ho was unable to play, or was not good at playing – Ho is a highly ranked competitive Rocket League player and was the highest ranked player in the club when he joined in 2018.

Ho believed no one would be as passionate about Rocket League, but to him, it was more than a game.

To others, Rocket League was a strange video game that loosely combined soccer with gravity-defying, rocket powered cars straight out of a “Mad Max” movie.

‘Hey, let’s grab dinner’

When he arrived to campus in 2018, Ho was surprised when he found a small group of people within the Esports Club that liked Rocket League. There were about four seniors and one junior in the initial group.

After a couple weeks of only online play and interaction, Ho wanted to meet them in person.

“Hey, let’s grab dinner,” Ho said.

The club happily agreed and they had their first “Rocket League dinner” together at Chase Dining Hall. It has since become a special tradition.

In spring of 2020, Hall plopped down next to other club members at the Ms. Mong Restaurant on Franklin Street. He kept his head down and said, “Hey guys,” with a defeated tone.

“I feel terrible about this chemistry exam I just took,” Hall said.

“Which class was it,” his teammate asked. “I’ve taken that class, it’s hard, but you’ll be fine.”

Hall says its moments like these where he understands why the number of members has grown so much since his Freshman year.

‘Welcoming community’

The UNC Rocket League Club has grown at a fast rate over the past couple years and its leaders have created a culture of inclusivity that has exploded into one of the fastest growing clubs at Chapel Hill.

In 2019, the club had around 100 members and two competitive teams. In 2021, the members had more than doubled with around 260 members and four competitive teams.

One reason for the jump in membership comes from a competition held between club members in 2020. Suddenly, juniors and seniors were hearing about the club for the first time. Players who casually enjoyed the game but were hesitant to join signed up.

Junior Henry Hall said the welcoming community made a big difference for new members.

“Rocket League is a game where you can play with anybody no matter how good they are,” Hall said. “Like casually and have a good time.”

Similar problems 

Ricardo Tieghi came to UNC this year with similar problems as Ho. He was an avid Rocket League player, but had no one to play with back home in Brazil and expected nothing different in college.

Weeks before heading to Chapel Hill for his freshman year, Tieghi discovered the Rocket League Club through the Esports page on the Heel Life website and happily joined.

The day he arrived, before he had a chance to admire his new room, he made his way to the gaming arena for a welcome back tournament. Problems arose when Tieghi’s teammate did not show up

“Oh my god, I shouldn’t have even come,” Tieghi said.

After contacting Ho and another administrator, they quickly found Tieghi a new teammate.

“We had never seen each other before,” Tieghi said. “We had never played together before, but we went into this competitive tournament playing against the best players here at UNC and we managed to do well which was amazing,”

Tieghi said the club has given him a sense of belonging on campus especially early on in the semester this year.

‘A big factor’

The club’s leadership has been a big factor in the club’s image. For the past four years the leaders have been David Gallub and Ho.

Gallub was one of the founders of the Rocket League Club and he set a standard for being inclusive and kind to one another.

“He was always there to calm you down if you’re feeling doubtful,” Hall said. “He’ll give you some confidence.”

Even though he graduated in 2019, Gallub is still willing to look at members’ resumés and offer advice.

After 2019, Gallub passed the torch too Ho to continue growing the club.

“From the moment I met Alex I instantly realized he was someone very approachable,” Tieghi said. “He’s kind and caring. He makes you feel welcome and makes everyone feel good when you’re playing.”

Rocket League may only be a game but the way the game has brought together a group of people in Chapel Hill has transformed it into something much more.

What was once an exclusive group of avid players has blossomed into a large community spreading laughter and friendship.

Edited by: Anna Blount/Austin Bean

‘It’s quick, it’s easy to view’: Two UNC-Chapel Hill students create magazine during pandemic

By Lindsey Banks

It’s December 2019. Best friends Ken Davis and Cee Cee Huffman are sitting on a flea-infested couch in Ken’s college apartment when Cee Cee turns to Ken and says, “So, I had this idea yesterday.”

Ken sits up a little straighter, eyes wide. “I had a big idea yesterday that I wanted to tell you, too,” he says. “I want to start a magazine.”

“You’re fucking joking,” she laughs. “want to start a magazine.” She can’t tell if the hair on her skin is standing up because of the sweet bliss of coincidence or because a flea is dancing across her arm, but regardless, they both take this as a sign.

They had unknowingly been craving the same thing: an outlet in which they could create without any rules or limits, and never have to say the dreaded two-letter word to an idea.

With a shared love for journalism and fashion – and with an audience of fleas to witness

Looks Attached was born!

“I’d kind of always been envious of people who were confident enough to start their own thing and just really build something from the ground up,” Ken says. Cee Cee gave him the push off the diving board that he needed to swim.

Cee Cee, 24, and Ken, 21, met the year before at their part-time jobs at Carolina Brewery on Franklin Street, bonding over a Trisha Paytas YouTube video on break. Cee Cee was a server, and Ken was a host. Though their mutual love for Trisha was short-lived, Cee Cee and Ken have been best friends ever since.

Cee Cee graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2020 with a degree in broadcast journalism, and Ken is currently a senior public relations and advertising major at UNC.

Their original idea was to create an e-newsletter for fashion, culture and entertainment, which inspired the name, “Looks Attached” (the content would be sent as an email attachment to their subscribers). “Think theSkimm,” Ken says.

After landing on a name, Ken and Cee Cee texted all of their creative friends to ask if they wanted to help. Looks Attached was their baby, and they wanted people they could trust to help look after it.

Currently, the Looks Attached team consists of 24 college-aged individuals. Most of their staff consist of UNC students, but they have a few writers based in New York and Los Angeles.

A challenge most great leaders face, Ken and Cee Cee worked diligently to build trust between themselves and their team.

“It was really just about creating a space for people to feel comfortable to create what they wanted to without limits,” Ken says.

Cee Cee is the chief operations officer, and Ken is the chief creative director. The easiest way to explain it according to both of them: Cee Cee makes sure shit gets done on time and Ken makes sure it looks good. In other words, she handles the business and financial sides of Looks Attached and he works on the website, social media and styling.

“I never really vibed with the idea of one editor-in-chief, and basically they’re making all these decisions from a top-down format,” Ken said. “One of the biggest things that I really wanted to take with it is just creating a space where the entire team has a hand in the creative process.”

The money

Babies can be expensive, so the next step was to secure funding to get their idea off the ground. With just an idea, the most difficult part was pitching a concept without having anything to show yet.

Their first pitch was to 1789 Venture Lab, a workspace for student entrepreneurship and innovation. 1789 awarded them with a $500 grant before they even had a website. UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hogan Fellows Scholarship Fund awarded them an additional $4,000. Ken is a Carolina Scholar which made him eligible for the award.

After procuring the funds to get started, they decided to take Looks Attached on a different route.

A digital museum

“We were just going in with some hopes and dreams and hoping that they would trust our vision,” Ken says. “It’s hard to pitch something to somebody when they can’t even see what it is.”

One of Ken’s goals as chief creative director was to create an online format that was aesthetically pleasing. They came up with the idea of releasing their monthly editions in “rooms,” or separate pages on the website. Each room is designed around one central theme. All photos, articles, videos, staff-curated Spotify playlists and other digital content are connected by that theme.

“We wanted it to feel like a museum, like an exhibit room, and less of a digital gallery,” Cee Cee says.

Covid-19 pushed back its official launch to July 2020. During the first few months of the pandemic, they regrouped and started working on a new room called “We Are The Virus” that focused on the environmental impacts of disposable face masks.

In Sept. 2020, Looks Attached officially became an LLC. Cee Cee said the process was simple, and since Looks Attached doesn’t have an official office space, her studio apartment is listed as the address for their business.

Even now, Ken and Cee Cee are “winging it” as true first-time parents. They didn’t seek out mentorship from their professors at UNC, but Terrence Oliver, who has been teaching magazine design at UNC for 11 years, says Looks Attached covers all the important factors to consider. It’s relevant, easily accessible, understandable, engaging and piques its audience’s curiosity.

“There’s common ground with communication that a lot of us are visual learners, and visuals command attention even more so than long narratives because it’s quick, it’s easy to view,” Oliver says.

Going forward

With more positive feedback from their audience, Ken and Cee Cee realized that their concept was unique and needed legal protection from competitors. They purchased a copyright for their “room” innovation.

“If you think about Ford, when he was in the inception of the car, everybody was still focused on the horse and buggy, and there was resistance,” Oliver says. “Any new concept, there’s got to be a level of risk involved but then also there may be something to garner from adoption and innovation that can be progressive and forward-thinking, and maybe even change the path of the way people navigate and communicate.”

Ken and Cee Cee have grown their social media presence to over 8,000 followers on Instagram and have grown their markets in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Durham, New York, Los Angeles, London, Canada, Australia and Brazil.

This year, they hope to grow the number of featured artists on their site and continue being a space for new and young artists to launch their creative careers. As for Ken and Cee Cee’s future with Looks Attached, they told themselves they would give it two years and re-evaluate. But it doesn’t sound like they’re quite ready to give Looks Attached up for adoption yet:

“Our entire business has been done during the pandemic,” Cee Cee says. “To see what we’ve been able to do now, I just can’t imagine what we’ll be able to do later, and I’m really excited for it.”

Edited by: Anna Blount

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.

4B

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.

Recess!

“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.

Normalcy

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