Reminiscing on a Carolina win after Blue Devils stun the Tar Heels

By Tamiya Troy

Calia Johnson stared at the television as there were 16 seconds left on the clock in overtime. The score was UNC 96, Duke University 93. She eased into a daydream.

On this day two years ago, she went to her first Carolina versus Duke basketball game. She originally didn’t win a ticket through the lottery, but a friend found a ticket for her to attend the game.

Too excited to think, she stood in the mirror then ransacked her closet to find an outfit. She wore a Carolina blue shirt, black pants, a grey scarf and a black North Face jacket. She wore Uggs and brought earmuffs and gloves to wear as she waited in line.

She walked up the hill to the Smith Center and saw lines of shivering students. The lines were wrapped around the entire building, and she didn’t know if she wanted to wait that long. “I saw Roy Williams through the basketball museum windows and I knew it’d be worth it,” Calia said. “I realized I didn’t mind waiting two hours for something I looked forward to my whole life.”

The cool air against her face was nothing compared to the warm feeling throughout her body. When she finally entered the arena, she could feel the anticipation in the air. There was a sea of Carolina blue faces, t-shirts, foam fingers and towels. Her heart filled with joy and she smiled from ear to ear.

Calia attended almost every home basketball game that season and this was the one she was most excited to experience. She was used to sitting in the first row of the student section at every game, so she didn’t know what to expect. Sitting in the nosebleeds wasn’t ideal, but Calia cared more about being present.

The Smith Center was dark. People pulled out their phones and prepared for the light show. Across the arena, the cellphone lights flashed in sync as Michael Jordan, Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Luke Maye appeared on the jumbotrons. Cheers filled the air while highlights from the unforgettable 2017 National Championship win played in the video.

The teams walked onto the court. It was officially game time. The fans stood the entire game, watching as both teams hustled across the court. By halftime, Carolina fans had their hands on top of their heads, standing in distress. UNC was down by four.

But any true Carolina fan knew that the team would pull through. The scores were close. The fans were restless. With 15 seconds left, Carolina had a five-point lead and possession of the ball. People started to gather their belongings in preparation for what was to come.

Seconds passed by and screams began to fill the atmosphere.

The clock hit zero, and the arena erupted with excitement. Carolina defeated Duke 82-78. The stress and anxiety of the game turned into joy. Calia grabbed her friends as they jumped and yelled into their cameras. She couldn’t believe that she had experienced her first Carolina versus Duke win.

People hastily ran out of the Smith Center. They didn’t even bother singing the alma mater, which is typically sung after a Carolina win.

The Carolina fans that filled the arena had one place in mind. More than four decades ago fans rushed Franklin Street for the first time. Today, they still run to Franklin Street to celebrate a win over Duke or a championship game.

Calia and her friends joined the crowd. It would take about 25 minutes to reach Franklin Street, but her heart was beating fast and time was moving slow. They waited eagerly for people to exit the arena.

When they finally reached the pavement, they walked up the Skipper Bowles hill, thinking about how to avoid getting tired too quickly. News stations were parked at every curb. There were so many people and no way to run around the barricades.

They walked through SASB Plaza, past Chase Hall and Kenan Stadium. As they approached the Bell Tower, they began to run. “At that moment, I knew it was real,” Calia said. “I would never run this far across campus for anything else.”

You could hear crowds screaming from every direction. Their journey consisted of sporadic chants of “Tar… Heels!” They ran through the Pit, past the Old Well and by Silent Sam. Despite slowly running out of breath, they continued their trek until they reached Franklin Street.

Students are not the only ones who rush Franklin Street. Fans young and old, as well as health and safety professionals line the street to rally and ensure safe celebration.

Members of the Critical Incident Response Team, like Aisha Pridgen, were also running toward Franklin Street, but for a different reason. “I remember my colleagues and I trying to figure out the best route to beat the crowd,” Aisha said. “But the bonfires and fireworks had already started by the time we arrived.”

Calia weaved through thousands of people, searching for her friends. “We kept trying to call them, but the signal was so bad,” Calia said. Every time they got through one crowd of people, they found themselves in the middle of another. She started to lose hope.

Music was playing, people were dancing and everyone was screaming. “It was a huge mosh pit that I thought I’d get lost in,” Calia said. Unexpectedly, she spotted her friends standing at the corner of Franklin Street and Colombia Street, in front of Lotsa. She ran toward them, screaming with excitement. They laughed, cried and took pictures together in the middle of the chaos.

The energy was at an all-time high and she couldn’t believe her eyes. She interacted with random people as if she had known them her entire life. The fact that some people never experience the Franklin Street rush was absurd to her.

As she looked around, people were standing on things, climbing light poles and holding friends on their shoulders. The only thing everyone cared about was the win over Duke. They spotted the bonfire and decided to join the crowd. One…two…three! She jumped over the fire and everyone cheered. “It was electrifying. I felt like I was dreaming,” Calia said.

She knew that this was the epitome of the Carolina experience.

It hit Johnson that this experience would be incredibly different than the 2018 game she attended.

As she shifted back to reality, the clock hit zero seconds. Duke defeated Carolina 98-96.

Tears filled her eyes, and at that moment, she realized that she wouldn’t experience the thrill this time around.

Edited by Rachel Sauls

At Connor’s Lane, new life springs up from tragedy

By Savannah Cole

Every time the Beeson family sits around their fire pit, Connor’s Lane, they reminisce over the 19 years they shared with their son. They smile, they laugh, and sometimes, they cry.

It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day; Ryan Beeson had just returned to East Carolina University after a nice weekend at home. His day started just as any other. He headed to Cook Out for lunch, unaware that his family had been trying to call him all day. That afternoon, Ryan got a knock on his door. It was his cousin, Sid.

Sid sat Ryan down and told him there had been a death in the family. Ryan’s first thought was his dad. He never expected it to be his younger brother, only sibling and best friend. Ryan said, “I just remember crying and screaming.”

Connor was working on his truck, White Thunder. He was pumping air into its tires when one exploded, instantly killing him. Connor was just 19 years old. Jan. 19, 2015, would be a day that changed the Beesons’ lives forever.

‘I love you to the moon and back’

Ryan was about two years older than Connor. Some of Ryan’s favorite memories include playing with his younger brother every day after school. They played Us Big, a game where they would pretend to be grown-ups from different time periods. Ryan also remembers the two playing with their cousins in their grandparents’ sandbox until high school.

Connor and Ryan’s rooms were beside each other, connected by a bathroom. Every night they would tell each other good night and that they loved each other.

Connor enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, hunting, working on White Thunder and playing with Dixie and Daisy, his bluetick coonhounds. Ryan describes his younger brother as “dedicated, loyal and loving.”

Connor was a special person who was taken too soon. One of his friends, Kyle Hollingsworth, said, “Connor was a kindhearted, faithful friend. He always wore a beautiful smile on his face but was very unpretentious.”

Ryan remembers that the last time he saw Connor, they spent the whole afternoon walking around where Connor hoped to build his house. Ryan said, “I’m so thankful the last time we had together was forward-looking.”

The night before his death, Connor woke his mom up in the middle of the night to tell her he loved her and that he knew how much she loved him. The two had always told each other, “I love you to the moon and back.” That was the last time they spoke.

Connor had also written a note to his girlfriend saying, “When I die, people are going to know how much I loved you.” Ryan said, “There’s a lot of things that can’t be explained but by God; I felt like God was trying to prepare us to say goodbye.”

Ryan misses his brother every day, but has peace in knowing that Connor left this earth feeling loved while letting his family know of his love for them.

The days, weeks and months following Connor’s death were agonizing for the Beesons. They lived on autopilot. Ryan said, “I look back at that time and I don’t know how I would sleep at night or how I ate.”

Turning tragedy to blessings

As terrible as the following days were, the Beesons had a wonderful support system. People were constantly at their house. Neighbors brought food, did their laundry, prayed with them and read Scripture with them.

The week after Connor died, Ryan’s family and friends told him that he needed to go back to school. People said that if he took too much time off, he would never return. Despite the heartache Ryan was going through, he put on a brave face and went to school.

About five or six weeks after returning to school, the pain took over and Ryan had to leave of his classes. It was unbearable. “You feel like the world has ended, but the world is still going on around you,” Ryan remembers. “How are these people just acting like everything’s normal? My brother is dead.” That day, he called his parents and decided to withdraw until he was ready to go back.

The family searched for ways to cope with the pain of losing their loved one; they knew they could not spend every day in mourning. They had to do something, so they decided to make a spot where they could go to remember Connor. The family built Connor’s Lane. They got chainsaws, cleared out all the trees and made an area for a fire pit.

The Beesons use Connor’s Lane to gather as a family and remember all the wonderful times they spent with him. Ryan said, “It’s a weird thing; sometimes it feels so fresh like it was just yesterday, and sometimes it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve seen him.”

Ryan and Connor’s mother, Christine, prayed for a sign that her son was with the Lord. Soon after, a yellow butterfly appeared and kept circling her. The Beesons often see yellow butterflies and believe it is God’s way of sending a “hello” from Connor. Whether at the lake or Connor’s grave, when they see a yellow butterfly, they know that Connor is OK.

The family decided to create a scholarship in Connor’s memory. Connor loved cows and often played with toy cows when he was younger, so they came up with the MOO Scholarship. The MOO (Make Others Outstanding) Scholarship goes to one graduating senior at Randleman High School each year.

Connor’s family and girlfriend adopted a highway in his memory. They are joined in the project by community members four times each year as a way to remember Connor. The Randleman Bojangles’ donates biscuits to feed those who come out to help.

A way forward

Nov. 20, 2019, would have been Connor’s 24th birthday. The community gathered to clean up the highway, but also to honor his life. There were food, friends and a cake.

Ryan wears a necklace that has Connor’s fingerprint on it. It makes him feel like a piece of Connor is with him every day. The Beesons still fight through tough times. January 19 of this year was exceptionally difficult, as it was the fifth anniversary of his death. Ryan cried for about two hours until a happy memory came up to make him smile.

Ryan said, “It’s OK to hurt; you’re supposed to hurt; you would feel guilty if you didn’t.” As the Beeson family gathers around the Connor’s Lane fire pit, they remember his story. They share stories, share laughs and share tears.

Edited by Stephen Kenney

Living ‘without fear’ on the streets of Orange County

By Julia Masters

Shivering on a sidewalk bench, Aurelio DiScala wept.

The wooden planks provided no warmth, no shelter. Freezing tears streamed down toward his beard tied into uneven sections with neon rubber bands. She was supposed to be here by now, DiScala thought through his exhaustion. It was his third night in a row without sleep.

She had told him over breakfast at the Waffle House that she still loved him. She said that she would come for him tonight — so where was she?

It wasn’t until later the next day that he realized they’d never spoken. There had been no breakfast of smothered and covered hash browns. No confession of love or promise of a future.

It was all a hallucination.

This happened soon after DiScala’s arrival to Chapel Hill two months ago. Since then, the scruffy ‘metaphysical shaman’ set up camp in no man’s land outside the Red Roof Inn in Durham. The camp is at the end of the line on the Chapel Hill Transit D Route, making for an easy commute to Franklin Street.

An estimated 131 people are experiencing homelessness in Orange County, according to a report by Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness.

“People are homeless for three reasons: because they can’t work, won’t work or choose to be,” DiScala said. “I’m all three.”

The Norwalk, Connecticut, native graduated Apex High School in 1999 and attended UNC Charlotte for two years. He then transferred to UNC Wilmington, where he studied computer science, played rugby and started smoking marijuana.

Through the years he worked for General Electric Power, Kenan Flagler Institute of Private Enterprise and played semi-professional rugby for the Atlanta Old White Rugby Club. He has waited tables, rolled pizza dough, gone to Europe and Turkey on soul searching quests and lead cults of metaphysical thinkers, including one in Carrboro. He has also been diagnosed with ADHD, depression and delusional disorders.

Glancing down at the ground, he noticed a rusted razor blade. He Picking it up, he was torn between carefully placing it in his book bag or throwing it away, like invisible forces were playing a game of tug-of-war with his body. He chose to throw it away, because every time he gets a pain on the right side of his nose, it’s his spirit guiding him toward the right decision.

DiScala said that due to his diagnoses, he cannot hold down a job and work normal hours like most 38-year-old men.  Beyond this, he chooses homelessness.

“The homeless population with diagnosed mental conditions have problems getting jobs just like felons,” Annie, a Carrboro resident who mentors the homeless, said. “In some cases, the homeless could get off the street; some want the negative freedom to be out all night, drink, commit crimes and justify it by being homeless.”

Part of the family

DiScala chose Chapel Hill as his home base because of its “gentle feminine energy.” There are no territory wars when it comes to the best spots to position on Franklin Street.

There are no laws prohibiting panhandling and the IFC Community Kitchen serves three course meals, making Chapel Hill a haven for DiScala.

Annie said that the longer a person remains homeless, the closer they feel to the street community. Many of Chapel Hill’s homeless become recognizable on the street, adopted into a new makeshift family.

“Rick! Rick! Where have you been?” DiScala shouted.

“Hey man! What are you up to?” Rick, a recent UNC-Chapel Hill graduate and fellow member of the homeless community, responded.

DiScala stepped into a store and returned with a pack of India pale ales. Rick pulled out two inconspicuous disposable coffee cups from his bag. He ventured into the nearest alley and poured the beer into the cups.

Rick and DiScala sat back, sipped their beers and laughed over somewhat crude conversation, similar to what one might witness walking by fraternity court on a sunny day. Except these men were sitting on the ground, thinking of when their next meal would be.

When worlds collide

Annie compared the student and homeless population in Chapel Hill to two ships passing by one another on their way to different worlds. While she does not believe it is necessary to interact, she thinks students should be aware of the misconceptions surrounding homeless individuals.

“I feel like I usually walk quickly past them or try to avoid eye contact,” Justin King, a junior neuroscience major at UNC-CH, said. “I feel like if I make eye contact I’ll feel more guilty about not giving them money.”

Sometimes interactions between the two ships are less mundane.

Walking home from work one afternoon, junior Isabella Gonzalez realized she was being followed. She noticed that a homeless man she’d passed leaving the ITS office was still behind her as she veered off onto Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Panicking, Gonzalez sped up and frantically dialed her mom’s number. She only hung up after making it to Mill Creek, where the man stopped and watched her walk into the building.

Annie said that the key to the balance between Chapel Hill’s two worlds is to encourage students to treat the homeless with humanity.

DiScala holds a crumpled “Homeless, please help” sign on the street. His long, frizzy curls partially cover a pink scar he got in Mexico defending his girlfriend. He appears stand-offish to those that peer sideways at him as they walk by.

They know he is homeless. They know he is probably hungry and in need of a shower. They assume he has struggled with substance abuse and made terrible life decisions.

They don’t know he recites phrases in ancient Greek and Latin. They don’t know he created and coded his own video game. They don’t know that while science fiction movies are his favorites, Sex and the City holds a special place in his heart. They don’t know that he is a Cancer and his favorite time of year is the fall. They don’t know that he’s been in love.

“You can get very very depressed living on the streets, lose your will to live and start going through the motions,” Annie said. “The problem is when someone doesn’t have something bigger than themselves to believe in.”

DiScala said that he uses a different tactic to endure life on the streets: “I live without fear, act without fear, I never run.”

Edited by Anna Farmer. 

China to Chapel Hill: UNC student turns maps into art around the globe

By Katie Clark

UNC-Chapel Hill senior Reid Brown, 21, is a typical senior. A student, musician, environmental scientist and world traveler who spends his spare time hanging out with friends, playing music and talking with his girlfriend. However, he also has another hobby that makes him, well, not so typical.

He creates artwork with maps.

Brown is in the business of creating original cartographic prints, he said, his smile then slightly more determined as he proudly laughed over a cup of coffee in a bustling bagel shop. Artwork that, in his words, is “a tangible embodiment of who he is and where he’s been.”

“Basically they’re black and white; that’s the art style, so it’s minimalist,” Brown said. “It’s just to show a city or town’s character through its streetscape.”

He will graduate from UNC-CH in May with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and a minor in statistics. He also studies music and is a self-taught pianist.

During his studies, Brown learned how to use a program called ArcGIS, an information system that works with maps and geographic material. Through the Geographic Information System, or GIS software, Brown finds and edits portions of maps for his posters before personalizing them in Photoshop.

“It’s maps by geospatial data,” Brown said. “Kinda nerdy, but it’s really cool.”

Brown was fascinated with what the GIS system could do and wanted to use it as a medium for artwork.

“It also kind of reinforces what we learned in our [environmental studies] classes,” Brown said. “It’s fun, it’s an application of stuff I learned.”

Brown spends lots of time in Davis Library building maps in the GIS system for his artwork.

“At its most basic [GIS] is a piece of software to make maps,” Philip McDaniel, GIS Librarian in Davis Library, said. “You can use it to optimize behavior, travel time or service areas around places like hospitals, and then you can use it to communicate all this.”

McDaniel has seen other students use GIS for fine art projects and to study certain landscapes. Students and professionals who use the programs for their studies and products, but not for an on-the-side side business.

The artwork Brown creates, however, may be referred to as a “side hustle.” He does not predict a strong profit from his art, but continues to make and sell pieces for friends, family and any fellow students and community members who commission him.

The birth of an idea

Brown does not call himself an artist, and said he never spent much time doing arts and crafts as a kid. Instead, the map art began during his world travels while working in China.

“This past summer I got to go to China and work in a research lab,” Brown said. “In the period between school and going to China, I was like, ‘I’m going to set this little challenge for myself.’ I wasn’t sure what it was at the time.”

While in China, Brown learned that Chinese culture largely involves gift giving. This inspired him to give gifts to those he met. He made cartographic maps for each of his mentors. These pieces encompassed portions of maps from Kai Fung, China, to Nigeria and Ghana.

The artwork is also a way for Brown to face certain fears and to challenge himself as a person. He is nervous about his inability to follow through with certain projects in his life, and thinks that perhaps these maps can help lead him to a place of confidence.

“I don’t want to be too serious about something and not have it work out, so I see this as a continuation of things I’m into,” Brown said. “It’s really just following through. I’m competitive against myself because I like studying a goal and then realizing it. This was one of the first times I really committed to something that big.”

His favorite piece of artwork that he has done is a map of Chapel Hill. The map was one of his earlier pieces and did not come without challenges.

“The biggest hurdle was getting it printed. The first piece looked terrible, it was on copier paper,” Brown said, recalling the weeks of planning, editing and trial and error. “It’s just been getting better every time. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems. There’s a lesson in that.”

Bringing lines to life

According to Brown, other companies who make cartographic pieces may have maps that are more detailed, but they are much less personal.

“I have to have a whole conversation with someone asking, ‘What do you want? Does this look good to you?’” Brown said.

Other companies also sell pieces in a more streamlined fashion, but Brown claims they charge almost five times as much as him.

“I sell them for like $15 to $25 each,” Brown said. “I probably should charge more, but I don’t want to gouge anyone. The reason why I made this is because I felt it was way too expensive for other ones.”

Elias Tymas, a sophomore at UNC-CH, saw the artwork and immediately took a liking to it.

“My dad was an artist, so I have an appreciation for art,” Tymas said. “The art is so cool, and the fact that you can choose your own town is awesome. It shows that the person is talented.”

Tymas stated that he would pay $20 for a student-produced piece like Brown’s.

The business of making, selling and delivering personalized map art is not something that Brown foresees as a steady future income. In the short term, however, he has plans for a website, possible streetwear and to get his cartography into businesses on UNC-CH’s campus.

“I don’t see it getting crazy big, but the eventual goal is to get them in the student stores,” Brown said.

Brown believes that Student Stores would provide more visibility for his work. For now, he plans to sell his art around campus and would like to set up tables in the Student Union.

“I can ask students, ‘Hey, you wanna support me?’” Brown said.

Kat Doan purchased a map of Jinan, China as a gift from Reid last year. She saw the artwork on Brown’s Instagram, and thought that it was unique.

“I try to support local artists, and I insisted on paying for his work. The price was very fair, in my opinion,” Doan said. “He kept me really involved in the decision-making and the recipient and I are really happy with how it turned out!”

Brown likes to teach himself new skills and said that others should try this too.

“I think everyone has something they’re into. If they haven’t found it yet, they’ll find it eventually,” Brown said.

If you are interested in Reid Brown’s art, you can contact him at or by phone at 336-847-9484.

Edited by Maya Jarrell

Meet the five local college students who launched their own creative media company

By Jonny Cook 

On a brisk Sunday afternoon in Chapel Hill, most UNC-Chapel Hill students are doing homework, studying or even nursing a hangover after a Saturday night out. Baaqir Yusuf and the rest of his team at Triad Studios––a creative media production agency started by five college students––have been in their Franklin Street office for hours.

Tucked away between Julian’s clothing store and Underground Printing on Franklin Street, you might on first glance miss the small entrance labeled “” The wooden entrance is so small that it’s not surprising the official address of the building is 1/2 133 E. Franklin St. Although difficult to see from the outside, a flurry of activity is happening inside.

Yusuf reads from his computer, “At Honors Carolina, you get your education from the world around you––”

“Wait, wasn’t there a line about the Board of Advisors?” Tristan Gardner, one of the other founders, interjects. “Let’s put something like that in there, ‘your personal board of advisors for the real world.’ ‘Between the faculty staff and…industry mentors? Industry leaders?’”

“‘Industry mentors’ is good,” Yusuf responds.

Gardner repeats: “You’ll have a personal board of advisors for the real world.” 

Yusuf’s eyes light up. “Yeah, I like that. I like that. ‘Between faculty, staff and industry mentors, you’ll have a personal board of advisors for the real world.’”

In one room of the office, Yusuf and Gardner are bouncing ideas off one another for a script accompanying a flagship video production for Honors Carolina. In an adjacent room, two of the other founders, Daniel Pan and Justin Fouts, are doing the post-production work for a new television show called Sip’d, which explores craft beverages. 

Yusuf could scarcely imagine he would be where he is now three years ago when he walked through the Pit in the middle of the UNC-CH campus and saw the Adobe Creative Cloud tent. He picked up a frisbee and gym bag, thinking little of it.

 “I got back to my dorm and thought, hold on, this is kind of cool,” Yusuf said. “I’ve always wanted to learn Photoshop.” 

After racing through a 20-hour Photoshop fundamentals tutorial, he began tinkering with Photoshop. It was great, but something was missing; he was using others’ photos. What if he could use the same skills he was gaining, but with his own photos?

Then came his first major investment: a $400 Nikon D3400 camera. 

“My mom was like, ‘I don’t know, do you think you’re gonna use it? I don’t think you’re going to use it.’ And I said, “I’m going to prove you wrong,” Yusuf remembers.

 From friendship to entrepreneurship

Weeknights spent in Raleigh until the early hours of the morning with his childhood friend and future co-founder, Pan, sparked Yusuf’s passion. The early years of their friendship remain especially sentimental for Pan in light of their relationship now.  

“He was always top three––not much to say in third grade––but top three smartest kids in our grade, but that never really mattered that much to me,” Pan said. “He was always a people person. When we were 8 years old, it was his house where we were going to play basketball, or he’d be out and gather the troops so we could play soccer in someone’s backyard.”

The Raleigh nights these old friends spent together began to sow seeds of doubt in Yusuf’s mind about his future. Until then, Yusuf had told his parents he would be a doctor, a plan which they took pride in.

“My mom always wanted to be a doctor, but she couldn’t for various reasons,” Yusuf said.  “She was like, ‘yeah, my son’s going to be a doctor, it’s going to be awesome.’”

After completing a research internship in which he shadowed a radiation oncologist in Greenville following his freshman year, he realized medicine didn’t offer the lifestyle or path he desired. Above all, Yusuf desired the freedom and ability to cultivate his affinity for interacting with others. 

Exploring their options, Yusuf, Pan and Michael Thomas––one of Yusuf’s friends from Panther Creek High School––started a brand inspired by their favorite travel videographers whose work they wanted to emulate. They called it Triad Studios.

 The path to Triad wasn’t entirely straight or easy, however. Revealing to his parents that he would not be a doctor proved to be a very difficult decision for Yusuf. Family has always been a crucial value in Yusuf’s life, and one of his biggest fears is disappointing his parents.  

The next best thing to being a doctor, Yusuf thought, would be investment banking or consulting. His studies in these areas, too, proved unsatisfying. 

Yusuf began to wonder what his future would hold. 

Despite his academic frustrations, Yusuf and his friends slowly tried to build a portfolio, working with small clients. But even this had slowed by the end of the first semester of their sophomore year. 

They needed something else. Yusuf had worked for a startup part-time his first year––The Campus Cause––which sold discount key tags for businesses on Franklin Street. There, he met Fouts, who shared his passion for people and had interests in finance and sales.

At the end of the fall semester, Yusuf reached out to Fouts. Fouts, who had started a small brand called Flare Studios with his friend Gardner, agreed to meet. In a Davis Library study room, Yusuf, Gardner and Fouts video chatted with Thomas and Pan, proposing a joint venture under the brand name of Triad. They all agreed to try the idea when they returned from winter break.

“We always call Baaqir the ‘king of Triad,’ because he brought everybody together,” Gardner said. “He’s all about connecting us.”

Fouts agrees with Gardner.

“We blindly went into business together, and it turned out to be one of the luckiest things we ever did,” Fouts said.

A successful work in progress

For six months, the five of them crowded around a single laptop in Gardner’s Carolina Square apartment, taking on any project they could get their hands on.

 After speaking with professor Jim Kitchen in the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, Gardner secured the group an office, which provided the breakthrough and space needed to explore their creativity.

 Now, two years later, business is flourishing. Triad has worked with over 60 clients in various industries, including university institutions, nonprofits and large franchises. After earning $82,000 in business in their first year and $270,000 in their second year, they’re poised to double last year’s revenue.

As a second semester senior, Yusuf recognizes that his situation is unique from his peers. While others are networking and applying to jobs, he is focused each day on chasing his vision. Even though the social pressure stemming from such a circumstance is unavoidable, he remains resolute.

The hard work has paid off for Yusuf and has provided him knowledge he can take into his future work. 

Yusuf said: “Triad has re-taught me that anything is possible if you put in the effort and anyone can do anything with the right focus.”


Edited by Elisabeth Beauchamp and Suzanne Blake.

UNC students are trying to save the koalas, one condom at a time

By Molly Brice

At 8 a.m. on Feb. 8, UNC-Chapel Hill students stumbled out of their beds to make the trek to the Smith Center.

Most students wouldn’t be awake this early on a normal Saturday, but this was the Saturday that UNC-CH would face Duke University in basketball.

The Saturday that eager first-years and sentimental seniors wait for hours, covering themselves in blankets and oversized Carolina sweatshirts, in hopes of getting the best seats the arena has to offer.

Vasu Gupta and Maulik Sarin, are not waiting in line—they are breaking it, weaving between the masses of students. They dodge an employee golf cart to their right as they pitch their product to the students on their left.

“Me and my partner were nervous,” Gupta said, “naturally, because we were selling a taboo product.”

Organizations frequently attempt to capitalize on the rivalry to raise money, such as “pie a Duke student” or “destroy a Duke-blue car” themed fundraisers.

Gupta and Sarin, junior students at UNC-CH, have a new approach, an unconventional idea that no other organization has attempted with the Duke rivalry.

“Support your UNC family and donate for affected animals,” Sarin yells into the crowd, “all while trashing Duke!”

Condoms for a cause

Gupta and Sarin’s campaign, Carolina Condoms, sells condoms branded with anti-Duke statements to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund’s “Save the Koalas” initiative.

The condoms, individually wrapped in white packaging with bold Carolina blue lettering, have different cheeky phrases that play on the rivalry with Duke: “Too Cute to be Dook,” “Go to Hell Dook” and “Fuke Duck.”

“It’s all about jokes,” Sarin said, “you want to make it a light-hearted subject because some people think it’s taboo.”

Selling one condom for $2.99 or three condoms for $7.50, Gupta and Sarin hope to sell enough condoms to donate $2,000 to the WWF campaign. One dollar for each condom purchased goes to the campaign that helps animals affected by the Australian wildfires.

The pair chose contraceptives in hopes of not only raising significant funds for the cause but also tapping into a lucrative marketplace.

During a visit to his cousin’s Bank of America office, Gupta was introduced to an entrepreneur and civil engineer that manufactures condoms in the U.S., India and Thailand.

“Talking to him, we developed a similar wavelength,” Gupta said, “and the idea for Carolina Condoms started to grow in my head.”

After this initial spark, Gupta and Sarin, friends since their first year at UNC-CH, began the research phase. Hunched over their laptops, they searched the bounds of the internet, exploring motivations for condom use along with statistics on sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.

Gupta and Sarin then questioned, “how can we turn around all of these to give back to the world?”

The pair strategically picked the Duke game for their first initiative, but they plan to develop the Carolina Condoms idea into a business that provides funding for different social issues. “As much fun as this is,” Sarin said, “we want to make it really work too.”

To buy or not to buy?

While the students distract themselves with card games splayed across the pavement, Gupta and Sarin are working, talking up their product and cause to anyone who will listen.

Martha Bennett is talking to her friends when Gupta and Sarin approach her. A couple with matching Michael Jordan jerseys glance away from the screen they have been sharing to watch the interaction.

Gupta holds the pair’s white poster board with pictures of koalas and condoms as Sarin explains the campaign to Bennett, another UNC-CH student.

“Sure, I’ll buy one,” Bennett says, “if it’s for the koalas.”

Sarin fans the condoms in front of Bennett for her to choose; she looks them over, laughing, and picks “Fuke Duck.”

“It’s a really great idea,” Bennett says, “to use the humor and appeal of sex to raise money for a good cause.”

Bennett comments that usually “the guys get the condoms” but likes that Gupta and Sarin’s efforts target the entire student body.

The students look to their friends, laugh and even pull out their phones to take a picture of the sign as Gupta and Sarin part the crowds.

Even though the condoms sold by Gupta and Sarin are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, some students express concerns about buying the contraceptives.

“I think buying condoms from anywhere except a box is stupid,” student Kelly Huben says, “because you are risking the potential that the condoms are old.”

Bennett also says she will most likely not use the condoms, which she considers more of “a novelty purchase.”

Other students, like Ben Stroud, say they would prefer to support the Save the Koalas campaign by donating directly to the WWF.

‘The greatest rivalry in college sports’ gives back

Eighteen to 22-year-old UNC-CH students make an ideal target audience for Gupta and Sarin’s campaign of selling condoms for a good cause.

“In North Carolina, and especially at UNC, we are looking for causes to support,” Gupta said, commenting on the student body’s interest in being responsible consumers.

The rivalry has inspired innovative fundraising campaigns beyond Carolina Condoms. For example, The Daily Tar Heel and The Chronicle, host a fundraising competition for each university’s respective newspaper in the weeks before the game.

Currently, the DTH has raised $33,747.51 and The Chronicle has raised $22,450.

It’s ‘the greatest rivalry in college sports’ for a reason. Once inside the Smith Center, you can hear the boisterous cheering, see the ocean of Carolina blue apparel and sense the elevated heart rates of the fans from every section.

Even before the tipoff, the students come together, clinging to their caffeine and huddling for warmth. For those hours, in between winning and losing, they are fans rooting for the same outcome.

Maybe, in those hours, between victory and defeat, they are more likely to strike up a conversation or even buy a condom from the stranger in line beside them.


Edited by: Ashley Mills

Second freshman year: UNC transfer students adjust to new expectations

By Jackie Sizing

Freshman year of college is one of the hardest transitions.

Most freshman are living on their own for the first time, away from their family and friends in an unfamiliar place.

Imagine doing it all twice.

Last fall semester, at 7:30 a.m., junior Mikayla Goss woke up for her first day of classes. Goss did her normal morning routine: take a shower, brush her teeth, pick out her outfit for the day and pack her backpack.

Regardless, Goss could not shake her nerves. It wasn’t her first time going to college classes, but as a transfer, it was her first day of classes ever at UNC-Chapel Hill.

For the past two years, Goss lived with her family in Newport, North Carolina, and went to Carteret Community College.

People warned her about “transfer shock,” and she didn’t believe them at first. But the campus was huge, and Goss didn’t know many people aside from her roommate.

“The first week of classes at UNC was one of the hardest weeks of my life,” Goss said. “I didn’t expect it to be that way.”

Junior Camille DiBenedetto, who transferred from Drexel University in Philadelphia, said she cried her first night at UNC because of homesickness.

“I was stressed at first,” DiBenedetto said. “But I think the process of transferring is scarier than being in a new place.”

Imposter syndrome

These experiences are common among many new UNC transfers.

Luke Fayard, counselor and transfer student coordinator, said in an email interview that imposter syndrome is common among new transfers.

“UNC demands much more of students than they expect, when they have done nothing but shine in every college class they’ve taken,” Fayard said. “They get here, see the assignments and think, ‘Admissions made a mistake. I don’t know that I belong here or if I can actually do this.’”

It took time for Goss to adjust to the rigorous and demanding UNC classes.

“A few tears were shed,” she said. “My stress about academics and my new surroundings were a bad combination.”

Fayard said this doubt is powerful and dangerous for overachievers because it’s new.

“The impostor syndrome, combined with the very incorrect outlook that everyone else here is doing great, makes it very hard for my transfer friends to feel at home,” Fayard said. “They feel as if they are on an island, and they are alone in their struggles.”

Junior Crystal Dezha, who transferred from Appalachian State University sophomore year, had a unique experience. While most transfers come fall semester, Dezha and a few others arrived in the spring, halfway through the year.

Dezha was excited to transfer to Carolina, but that excitement dimmed during the first few weeks.

Dezha felt she had less guidance than fall transfers, and that made the transition harder, taking a mental toll.

Fayard can’t tell you how often he meets a transfer student having a hard time with their mental health.

Personality traits such as perfectionism, anxiety over every detail and pressure from themselves or others get lots of students to UNC, but they can also lead to mental health struggles, Fayard said.

Dezha said she thinks this is true for transfer students but that there is a ton of encouragement to seek help.

“They do not want you to suffer in silence,” she said.

Dezha hesitated about going to therapy before coming to UNC. However, she went for the first time last semester and enjoyed it.

“I was in a bad place, and it really helped me with the things I was going through,” Dezha said.

Easing the transition

When it comes to resources for transfer students, Fayard thinks the university can always do better, but he is impressed with how many people on campus value transfer students and try to help him take care of them.

“I thought I might be swimming upstream here in Chapel Hill, but I have been pleasantly surprised,” Fayard said. “In speaking with prospective students’ parents, I’ve had numerous be blown away that my job even exists, because they have not seen anything like it elsewhere.”

Goss, Dezha and DiBenedetto are all happy with the number of resources for transfer students.

“I am always getting emails,” Goss said. “About transfer events, resources for classes I may be struggling in, career services events – it’s great to feel thought of, even if I can’t always go.”

Some transfer-specific programs include Personal Librarian, Transfer Student Ambassadors and Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program.

After about two weeks, DiBenedetto got into the groove of her classes and joined the UNC chapter of Best Buddies, an organization that pairs students with people who have developmental and intellectual disabilities. She is always meeting new people now.

“I felt right at home,” DiBenedetto said. “I’m happy to be here.”

Fayard wants transfer students to make UNC what they want it to be.

“You are not here for UNC, UNC is here for you,” Fayard said. “There are so many offices, opportunities, and resources around UNC to help you create the education that you want for yourself. There is no mold, make your own.”

Dezha advises new transfers to put themselves out there.

“And, again, look for help,” Dezha said. “There were plenty of times where I told myself I was going to figure it out later but didn’t.”

Fayard said transfers need to trust that they belong and not see being a transfer student as a weakness.

“Don’t waste time and energy on impostor syndrome,” he said. “Let’s say you got invited to the party on accident. So? You’re here! Take advantage of it.”


Edited by Liz Johnson


How some UNC students are making their dorms a home away from home

By Samaria Parker

As a birdie bounces indoors between badminton rackets, a group of college women laugh loudly on the sofa and ignore the “quiet hours” sign above them. Across the hall, two residents try to drown out the noise as they work on a paper due the next day. The sound of poker chips clinking against the table from a game underway down the hall adds to their distraction.

It’s a typical day on the second floor of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carmichael Residence Hall.

Each year, students are greeted by Carmichael’s fluorescent lights, cinder block walls and narrow hallways. Leaving behind their childhood bedrooms and family living rooms, they gain the four walls of a new room and a brightly decorated lounge area.

As they say goodbye to parents and siblings, they also say hello to 485 building mates, 40 hall mates and one roommate.

While this transition is overwhelming for some, student Jadyn Jones knows all about living with a lot of people. From a family of nine, her house always bustled with noise. Even the aggressively pink walls in her bedroom were loud; the three little sisters she shared them with were even louder. For Jones, the sounds of Carmichael pale in comparison to the giggles, cries and screams of her sisters – Justice, Jenae and Jessa – she’d grown accustomed to.

And in a nine-member home, it didn’t get much quieter outside of her bedroom. The idea of being alone is one she has never really gotten to know.

So, when she traded in the pink room she’d known for so long, for the dull-white cinder block walls of a dorm bedroom, gaining so many neighbors was an easier transition for her than most.

“Not that my house had a constant hum, but we’re all kids and we’re all family so there are constantly screaming matches or somebody doing something in the living room,” she said. “Someone’s exercising to The Biggest Loser or watching a really loud movie and you always say hello to the people you walk into the room with.”

Jones maintains that habit in her dorm. As she walks down the hall, she makes sure to greet everyone in the lounge with a big, “Hello;” stopping for a moment to inquire about each person’s day. For her, it mostly feels like just another day in the living room with her family.

‘Living on top of each other’

The transition to living in a dorm is not as seamless for everyone. Student Veronica Munn takes a more subtle approach to the dorm lounge space, often shuffling in and snuggling up in a corner chair before greeting others.

Her quiet approach matches what she’s known most of her life. The squishing sound as she plops down into her favorite oversized bean bag is about as loud it gets in her home. Between the two houses she has — one with her mom and one with her dad – home life for Munn tended to be pretty quiet.

Apart from the padding of her greyhound Faith’s feet on her dad’s hardwood floors and the occasional chatter with her mom and brother, life at home is pretty quiet. Nothing in comparison to the bustle of Carmichael dorm.

“At home, unless I go seeking out interaction,” she said. “I can usually avoid it. In the dorm there’s a whole lot more interaction.”

Across the hall, student Ray Starn is also not used to having so many people in his living space.

“There’s nothing similar about living in a dorm, at all,” he said. “Living in a dorm, you’re obviously living on top of each other.”

Home away from home

After his sister, Frances, left for college, Starn spent the last five years living with just his mom. With only two people, it was spacious – no “living on top of each other” – and unless there was company, the noise was kept to a minimum.

Now, living amongst so many suitemates and hall mates, reality couldn’t be more different. Rather than cozying up in his living room or hiding away in his bedroom, he joins his suitemates for weekly Saturday morning brunches, Friday night poker games and rounds of his favorite board game, Catan.

While it’s a lot crazier than his lifestyle at home, he sees the beauty in the chaos.

A few suites down, Aisha Siddiqui can relate.

Growing up in a home that teetered between crowded and quiet. Living in a dorm so different, yet somewhat the same. Her living room and kitchen were filled with the buzz of parents and her cousins, Amna and Mohammed, who visited frequently. But as an only child, Siddiqui spent a lot of time hidden away in her room doing homework while the murmurs of her parents and cousins fluttered softly in the background.

For her, not much has changed.

Between the preference for being cozied away in her room and balancing a busy schedule, she isn’t someone you’d necessarily find in the lounge. Sitting underneath the desk twinkle lights she brought from home, she smiles to herself.  The murmurs of her hall mates in the background as she does her homework catch her attention; for a moment, she’s reminded of home.

No matter the house one comes from, for many students, the cinder block walls, fluorescent lights and electric-blue lounge couches become as familiar as the 40 hall mates who start to feel more like family.

And for Jones, Starn, Munn and Siddiqui, the second floor of Carmichael Residence Hall is now a home away from home.

Edited by Hannah McClellan

UNC student gains attention as film critic: ‘This kid knows what he’s talking about’

By Marine Elia

The audience watches the screen, their eyes fixated on the action and their ears picking up every flesh-tearing and blood-splattering noise. They jolt in their seats during the jump scares and collectively gasp as the character’s true identity is revealed. Sitting in the back row, quietly chuckling to himself, is Josh Martin. He’s already seen Jordan Peele’s “Us” — twice.

Martin runs his own film blog where he provides his insight on films, publishing reviews and sharing them on social media. A regular customer at the Varsity Theatre on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Martin takes advantage of the theater’s proximity to the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill to fully grasp the content before he starts writing.

Martin consecrates his life to movies. As a student film critic, he views about five to six movies a week in addition to those required for his film classes at UNC-CH and subscribes to several streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Hulu, Showtime, Canopy and Shutter, a horror-specific streaming site.

Martin’s induction into the world of cinephiles began with “Toy Story.”

“As a kid, back when movies were on tape, I watched “Toy Story” so much that the tape broke down,” Martin said. “By the time I was done with it, I had watched it well over a hundred times, and now the entire movie is etched into my subconscious.”

Over the years, Martin’s passion for film grew exponentially. Encouraged by his family and friends to start a platform to express his ideas and interpretations of film, Martin created his blog when he was 13 years old. Entitled “The Movie Guru,” his blog was his first attempt at publicizing his opinions to an online audience.

During summer 2011, Martin was able, for the first time, to see PG-13 movies without an accompanying adult. During these formative months, he watched “Super 8” and “Inception.”

“The films I saw during that summer, I quickly developed an obsession with,” Martin said. “After seeing the trailer for “Inception,” I was immediately intrigued and bought the $13 DVD once it came out. It was the first time I was ever blown away by a movie.”

When he entered high school, Martin rebranded his blog to “Martin on Movies,” distinguishing himself from the hundreds of online “Movie Gurus.”

Driven by his love for film, Martin sought out more outlets to share his thoughts. While a student at Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, he delivered brief reviews of newly released movies during the morning announcements. Through this experience, Martin exposed himself to his critical peers.

“People thought the school picked someone at random to deliver the movie reviews, and they thought of it as a kind of a joke because they weren’t aware of how invested I was in it,” Martin said. “They thought I was doing it for the attention, even a few teachers.”

Martin remembers one day when his friends told him of a student in one of their classes who was extremely upset over his unfavorable review of “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” after he called it “garbage.”

“I was quite terrified of Josh,” UNC-CH sophomore Ishan Thaker said, recalling his view of Martin in high school. “He had a certain status among us because he was so good at what he did.”

Martin has since moved on from his oral, one-minute movie reviews. He is a contributor for Film Inquiry, an online source for film reviews, and Rotten Tomatoes, a fact that garners the most attention from his peers. Additionally, Martin boasts his status as the youngest member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association.

As a member of the NC Film Critics Association, Martin enjoys the perks of being involved with a larger network of film critics. Through the association, he obtained a press pass to Film Fest 919, a growing film festival held annually in Chapel Hill. During the festival, he had the opportunity to interview the lead actresses of “Roma,” the Academy Award winner for best foreign-language film.

Involving himself in multiple film communities, Martin has established connections with writers from various backgrounds.

Hunter Heilman contributes to the online film review outlet Elements of Madness. Heilman first met Martin through a serendipitous encounter on Twitter, where Martin maintains a steady stream of movie-related tweets. After exchanging a few messages over the social media platform, Heilman came across Martin’s review of “Nocturnal Animals,” a film Martin had exclusive access to when he attended the Toronto International Film Festival.

“When I read that review, I was like, ‘OK, this kid knows what he’s talking about,’” Heilman said. “His review made me interested in seeing the movie. I hadn’t even seen a trailer or movie poster at that point because it hadn’t been released yet to the public — I don’t feel that often with reviews in general.”

Heilman describes Martin’s work as authentic with a critical, objective eye that seeks to review all movies with equal treatment and equal amounts of passion.

“He’s so articulate for someone of his age. I was honestly kind of jealous,” Heilman said. “I wish I had it together at my age like he did.”

Movies are the vessel Martin uses to connect and relate to others. He says movies themselves are a reflection of present themes and societal issues.

Johnny Sobczak is a close friend of Martin and is enrolled in a horror film course with Martin this semester. The two met on Twitter, both active participants within the social media’s film community.

For the class’ midterm paper, the students were instructed to write about a horror movie of their choice. Sobczak was deeply impressed when Martin studied “Alien” and dissected it to form an analysis of capitalism.

“When most people think of “Alien,” they just think it’s a monster movie. They don’t relate it to capitalism and corporate greed,” Sobczak said.

Martin, like many college students, uses stickers on his laptop to reveal his interests. Covered in a sticker mosaic of cinematographic references, his laptop serves as a conversation starter with other film lovers. From classics like “Casablanca” to “Inception” and “Wolf of Wall Street,” in addition to an obligatory Quinten Tarantino sticker, his laptop has it all.

Much like each of his favorite films, Martin’s individuality shines through his movie reviews.

Douglas Davidson is an online film writer and a professor of public speaking at Central Piedmont Community College. Davidson knows Martin through Twitter, and despite never having met Martin in person, he said he understands how his personality interacts with his writing.

“His reviews sound like Josh,” Davidson said. “Even his tweets are authentic. He never looks to provoke a reaction out of someone with an outlandish hot take.”

Martin plans on attending graduate school and sees himself possibly pursuing a career in academia if he decides to not write full time.

“The industry is tough right now,” Martin said. “What keeps me motivated is that there’s always something new to see, and I have that to look forward to.”

Edited by Joseph Held.

‘Tough times never last, but tough people do’: Blumberg’s journey to tennis stardom

By Madeline Coleman

William Blumberg stood on the sidelines of the indoor courts, watching his teammate and close friend Blaine Boyden’s every move.

It was May 2017, and the University of North Carolina men’s tennis team was tied with the University of Georgia 3-3. Whoever won on Court Six would go on to fight for the NCAA Championship.

The Greenwich, Connecticut native locked eyes with his teammate for a split second and had a look on his face that showed his faith in Boyden’s ability. In a way, it calmed the then-sophomore for what was to come.

Boyden bounced the ball three times before throwing it in the air and hitting his serve. Blumberg moved his head side to side, never losing sight of the ball. As Boyden hit the ball wide, just out of reach of the Bulldog opposite the court, Carolina was headed to its first NCAA Championship. Blumberg, who was a first-year at the time, ran onto the court without hesitation, quickly followed by his teammates. He was the first to reach Boyden, who jumped and embraced his teammate in midair.

Two years later, a picture of that moment is now hanging in Boyden and Blumberg’s apartment.

Blumberg almost missed out on that game and the chance to play for UNC-CH. He was ranked as high as No. 4 in the juniors’ world at one point, playing international tennis matches as a teenager. He’s hit with Mike and Bob Bryan, the most successful doubles tennis players in America, over the years and even Roger Federer this past summer.

So why is Blumberg here, competing on Court One for singles and doubles, instead of going pro? Because he doesn’t want others to think of him as just an elite athlete.

There’s more to him than that label.

The Legacy of Little Compton

 The Blumberg brothers couldn’t help but smile as they rolled the windows down.

William leaned his head out the window of the car as his family got to the exit for Fish Road in Rhode Island. The salty ocean smell hit his nose and the sun shone down on the car. At the end of the road at the bottom of the hill, there’s a sign that reads “Little Compton.”

The Blumberg brothers’ smiles grew even bigger. They were finally at their vacation home.

“It’s something, and a place that you’ll never understand until you go there,” William said.

This small town holds a piece of William’s heart. Some of his oldest friendships were formed on Little Compton’s tennis courts and golf courses. This is where he fell in love with tennis and became a scratch golfer.

He, his brothers Alex and Andrew and his friends would play on the beach all morning, eating a marshmallow fluff sandwich or two. But once the clock neared 3:30 p.m., they dropped everything. With sand in their shoes, the kids would run to the country club in order to make it in time for AT’s, a tennis clinic for all ages where they would play games. The group would then play golf at dusk, get up the next morning — and repeat.

Sometimes, William and Little Compton are almost seen as one and the same to his friends.

“When I think about Little Compton, I think about Will immediately,” said Michael Marzonie, William’s best friend since kindergarten. “I affiliate him with that spot because it’s so down to earth and so genuine. There’s nothing flashy about it.”

Here, William isn’t the big-name tennis player. He can relax his shoulders and be William, or “Bops,” as his family calls him.

“William Blumberg is the tennis player and who people know,” said Andrew Blumberg, William’s oldest brother. “The Bops is who William is when you really know him.”

Reigniting his love for tennis

Blumberg sat on the bleachers and watched his brothers play tennis.

He longed to join them, to play with them. He wanted to be like them. Sports was his gateway in, his way to be seen as an equal and to hang out with them. He became a fiery competitor, making it hard to get him off of the court.

“He was always hassling me to stay after work for another 20 minutes to play another bunch of baseline games with him,” said Pat McNally, a tennis pro from Little Compton. “It’s funny how the tides have turned because now I’m begging him to stay and play with me… I used to kick his butt and now he’s kicking mine all over the place.”

Blumberg found success early on and started traveling in the junior circuit regularly, resulting in him missing more days of school. When he was in eighth grade, his school gave Blumberg an ultimatum — tennis or school. He chose to do online schooling and continue traveling for tennis.

He quickly found international success. At 17 years old, Blumberg made the quarter finals of singles and doubles at Junior Wimbledon and made the finals of Junior French Open Doubles with Tommy Paul, now a tennis pro. He even won the Junior Davis Cup for the U.S.

All signs pointed toward him staying pro. Blumberg was one of the lead junior USTA players in the nation, and had hit with pros like Ryan Harrison, Thomas Berdych and Novak Djokovic.

But his body suddenly held him back.

Blumberg would come home feeling awful. His parents would send him to the doctor for more antibiotics. Even when he competed in the Junior Wimbledon and French Open, he was miserable.

The doctors eventually discovered that Blumberg had infectious mononucleosis, more commonly known as mono, but the diagnosis came too late. Blumberg was tired of people berating him in practice while his body struggled. He was burned-out.

“I was depressed and I hated the sport,” Blumberg said.

Blumberg took a step back from the lonely road and went home to Greenwich High School for his senior year.

It was his dad who convinced him to go out and hit a few times a day. As each day passed, Blumberg found his love for the sport again.

“It wasn’t who I am, but without that time period, I wouldn’t be the man I am today,” Blumberg said.

Blumberg and his oldest brother Andrew have always shared a love for sayings. As his little brother struggled through hard times, this Robert Schiuller quote captured how William would persevere, according to Andrew.

“Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

Blumberg’s next step was as unexpected as his setback. He decided to ignore what people were telling him to do and go to college rather than the pro circuit. It turned out to be the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

During his time at UNC-CH, Blumberg has broken records. He was the first player in program history to reach the NCAA singles championship match. He was named ITA National Rookie of the Year, ACC Freshman of the Year, 2018 ACC Player of the Year, and ranked as high as No. 1 in both singles and doubles during his 2018 spring season.

“With all of the success he’s had as a player, he’s certainly one of the greatest, if not the greatest, player to ever play at Carolina,” said UNC-CH head coach Sam Paul.

A never-ending network of support

There they are, gathered in the masses surrounding Court One.

UNC men’s basketball senior Luke Maye and manager Eric Hoots sit along the sidelines yelling as loudly as they can. The men’s golf team sits behind one end of the court, showing just as much support. Countless athletes and college students from all walks of life surround Blumberg’s court to support him on any given match.

However, some still believe it pales in comparison to what Blumberg gave up.

“There are people congratulating him or angry with him,” said Asher Dawson, Blumberg’s best friend from Little Compton. “They DM him on Instagram saying, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t win your match. I lost this X amount of money,’ and he has to filter out that noise.”

But his friends and family are the only voices that matter. They would do anything to support him, and the feeling is mutual. As his girlfriend Mary Bryan Pope describes, Blumberg cares deeply, whether it’s about family and friends or tennis.

When teammate Boyden’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in 2017, he felt his world stop. Boyden was in his room on Super Bowl Sunday when he got the call from his dad. Blumberg could sense something was wrong and decided to check on Boyden. Since then, Blumberg has been by Boyden’s side.

“If you’re in his corner, he’s going to care for you with all he’s got,” Boyden said.

Out of concern for Boyden’s wellbeing, Blumberg had Boyden’s favorite YouTuber Nick Colletti create a personalized video for Boyden.

“I will always go the extra mile for my friends and my family,” Blumberg said. “I would take a bullet for anyone that I’m close with.”

Moments like this showcase how meaningful friendships are to Blumberg, a love so strong that he wanted to get a tattoo of some kind that reminded him of his friends and family. It started as an impulsive idea, but his parents told him to wait a year before getting the permanent ink.

It’s small enough that no one would notice unless they were looking for it. The tattoo is hidden when his sleeve is down, which is something Blumberg loves. Etched in his mom’s handwriting on his right bicep is the word “we,” the letters formed together so the tattoo is connected.

“Whatever happens and you’re there for one another, that’s my ‘we,’” Blumberg said. “It’s just a subtle reminder that you’re not alone and you’ve got people around you, and you’ve got the people who love and care about you.”

Every so often, the junior will grab his arm, rubbing where the tattoo is. It reminds him of his family, who is the center of his “we,” and his friends.

He’s never alone.

Edited by Charlotte Spence.