A New Batch of Tar Heels Graduate

This weekend was the culmination of years of hard work for a new class of UNC graduates.

More than 6,000 newly-minted alumni gathered in Kenan Stadium under beautiful Carolina Blue skies on Sunday to celebrate graduation day.

Chancellor Carol Folt urged the graduates to give back and help others as faculty had aided the students to this day.

“They’ve helped you to excel, to work, to grow,” she said, “some have helped you build companies and fight for things that matter to you.”

Commencement speaker Anne-Marie Slaughter told graduates to carry forward an attitude of equality as they enter the work force.

“It is time for men in this generation alongside women, as equals, to be bold and to break the mold of traditional expectations for how men should lead their lives,” she said, “just as we have broken those expectations for how women should lead their lives.”

Folt also had a parting message for the graduates.

“My charge to the Class of 2016 is to continue to learn to trust yourselves, your voice, to remain true to your hearts and to your values.”

Sunday was the culmination of a weekend-long celebration on the Chapel Hill campus. Beginning on Friday, UNC has held celebrations for military-affiliated graduates, first-generation graduates and the doctoral hooding ceremony, among other festivities.


A Long Journey to Graduation

Sunday marks the Winter Commencement for some 2,100 students graduating from UNC. Some have overcome more challenges than others.

Katie Savage is not your typical UNC graduate. When she was just 14 years old she was undergoing heart surgery, when complications caused a blood clot. That blood clot forced doctors to quickly amputate her leg. Katie says the moment waking up from surgery is forever embedded in her mind.

“I remember reaching out for my leg,” she says, “and when my hand eventually started hitting the bed, I just busted into tears. I will never forget that.”

Listen to the full story:

Being a 14 year old can be difficult enough, but being a 14 year old who unexpectedly lost a limb can be devastating. Katie says the feeling of isolation and missing out was hard to bear.

“I was normal,” she says. “You’re told you’re going to go to high school; you’re going to go to prom; you’re going to go off to college; you’re going to get married…

“For me, my reality was shattered. Everything changed.”

She adds that those were lonely years, feeling like the world was passing by.

“My biggest memory was looking out the window,” she recalls. “I looked at kids who I rode the bus with, and I would see them get up and go off to school; here I was at home.

“And eventually, those kids were driving to school, and I was still at home – looking out the window – just wishing to be normal.”

A long and winding road eventually led Katie back to Chapel Hill, this time as a student.

“My first association with Chapel Hill was an amputation,” she says. “That’s the cool part about, now, being on the other end of things. There’s a lot more joy and things that I have received from my experience at Chapel Hill, compared to having lost so much.”

While at Chapel Hill, in addition to her studies, Katie founded the first-ever organization specifically for students with disabilities. She calls it Advocates for Carolina. The mission was to be there for those who were dealing with issues that not everyone could comprehend.

“I don’t want for what happened to me, to ever happen to another young person. I just hope that people are able to get the support that they need.”

Katie says that remembering those times as a teenager looking out the window fueled her passion for helping others. “That was definitely the main reason behind this – to offer the community of students a place where people don’t feel alone.”

She realized quickly after starting the organization that this is the work that she was meant to do.

“Something I realized is that God can have a plan for us that is far bigger than we could have ever planned for ourselves.”

As far as the plans that she can control, Katie would love to continue her education as a Tar Heel.

“I would like to go to graduate school. Ideally, I would love to be at Carolina for graduate school.” She adds, “It’s very humbling to be in this position. I honestly never imagined that I would be graduating from the University of North Carolina. It’s just unreal.”

But for now, the best part about graduation for Katie is just that, graduation. This will be her first time taking part in a graduation ceremony.

“I’m just looking forward to graduating because this is my first graduation. I didn’t go to the graduation ceremony for high school or community college.” She describes the feeling, “Imagining it makes me feel really complete. I’m a bit nervous, but I’m really excited…I can’t stop smiling.”

Katie will receive her bachelor’s degree in political science from UNC on Sunday, walking across the stage just down the road from where she learned to walk again.

While speaking with Katie, she recalled hearing a story on WCHL one day in years past, when she was feeling particularly down, that inspired her. And now, she hopes to be the one to do the inspiring.

“I was thinking, ‘oh my goodness. Here I am all these years later, potentially giving hope to someone else.’ I’m truly honored and completely humbled right now.”


Orange County High Schools Graduation Preview

Orange High School and Cedar Ridge High School with both be participating in this year’s Orange County Project Graduation following the schools’ graduations.

Orange High School seniors turn their tassels Thursday at 4:30 p.m.; Cedar Ridge seniors do so at 7:30 p.m. Both ceremonies take place at the Dean Smith Center.

The event will be held on Thursday, June 12, at the Triangle Sportsplex in Hillsborough, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

This will be Project Graduation’s 19th consecutive year celebrating the graduates of these Orange County high schools. The event serves as a chance to celebrate the graduation of these students in a family-oriented environment, among friends, and safe from risks of alcohol, drugs, and violence.


MacArthur “Genius” Sends Carolina Graduates Out Into The World

CHAPEL HILL – The final class of 2013 turned its tassels Sunday in the Dean Smith Center as 1,104 Carolina students became UNC alumni.

Carolina prides itself on featuring highlighting faculty to speak at its December commencements. MacArthur “genius” grant winner and world renowned concussion expert, Kevin Guskiewicz told the graduates that, in order to go far in life, you’ve got to let go of what’s comfortable.

“You have the responsibility to add continued, and yes, credibility to your degree for those who will follow you,” Guskiewicz said. “It’s time to move forward and to explore. And in the words of Raymond Lindquist, ‘courage is the power to let go of the familiar’.”

And, Guskiewicz told the graduates to always advocate for themselves, but to do so humbly.

“Learn how to effectively build a case for yourself and your mission, and you will capture the attention of the people who can take you places,” Guzkiewicz says.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt presided at her first commencement since taking over as the university’s 11th chancellor. She referenced the passing of former South African president Nelson Mandela just ten days prior and the fight he put up for equality. She told the graduates to be proud to stand among such a diverse group of people.

“The class of 1898 celebrated their own graduation, but one graduate couldn’t be there,” Chancellor Folt said. “Carolina’s first woman graduate, Sally Walker Stoddard, was not allowed to take part in commencement.”

“In 1952, Harvey Beech was the first African American to graduate when he received his law degree,” Chancellor Folt said.

Carolina graduated young men and young women of many different races and nationalities on Sunday adding to its more than 295,000 alumni that have come before.


December UNC Graduates To Turn Their Tassels Sunday

CHAPEL HILL – MacArthur genius grant recipient and world renowned concussion expert, Kevin Guskiewicz will usher UNC graduates into their next phase of life as the December Commencement speaker Sunday.

Kevin Guskiewicz (Photo courtesy of UNC News Services)

Kevin Guskiewicz (Photo courtesy of UNC News Services)

This marks the first commencement for UNC Chancellor Carol Folt after being hired as the university’s 11th chancellor.

Guskiewicz is the founding director of the MatthewGfellerSport-RelatedTraumaticBrainInjuryResearchCenter and research director for the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes. He began work at UNC in the department of exercise and sports science in 1995.

He has studied hundreds of retired football players to determine a relationship between concussions or head injuries and the appearance of dementia, depression and other brain dysfunction later in life.

In an effort to make football a safer sport, Guskiewicz convinced ESPN to cancel a Sunday night program that featured the biggest hits from that day of NFL games.

Sunday’s commencement ceremony begins at 2:00 p.m. at the DeanSmithCenter. No tickets are necessary and parking is available in the lots surrounding the Dean Dome.

You can also watch a live stream of the event by clicking here.


CH Park & Ride Fees; UNC Graduation Totals; Chatham County Taxes

CHAPEL HILL – New fees on Chapel Hill’s Park and Ride lots will begin August 15.

The lots affected will be Carrboro Plaza, Eubanks, Southern Village and Jones Ferry. The rates will start at $2 for a daily rate, $21 for a monthly rate and $250 for a yearly rate.

UNC says it will be implementing its own fees for its park and ride lots at the same time, and UNC park and ride permits will be usable in town lots.


Final graduation numbers are in as 5,845 students received a degree from UNC this year, including 1,327 master’s degrees, 679 professional degrees and 259 doctoral degrees.

8,547 UNC students were recognized on the Spring 2013 Dean’s List, which requires a minimum 3.5 GPA for 12 hours of letter-grade credit.


Property tax bills for Chatham County residents should be arriving by at least mid-August, with the deadline to pay on January 6.

Some residents may receive real estate and personal property tax bills separately, according to the Chatham County Tax Administrator, Frances Wilson. Tax payers may appeal the personal property tax bill within 30 days of the date listed on the bill, with all residents encouraged to bring questions to 919-542-8250 or 919-542-8260.


CHS Graduates Sixth Class, 176 Seniors

CHAPEL HILL – Carrboro High School is the newest in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district. But the 2013 student government president, Kristen Lee says looking back on where she ended up going to school, she wouldn’t change it for the world.

“When I first stepped foot in Carrboro High School, I thought to myself, ‘why am I not at Chapel Hill High’, a school with rich history and murals, or perhaps East, a school with an impressively wide range of courses” Lee says. “But only a few weeks in, I realized what made Carrboro, Carrboro: it’s people, its mentality, its location, its beauty, its potential.”

East Chapel Hill started Commencement Saturday with 350 graduates and 19 valedictorians. Carrboro added 176 people to its alumni and while it only had three valedictorians, they too had powerful messages.

LaVerne Mattocks marked the end of her first year as principal at Carrboro High School on Saturday. She says looking back on her first year she has many accolades for which to be proud of the school, including state recognition.

“You know that the countless hours of studious endeavors, missed social events for studying, and accumulated days, hours, (and) months of standardized testing actually leads to your school being ranked No. 2 in the state of North Carolina, according to U.S. News and World Reports,” Mattocks says.

Check back soon to hear all the comments and a gallery of photos from Carrboro’s commencement.


CHHS Graduation Honors Students

CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill High School class of 2013 officially received their high school diplomas Saturday afternoon at the Dean Smith Center.

Here’s interim principal Melodie Parrish

“They’re just stellar, not only in academics, arts, athletics,” says Parrish, “but every one of our seniors completed their 25 hours compulsory service learning hours, which means they volunteered in the community. They are willing to accept challenges and put in the work to see it completed.”

Although students have finished their careers at Chapel Hill High School, many will remain in the area to attend UNC in the fall, including valedictorians Norman Archer, Claire Nielsen, Christopher Reeder, Chiara Salemi, and Jonathan Siekierski.

In the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School system, instead of merely honoring the student with the highest GPA, all students who receive all A’s are granted valedictorian status.

Archer and Reeder also received the prestigious Morehead-Cain scholarship. The scholarship is a fully-funded, merit-based program for four academic years in addition to four summer enrichment trips—the first of its kind in the United States.

Reeder says that he had always wanted to make a speech in the Dean Dome, albeit in a slightly different context.

“It was a typical dream of any typical Tar Heel fanatic,” says Reeder. “I’d be a 6’6” shooting guard announcing my decision to enter the NBA Draft after four championship-filled years at UNC.”

Valedictorians Arun Ganesh and Zachary Visco will remain in the Triangle to attend Duke University, a point Visco made as he joins the other half of the Tobacco Road rivalry.

“It’s somewhat ironic and sacrilegious that a future Duke student–a future Cameron Crazy—is standing here addressing you from the Dean Dome, the pinnacle of UNC’s campus,” says Visco. “But we’ll have to make due.”

Michelle Jin rounded out the eight CHHS valedictorians and will attend Penn in the fall.

Despite the diversity of college choices of the entire class, Ganesh says he confident this class will produce something special.

“I do not know what my future, or the future of anyone else here, has in store,” says Ganesh. “But based on the four years I have spent getting to know every one and seeing and being apart of what they have done, I know that the people in this room are going to change the world.”

In all, 321 students received their diplomas and turned their tassel to begin the next step in their life, wherever or whatever that may be.


ECH Recognizes Life Hurdles At Commencement

CHAPEL HILL – East Chapel Hill High School principal, Eileen Tully celebrated two people at Saturday’s graduation with the Principal’s Choice for the hurdles they overcame during their time as Wildcats and throughout their life.

Michael Arneson overcame a traumatic brain injury, cancer, and his family’s house was struck by lightning and caught fire all while in high school. Through all that, he was still able to earn one of the 19 valedictorian spots.

“Your past is behind you, and it will always stay there no matter what you do,” Arneson says. “You can only change your future, and that’s all you should try to do.”

Jeimy Martinez shared with those in attendance her story of how her family faced being forced out of the country since it arrived in the United States undocumented when she was one. Her brother was deported when she was a sophomore.

“I am an American, a high school graduate, a scholarship recipient to Barton College, a future nurse,” Martinez says. “I am determined, passionate, and definitely an adventurous person.”

But those weren’t the only stories told by East Chapel Hill graduates Saturday morning. The stories were shared in English, Spanish, and Latin.

East Chapel Hill gained 350 alumni who will now move on to continue their academic career, serve our country in one of the armed forces, or head directly to the employment field.

***Listen to the Full Commencement Ceremony***