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The Seahawk

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The Seahawk

Kaylee Arrington, Tami Rice, Javier Morales, Shelby Kennedy and Diandre’ Richie on being nominated for the 2024 Homecoming Court

The Seahawk sat down with the 2024 Homecoming Court nominees to talk about their time at UNCW and their individual Seahawk journeys.  

 

Kaylee Arrington 

For Kaylee Arrington, being nominated for the 2024 UNCW Homecoming Court was an honor. She was nominated by the Association of Campus Entertainment (ACE) and currently serves as president of the organization. ACE hosts several activities during Homecoming, including Late Night Breakfast and the newly introduced Student Tailgate. 

“I was really excited,” said Arrington. “Obviously, I have a lot of time and experience with homecoming because ACE plans it. So, just the fact that I got nominated made it special just because we do plan a lot of the events that happen, and I’ve always enjoyed going with my friends.” 

Arrington loves attending Homecoming events with her friends, including Battle of the Bands (pictured here), the Homecoming Fashion Show, and Late Night Breakfast. (Courtesy: Kaylee Arrington)

Arrington started her Seahawk journey in the fall of 2020, when restrictions due to the COVID-19 still heavily impacted college campuses. She decided to join ACE after looking into different involvement opportunities on WaveLink and UNCW’s webpage. ACE, like other organizations at the time, utilized Zoom to keep members connected. 

Campus is a community space for Arrington, who enjoys going to the gym and the library. Arrington lived on campus during her four years at UNCW and appreciates the ease of having her home, school, and social life in one place. 

“Here [UNCW], I felt like I could make connections and that we’re all pushing each other to be the best versus competing with each other,” Arrington said, “and I liked that energy and enjoy being on campus even when it’s not for school.”  

One of her on-campus adventures included meeting actor Simu Liu while he was in the area filming “One True Loves,” a movie adaptation of the book with the same name by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Liu also starred as Shang-Chi in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and Ken in “Barbie.” 

Arrington met actor Simu Liu while he was in Wilmington filming “One True Loves,” an adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel of the same name. (Courtesy: Kaylee Arrington)

Arrington’s advice for people looking to get involved is to be open to trying new experiences and taking the time to find the organization that is right for them. 

“I would definitely recommend, if you’re a freshman, to try to reach out in different ways,” she said. “If one organization is not your style, [reach out to] different ones—just go to an interest meeting… just to build that sense of community. This is your time to grow and [enjoy] the moment while you can.” 

 

Tami Rice 

To nominee Tami Rice, being a Seahawk is about community. Homecoming week is a great opportunity to be reminded of community connections by interacting with visiting alumni.  

“We always talk about how you have a family for life at UNCW even after you graduate,” said Rice. “I feel like that really [comes] into perspective once you see all these people who talk about how long ago it was [that] they graduated, but they still come back, they still support UNCW.” 

Rice was nominated by Sigma Alpha Omega, a Christian sorority at UNCW. (Courtesy: Tami Rice)

Rice was nominated by Sigma Alpha Omega (SAO), a Christian sorority on campus. She joined SAO in the Fall of 2019 and was initially hesitant to join due to her pursuit of the nursing program but wanted to find a Christian community on campus.  

During the spring semester of her first year, she became the President of SAO and served for three consecutive years, leading the sorority through the COVID-19 pandemic. Rice and her sorority sisters aimed to provide light to students struggling during the pandemic. 

“A lot of people find college to be very lonely,” said Rice. “And we didn’t want COVID to isolate people more. That was a big thing that happened with COVID; a lot of people felt more isolated.” 

Rice led Sigma Alpha Omega (SAO) through COVID-19 by encouraging active social media engagement and regular Zoom meetings. (Courtesy: Tami Rice)

A former perfectionist, Rice recognizes that perfection is an unattainable goal. 

“Everyone talks about how college is the best four or five years of their life,” she said. “College has definitely not been the best four or five years of my life. I definitely hope I can do better than some of college. I’m still here, and that’s the biggest thing. I’ve retaken classes. I’ve met some of the best people in college, and some of the worst people I will ever meet in my lifetime.” 

Ace and Porter are Rice’s two service dogs in-training. (Courtesy: Tami Rice)

Rice’s advice to others is this: remember that every day is a new day. There were times in college where Rice would go to bed angry and wake up with the same upset feeling. Though she once struggled to let go, she now recognizes the importance of treating every day as a new opportunity and starting with a fresh perspective.  

“I have too much to lose in my life if I just keep carrying all this around,” said Rice. “It wasn’t worth it. It’s not worth carrying so much hate, so much anger, so much anything around day to day. All I can do is do better the next day.” 

 

Javier Morales 

Homecoming court nominee Javier Morales finds purpose in making a difference in the lives of others.  

“Every morning, I wake up, I’m like; I want to do better,” said Morales. “I want to be better. I want to create better.” 

Morales in New York City. (Courtesy: Javier Morales)

Morales was nominated by Centro Hispano Embajadores. While at UNCW, he has worked with several student organizations within Centro Hispano, including Centro Hispano Embajadores and Ritmo Latino 

“I think it was more of a gift from them to me to be able to represent them,” said Morales, “and I was very appreciative of that.”  

Futuros En STEM is the first Latinx student organization to empower STEM students by providing resources and opportunities to develop skills in the field. Morales founded the organization and currently serves as president.  

Inspired by Dr. Curry Guinn, the advisor for Futurus En STEM, Morales hopes to one day earn his doctorate and become a professor so he can give back to the university community and conduct research. (Courtesy: Javier Morales)

As a computer science major, Morales is interested in how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to translate between languages and help people in their day-to-day activities. He is part of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Program (LSAMP), which is like Futuros En STEM but on a national level. He conducted research on AI with Dr. Karl Ricanek and presented it at the LSAMP Symposium with other student researchers. In March, Morales presented on the impact of AI on Hispanic communities at La Conferencia. 

“I know there are people that have it harder than me, and if I can make a change, why not?” said Morales. “Even though my major is not social work or medical, I still feel like technology can make an impact in people’s lives.” 

Morales formed Futuros en STEM with the goal of providing resources and opportunities for students in STEM fields. (Courtesy: Javier Morales)

Through his involvement with Centro Hispano, Morales has impacted the lives of several other students. During a networking field trip to nCino, Morales learned that he inspired a first-year student’s post-graduation plans. The unnamed student credited Morales’ and his work with Futuros En STEM with providing the opportunities and resources they would not have otherwise had access to.  

“That feels good,” said Morales. “That’s fulfillment right there.” 

 

Shelby Kennedy 

Kennedy at the beach. (Courtesy: Shelby Kennedy)

 

2024 Homecoming Court nominee Shelby Kennedy aims to serve and improve the UNCW community as a senior public health major. 

Kennedy was nominated for the court by Student Ambassadors. She joined the organization in the fall of her junior year after her friend and fellow nominee, Cody Brandon, encouraged her to join.  

Kennedy was shocked upon learning of her nomination. 

“It is a huge honor to represent and be nominated by Student Ambassadors which is really special to me because I have not been in the organization for as long as some people have,” said Kennedy. “It means a lot that the people who connected with me and felt that I would be a good representative, and I want to do it to the best of my ability.” 

Kennedy enjoys Oozeball, a spring mud-volleyball tournament, with the Student Ambassador. She looks forward to Homecoming, especially Late Night Breakfast, where the Ambassadors bond outside of regular events. 

Kennedy enjoys Oozeball, a spring mud-volleyball tournament hosted by Student Ambassadors and looks forward to the opportunity to bond with the Ambassadors outside of regular events. (Courtesy: Shelby Kennedy)

Kennedy, besides being a Student Ambassador, is also active in the Student Government Association (SGA), holding the position of Treasury Outreach. She facilitates connections between SGA and campus organizations and conducts presentations on funding requests. 

Kennedy, a two-time Orientation Leader (OL) known as “Shelby’s Sharks,” remains remembered by her students. She fondly recalls the beach trip from her first summer, cherishing the bond with her coworkers. Leading a workshop at the School Resource Officer (SRO) conference in her second summer highlighted the impact of her words, reinforcing her love for inspiring others. 

Kennedy worked as an Orientation Leader and introduced incoming students to campus through her group, Shelby’s Sharks. (Courtesy: Shelby Kennedy)

She loves the community she found at UNCW and believes her involvement helped her find her place. When taking on a new position she aims to find ways to improve the systems in place.  

“I want to do things that I feel like will improve people after me and make it even better,” said Kennedy.  

The advice Kennedy offers to incoming students is to find ways to be involved. The connections she built throughout her various roles have given her the support and motivation to persevere through difficult moments. She learned the importance of taking care of herself from her time as a Student Ambassador where a friend made her realize the importance of prioritizing herself.  

“[A friend in Student Ambassadors said,] We are human beings; not human doings’ and she was telling us because we all looked exhausted.” said Kennedy. 

Kennedy enjoys her Public Health major and Biology minor. Originally, she did not intend to stick with Public Health because she wanted to apply to the nursing school. As she learned more about Public Health, she felt it aligned with her values. She is intrigued by the environmental aspects of health and wants to find ways to improve health disparities. After graduation, she hopes to earn her master’s degree in public health focusing on epidemiology.  

When she is not busy with classes and activities, Kennedy enjoys reading historical fiction and lifestyle books. She loves spending time in the sun, snowboarding and making time for friends.  

In addition to her involvement on campus, Kennedy enjoys snowboarding and spending time with friends. (Courtesy: Shelby Kennedy)

Kennedy strives to get everything she can out of her experiences and continues to do so as a member of Homecoming Court. She is passionate and gives her all in everything she is involved in. 

 

Diandre’ Richie 

For nominee Diandre’ Richie, making the homecoming court is more than an exciting event to top off his involvement at UNCW — it’s the fulfillment of a dream he’s had since sophomore year of college.  

“I worked hard for all the things I’ve done,” said Richie. “To be able to express that and show that throughout [Homecoming Week] and everything, it’s really a full circle moment for me.” 

Richie received his nomination from the Biology Department and is pursuing a degree in Environmental Science. (Courtesy: Diandre’ Richie)

Richie received his nomination from the Biology Department and is an environmental science major with a concentration in biological sciences and a minor in business. He entered UNCW as a marine biology major but pivoted when he realized that environmental science aligned more closely with his long-term goals and allowed him to focus more on sustainability.  

To students who are considering a major-switch, Richie recommends looking at potential careers they want to pursue and finding majors suited to those roles. He also suggests talking to professors in different departments around campus, as this helped him find new opportunities. 

Richie started his research career as a sophomore by working with Dr. Jessie Jarvis in the Coastal Ecology lab. He currently conducts research with Dr. Devon Eulie in her Coastal and Estuarine Studies Lab to investigate the impact of erosion on local marshes. Richie hopes to one day work with NOAA or for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (Courtesy: Diandre’ Richie)

The Fall 2023 semester marked Richie’s first time as a member of the Student Government Association (SGA). Richie is the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and serves as liaison between SGA and the Upperman African American Cultural Center, Centro Hispano, the Asian Heritage Cultural Center and Mohin-Scholz LGBTQIA Resource Center. Much of Richie’s work involves facilitating collaboration between the cultural centers and the academic colleges, and he is passionate about providing resources to students.  

“Something I really focused on this year was making sure that students—for every student, and especially students within those diversity centers and within our minority groups, are getting access to the academic preparation that they’re supposed to be getting,” said Richie, “and also the different resources that the colleges have for them.” 

One of Richie’s goals as the Student Government Association’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is to connect students with various resources around campus. (Courtesy: Diandre’ Richie)

Richie considers the Upperman African American Cultural Center to be a second home. Located upstairs in the Fisher Student Center, it is his favorite place on campus to eat and spend time with friends. Through his work in SGA, Richie further supports Upperman and acts as a student leader.  

“Being around other students that look like me, it’s definitely a mood booster,” said Richie, “because I think we share a lot of similar experiences that I can’t share with other students here… We support each other a lot.” 

Richie was crowned Homecoming Royalty alongside fellow SGA officer Cody Brandon on Saturday, Feb. 17. Brandon and Richie were together in the SGA Office when official court nominations were announced and made history as the first two Black men to win the title of Homecoming Royalty in the same year.  

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