Alumni celebrate 150 years of social justice

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is known for many things: competitive academics, championship basketball teams, a diverse student body. But one of the most important aspects of Carolina is its tradition of student activism and public service.

During the weekend of Oct. 15-17, UNC alumni will celebrate Carolina Change Makers: 150 Years of Innovations in Social Justice. Three campus-based organizations — the Campus Y, Assisting People in Planning Learning Experiences in Service (APPLES) and Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education (SCALE) — will come together to commemorate the many ways in which UNC students serve others.

img_applespitsit_280_230Alumni of the organizations, as well as those interested in learning more about UNC’s movement for social justice are invited to attend the weekend celebrations.

The Campus Y has often been called “the beating heart” of the University’s campus. For more than a century, the Campus Y has served as a forum for student-led debate and activism, on and off campus, leading such movements as the integration of UNC and fair wages for University employees.

Many of Carolina’s most beloved programs originated with the Y. Examples include intramural sports, the campus bookstore and the Daily Tar Heel. The organization will be celebrating its 150th anniversary.

SCALE will observe its 20th anniversary at UNC. SCALE was founded by two Carolina undergraduate tutors in 1989, when they realized that there was no nationwide organization that brought together college students with a desire to increase literacy in their communities. Like many other programs at UNC, SCALE was launched by the Campus Y.

img_scale_280_230Today, SCALE supports various campus-based literacy programs that range from local to nationwide in reach. This organization gives college students the opportunity to serve as literacy teachers or tutors in the community.

Like SCALE, UNC’s APPLES Service-Learning Program, the nation’s oldest student-led, service-learning program, will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Saturday (Oct. 16). APPLES was founded with the purpose of integrating service interests and academic endeavors, bringing together students, faculty and community organizations in sustainable partnerships.

APPLES has guided many students to careers and given countless others once-in-a-lifetime experiences. “It’s so important to get involved with programs like this because, for the most part, you grow up differently,” alumni Jatin Desai said. “When you are thrown into a different environment and you can see what life is like for someone different from you and who has different traditions, values and priorities — it’s eye-opening.”

The weekend will provide opportunities to discuss current social justice topics with alumni and current members of all three organizations.

Majora Carter, one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Most Influential African-Americans, will give the keynote address for this event. Carter is the founder of the Sustainable South Bronx project and focuses her discussions on various topics such as poverty, public health and the changing environment.

Other weekend events will include a history of the Campus Y with Joel Williamson, UNC professor and author of “Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues,” a discussion of the sustainment of social justice in today’s society, and documentaries created by current Campus Y leaders.

For more information and a full list of activities, please visit http://campus-y.unc.edu or http://alumni.unc.edu/article.aspx?SID=5230.