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The Daily Tar Heel

New group, SelfIlluminate, hopes to spread happiness on campus

Marissa Butler, a first year from Lumberton, NC, started the Self-Illumination club, which strives to make students on campus their best selves. When asked why she started the club, she said she loves "seeing people smile when [we] make their day."
Marissa Butler, a first year from Lumberton, NC, started the Self-Illumination club, which strives to make students on campus their best selves. When asked why she started the club, she said she loves "seeing people smile when [we] make their day."

What started as a few social media blog posts about struggling with self-love has now morphed into SelfIlluminate — a group at UNC aimed at providing a supporting and friendly environment for anyone who may need it. 

“I wanted it to feel like a friend group, like a big group of friends,” said first-year Marissa Butler, founder of SelfIlluminate. 

Butler said she first got the idea for SelfIlluminate while trying to find self-positivity and love for herself during her first semester, while also struggling with loneliness from being on such a big campus. Over winter break, she said she realized how much she had grown and improved and wanted to expand it to everyone else.

“The things I really want to do with (SelfIlluminate) are help others find their own self-worth and help them recognize how they can use that, and to make individuals feel better about themselves,” Butler said. “And also to just brighten people’s days in any way possible, even if it’s just really little or not much.”

Butler began on Valentine’s Day when she stood in the Pit and handed out free hugs and chocolates, all on her own. A few days later, she created a GroupMe for SelfIlluminate and posted it on the UNC Class of 2020 Facebook page, saying anyone could join. 

Butler said there are about 70 people in the GroupMe so far. 

The group hasn’t done any official activities yet, but Butler said she wants to host events like group hugs or swipe-ins into dining halls — anything that might make people feel happy.

First-year Jessica Calland said she saw Butler in the Pit on Valentine’s Day and liked her idea to try and make other people feel better about themselves. 

“College is hard,” Calland said. “So, to feel less lonely and more loved and supported is a great feeling to have when you’re starting out and struggling a bit.”

SelfIlluminate isn’t only limited to first-years. Butler said she wanted the group to be unspecialized so anybody can join and feel included, even if they’re not a student.

“I didn’t want someone to have to choose their identity,” she said. “Because some people feel like ‘Oh, I’m a student,’ or ‘I’m a med student’ or ‘I care about art, so I’m doing this.’ I wanted it to be an expansive thing.”

First-year AJ Goren said they thought what Butler did on Valentine’s Day was sweet, so as soon as they discovered she was making a group for it, they were on board. 

“I think to concentrate a lot of positive energy into one organization can be really powerful,” Goren said. “I thought a club dedicated to bringing that to UNC students and (being) there for each other and supporting each other would just be a really good feeling for everyone.”

The club is still very new, Goren said, and still in the idea stage, but they are hopeful about its future.

“I think it has the potential to do a lot of good for our campus,” they said.

university@dailytarheel.com

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