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Long-time UNC tradition Carolina Kickoff goes virtual for 2020 campers

An image from a previous Carolina Kickoff group. Carolina Kickoff is an annual three-day camp held before students move into campus. This year in 2020, the camp is continuing virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Jessie LaMasse.

Carolina Kickoff, a long-running tradition at UNC for incoming first-years founded in 1946, will be held remotely this year because of COVID-19-related concerns.

On July 7, admission decisions for the program — typically held as a three-day in-person camp — were released, Carolina Kickoff co-director Jessie LaMasse said, and campers were informed that the program would be held virtually.

This year, camp will be a one-day virtual event, held on Aug. 8, LaMasse said.

Despite challenges, CK leadership is working to create an interactive and engaging online experience, she said.

“We’re prioritizing the things online that can create involvement for campers,” she said. “This is a space to create friendships and create community.”

They will hold follow-up Carolina Kickoff meetings so campers can continue to build relationships and have conversations, she said.

“These relationships will be more than a one-time relationship and more like a support group they can come to throughout the semester as they’re dealing with things,” she said. “They can get connected and stay involved in the things that they’re passionate about.”

LaMasse and co-director Blake Glenn made the decision to go remote after discussing the equity issues that having an in-person camp would create, as Glenn said different factors like socioeconomic status could prevent some campers from being able to attend in person.

“We decided to just make it one day online so that we could really make the most of the time we had and get the most diverse camper body possible,” he said.

Caroline Le, a rising junior and CK chairperson of programs, said she thinks moving camp online is the safest decision.

“As a counselor body, we didn’t want to create any space that could catalyze an outbreak, and knowing that Carolina Kickoff is a typically very close and physically taxing environment due to being outside and a lot of physical activity, we thought it would be best to bring it online,” she said.

Brandon Nwokeji, a rising junior and CK development committee co-chairperson, said he was disappointed that camp would be remote but plans to make the best of the situation.

“I absolutely feel for the campers who will not be able to have the same in-person experience that I did, because I know how transformative that experience was for me,” he said. “Now it falls on me, and it falls on the rest of the Carolina Kickoff counselors to really put our best foot forward and make this virtual experience the best experience for the campers.”

According to the Carolina Kickoff website, the cost of attending camp is typically $175. This year, they are aiming to have no cost for campers, Nwokeji said.

Le said because camp will be virtual and they plan to have no cost, they hope it will be more accessible to underserved communities.

Carolina Kickoff will still be a good opportunity for students to meet each other, she said.

“I think the heart of CK, the mission of CK is still going to be there and it’s going to still be a wonderful experience for first-years to make friends and meet upperclassmen, and learn more about our campus,” she said. “I think, regardless, it's going to be a good experience for campers.”


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