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The Daily Tar Heel

Farewell Column: For my UNC neighborhood

Oliva Rojas was a senior who will be graduating in May 2023.

While sitting down to write this column that is now past due (sorry, Caitlyn), the only thing that comes to my mind is the first time I walked into The Daily Tar Heel office. 

I was a 17 year old visiting the office during the summer as part of the Chuck Stone Program for Diversity in Education and Media. It was quiet, with only a handful of people working, but filled with papers and magazines. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in media yet, but I was ambitious and ready to explore during this next chapter of my life going to college. I made a mental note to add joining the DTH to my bucket list of things to do if I became a Tar Heel. 

The following year, I started at UNC, and I was overwhelmed by the newness. I was living in a new place, taking new classes and I needed to make new friends. My ambition softened, and a new layer of insecurity masked it. Everyone on campus was so remarkable — it seemed as if everyone knew each other already, and I was late to the party.

I took a first-year seminar with Professor Ferrel Guillory at the Hussman School, and he offered our class some advice. He talked about his time living in New York and how it felt huge, but he most identified with the borough in which he lived.

“Find your neighborhood,” he said. 

Feeling better after winter break and looking back through my mental bucket list, I joined the DTH during my second semester. The rest is history. 

I’ve bounced around DTH Media Corp. — not just the newsroom — as a reporter on the University desk, editorial board member, assistant audience engagement editor, audience engagement editor, work-study student and campaign strategist for the 1893 Brand Studio. 

And while over the past four years, I’ve seen the office leadership fluctuate in terms of diversity, seen the organization face a much-needed reality check after getting called out about how it handles issues related to race and experienced how the news cycle and workload can lead to an unhealthy work-life balance and cause burnout, I learned how to place boundaries, speak up and have a voice. It gave that insecure first-year her confidence and ambition back. 

Of course, I was given a place to grow my skills as a writer, marketer, social media manager and leader — all things I am grateful for in order to develop professionally, yes. But, what I am most grateful for over these past four years is the people — the reason why I will put on rose-colored glasses when reflecting on my time at the DTH. 

I’m forever grateful for meeting my best friend and Bobbsey Twin, Clay Morris. Grateful for the inside jokes, laughs and conversations with Guillermo Molero, Allie Kelly, Lilly Egan, Kayleigh Carpenter, Sonia Rao, Sophia Alem, Carson Elm-Picard, Sam Garzon, Shelby Swanson, PJ Morales, Krista Nichols, Leni Schenkel and Hannah Collett. 

Grateful for all the outings at Linda’s with Rajee Ganesan, Maydha Devarajan, Ben Rappaport, Ira Wilder, Caitlyn Yaede, Chris Ocana and Heidi Pérez-Moreno. Grateful to see Elise Trexler, Taylor Barnhill, Adrian Tillman and JinAh Springer, my previous staffers, grow as creatives and editors. 

Grateful for Courtney Mitchell and Collin Pruitt for being the best managers and gassing me up when I walk into the office. And of course, grateful to Praveena Somasundaram, for being the best work mom and accepting my late editor application for the 2021-2022 year. Without that, I would have never made the memories that I will cherish forever or meet the people that I will know for a lifetime.

To all my DTH friends and family, thank you for being a part of my neighborhood. 


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