Laura Saavedra Forero, 2024-25 student body president candidate and junior neuroscience major, said she became a leader and self-advocate at UNC out of necessity.
Despite technical issues that initially caused Saavedra Forero to run as a write-in candidate, she was officially added to the ballot late Monday night. The UNC Board of Elections said to Saavedra Forero that there were issues surrounding how the signatures she collected to get on the ballot were processed.
Saavedra Forero said she founded her campaign on four pillars — radical love, community care, collective healing and accessibility — that are all meant to prioritize the well-being of students. Saavedra Forero, who identifies as a queer Latina woman with a disability, said her personal experiences on campus have influenced her life and led her to develop extreme persistence and adaptability.
“I’ve made my presence known on this campus, whether intentionally or not, because I’m not someone who’s willing to keep quiet when things aren’t going the right way,” she said.
Saavedra Forero said she decided to run for SBP at the end of her sophomore year after being inspired by conversations with 2022-23 SBP Taliajah “Teddy” Vann and her team. She said her role as Campus Y co-president last year and involvement in the Disability Advocates Committee, Tar Heels at the Table and Mi Pueblo campus organizations have prepared her to be president of the student body. She is also co-founder and CEO of a small business called By Immigrant Hands that sells merchandise in an effort to empower immigrants and give back to the community.
Her SBP campaign is founded on 12 amendments for social change, covering a range of topics including food insecurity, lockdown protocols and expanding Davis Library's hours. Saavedra Forero’s campaign also supports a variety of movements including queer and transgender liberation, Black Lives Matter, Free Palestine and bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom.
“Humanity is impacted by the things that happen on a global scale,” Saavedra Forero said. “That’s why we feel so strongly about making statements and claims and standing on the right side of a movement.”
She said she supports movements that go beyond UNC because she wants to acknowledge and appreciate students’ intersectional identities and the communities that they occupy.
“Even if it’s not necessarily happening at our front door, it’s affecting people at our front door," Saavedra Forero said. "And that is more than enough for us to have to take action.”
Sophomore Ellie Sellers, Saavedra Forero’s campaign manager, said she saw articles and posts about Saavedra Forero’s accessibility work before coming to UNC. They first met at a worker's rights protest on campus in fall 2022.
“I think people should vote for Laura because Laura is change,” Sellers said. “Her presence alone challenges the systems at hand, and I know that she fights for all of us.”
Saavedra Forero's accessibility work was recognized after organizing and taking part in the 32-hour lock-in on the steps of South Building last year after being unable to leave in her room in Koury Residence Hall for the same amount of time due to a broken elevator. During both of those periods, people brought her food and medications, which she said was a beautiful display of community.
“That was a place where I realized that despite the systems in place and this institution not providing me with what I need, it’s always been my community that has shown up and who have quite literally kept me alive,” Saavedra Forero said.
During the Aug. 28 lockdown, Saavedra Forero said the lack of protocol for disabled students and wheelchair users was displayed again. She said she wants to enhance lockdown protocols to make them more accessible and comprehensive for the student body.
Joe Hinchcliffe, a junior majoring in biology and a friend of Saavedra Forero, said he supports her campaign because she has people’s best interests at heart.
“I think she’d be a really good go-between between the students and the University as an institution,” Hinchcliffe said.
Saavedra Forero said her leadership has allowed her to have regular conversations with senior administrators at the University and former Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.
Hinchliffe said Saavedra Forero is good at working with different types of people, including University leadership.
“I think that when we come together, and we put our voices together, we create riffs of change,” Saavedra Forero said.