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Campus Celebrity: Katherine Benson

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Chapel Hill chapter.

In ten years, you’re likely to catch Katherine Benson leading a rally for the American Civil Liberties Union or running for office here in North Carolina.

A native of Morganton, N.C., Katherine immerses herself in all things civil rights related. Whether it’s at a UNITY conference or a SAGA meeting, you’re sure to catch the loquacious future lawyer leaving her heelprint here at Carolina. And when she makes her big splash in politics, you will be able to say that you knew her as our Campus Celebrity first.

HC: What course of study are you pursuing at UNC?

KB: I’m an English and History double major. I’m debating adding a Philosophy minor because I only need one more course for it. So, maybe that or Social and Economic Justice or the Philosophy, Politics and Economics minor. But officially, just English and History, and a possible minor.

HC: Besides class, what do you like about Carolina?

KB: The people, honestly. The experiences that I’ve had with them, the different perspectives they’ve given me on the world. The genuine kindness and sense of generosity they possess.

HC: What has been the greatest revelation you’ve had since coming to Carolina?

KB: Well, there were too many so I wouldn’t say there was one defining moment, but coming out was a big one.  

HC: Who was the first person that you came out to?  

KB: It was my friend Josh…and it was on Skype. He was my best friend and I felt comfortable telling him because we told each other all of our problems. We were just really close and he could just tell that I was stressed about something.  

HC: What resources were helpful to you in coming out?  

KB: Mostly things like YouTube…seriously…YouTube has a lot of help videos for kids who are questioning their sexuality, Tumblr also, and reaching out to queer people on the Internet until I was comfortable enough to talk to people here. Also, around the time I started coming out, I started becoming more politically involved because of all the polemic that was going on…like Amendment One. And I was able to strengthen my identity that way. Because more people were becoming accepting and it was an issue that was prevalent in dialogues, I was able to become more open with my sexuality.

HC: How has being at university in general helped with regards to navigating your sexuality?

KB: It was really helpful to be in an open-minded and accepting environment, to have people who I felt that I could tell without them thinking it was the worst thing in the entire world…because it was very different in my hometown.

HC: Well, I’m glad that UNC has served as a safe space for you. Speaking of the campus culture here at Carolina, what organizations have you gotten involved in since being on campus?

KB: UNITY, SAGA, SAAW…Survivors and Advocates against the Abuse of Women…but most of my time is spent working at PlayMaker’s.

HC: Share a little more about PlayMaker’s Repertory Theater. What do you love most about it?  

KB: First and foremost, I love my coworkers, and I have a great boss. I’m not really involved in the drama department as a student so it’s really cool to get to see as many shows that I do and get to engage in the conversations around theater.  Also, it’s cool having a campus job and a source of income structured to my life, and getting the work experience.

HC: Speaking of work, what is your dream profession?  

KB: Well, I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was, like, six. But I’ve been able to take a lot of classes geared toward logical thinking, like, through the philosophy department, and that has helped me think through modes of defense. I also volunteer at the law school doing mock trials for one of their finals for third year students. And I’ve been able to witness trials here. I also have a family friend here who is a lawyer and I’ve been able to talk to her and shadow at the office. More so, it’s opened my mind to the fact that law isn’t just…well, there is criminal defense, which I want to do…but there’s a lot of ways to get involved in legal matters that aren’t as direct. I’ve been given a more global perspective and open-mindedness and sensitivity to diverse issues, like poverty and hunger.

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Jaleesa Jones

Chapel Hill

Jaleesa Jones is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a communication studies major with double minors in journalism and screenwriting. She is president and co-campus correspondent of the UNC chapter of Her Campus, a Collegiate Correspondent for USA TODAY and a member of the Carolina Association of Future Magazine Editors, Carolina Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Jaleesa loves covering lifestyle, race, feminism and the arts. In her spare time, she enjoys confusing her roommate with alternating sessions of Juicy J and Taylor Swift, imagining her Ramen was pasta, and binge-watching movies - because TV series are so '90s. 
Melissa Paniagua is a senior journalism major at The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, specializing in public relations. She is currently a fashion market intern at ELLE Magazine. On campus, Melissa acts as the Her Campus president as well as the vice president of the Carolina Association of Future Magazine Editors, UNC’s Ed2010 chapter. In the past, she has been an intern for Southern Weddings Magazine and a contributing writer for Her Campus. Melissa has an appreciation for all things innovative, artful and well designed and hopes to work in marketing for a women’s lifestyle magazine in the future!