CHAMPAIGN – Ask about Hannah Spangler’s favorite moment on the University of Illinois campus and her answer is clear: Homecoming day, freshmen.
It seems like a fun choice considering the 2018-19 Illinois soccer team lost a brutal game to Purdue, 46-7 that day, but Spangler said the school’s pride and joy they were having Her cohorts in the 4-H House Cooperative Sorority felt was enough.
“I could see that this school means so much to the students and especially to the alumni,” she said. “Seeing their faces and how proud they were was the greatest experience for me that I should be here and that this is a special school.”
Four years later, Spangler is one of 20 high-performing UI seniors selected for their campus leadership and community service for the Homecoming Court.
They’ll take part in today’s homecoming parade, which begins at 11 a.m., and come out onto the field at Memorial Stadium to wave to fans at halftime against Wisconsin.
And Spangler has given this tradition serious thought. Her older sister Kaity, who was selected for the homecoming dish in 2017, had given her little sister pointed advice: acknowledge the fans behind you.
“You can bet I’ll beckon both sides when they say ‘Hannah Spangler’,” she said.
She is an Illinois through and through; two of her uncles went to UI, as did two of her aunts, her grandma and sister. The latter two and Aunt Holly also all lived in the 4-H house.
Some of the newcomers are making their own way home, like first-generation college student Alliyah Rumboldt-Lemond, a senior citizen majoring in journalism and sociology.
Rumboldt-Lemond said she placed great emphasis on diversifying the university and staying in the black community on campus.
She is doing an internship at the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, coordinating the Shelley Ambassadors, which encourages colored students to consider the school, whose total African American enrollments are currently around 5.4 percent, including 6 percent among students .
A couple of her sisters in the historic Black Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Cierra McCullough and Courtney James-Atkins, were also selected for this year’s court.
“I’m very excited that this is the revitalization of the campus,” she said. “I can already see how all the alumni are going to campus. I can’t wait to represent my community on Saturday. “
As always, this year’s cohort brings with it a variety of academic interests and campus commitments. Take Ria Ravi, who has been a volunteer at the Carle Foundation Hospital and the Avicenna Health Clinic, which serves underrepresented, underinsured populations in Champaign-Urbana, since year one.
She has also taught children at the International Prep Academy in Champaign and is president of the all-female a cappella group Illinois Rip Chords.
“I’ve tried to focus a lot of community service on giving back to the children,” Ravi said.
After going through the nomination, application and interview process to make it to court, there is one event that she’s most looking forward to today: the tailgate with Chancellor Robert Jones.
“He’s one of those beings you don’t expect to meet or talk to because he’s such a big guy on campus,” Ravi said.
Even for those court members who have never attended the homecoming, like Evan Ko, senior fifth year bioengineer, the honor is tangible.
“To be one of 20 other seniors who are extraordinarily involved on campus and in the communities and spaces in which we operate, to be recognized as our full, authentic selves is so rewarding,” said Ko. “It is very affirming to be seen for what I am and not as a performative act.”
Ko has spent his five years on campus trying to make engineering a better, more inclusive space through Engineering Ambassadors, targeting districts like Champaign Unit 4 and the Chicago Public Schools System.
“We’re trying to reiterate that engineering is about solving problems and breaking down stereotypes that you have to look a certain way to be an engineer, while piquing the student’s inner curiosity to pursue it.” , he said.
Ko admits he didn’t worry too much about the nervousness and excitement of waving at halftime. But he brings along his partner and the parents of a childhood friend who have supported him throughout his college career.
“It’s a chance to give something back to them,” said Ko. “Your daughter actually went to school in Madison, so I’m getting her t-shirts that aren’t Wisconsin red.”
Some other student presences to headline today’s homecoming parade:
- Court members Shruthi Mekala, Diana Morales, Thomas Ballard, Kayt Raquel, Tyler Roberson, Karthik Subramaniam, Faye Yang, Fredy Quevedo, Vongai Tizora, Ally Merrett, Joey Birrittier, Muskaan Sawhney, Taylor Chen, Haley Dellacqua and Jackson Smith
- The Illinois Solar Car Club with its youngest vehicle, the “Brizo”. The competitive four-wheeler can reach speeds of around 70 mph, “but it will go much slower tomorrow,” said club president Tara D’Souza, who will be walking next to him. “When you just see the expressions on people’s faces, they are sometimes so shocked that a car is driving and ask themselves, ‘What is this?’” The club, with almost 200 members, will soon start developing its third solar car, expected to be around Debut in 2023.
- The UIUC Black Greek Council, which, together with the Central Black Student Union and the Illinois Union Board, will present the Late Night Dance of the night with DJ Overkast, which will run from 10:00 PM to 1:30 AM. Tickets are $ 5 for students and $ 10 for student sponsored guests. Each student can buy two student tickets and four guest tickets. The remaining seats will be sold in the Illinois Union Rec Room from 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. today.
- The Illinois Motion Dance Team.
- The ROTC Navy, Air Force and Color Guard.
- The Illinois Transfer Ambassadors.
- Fair Queens from Champaign County, Ford County, Fisher, and Georgetown (all UI students).
- The Eco Illinois Supermileage Vehicle and Club.
- The Illinois Motorsports formula style.
- The Student Sustainability Advisory Board.
- Engineers Association and Brotherhood Alpha Omega Epsilon and Sigma Phi Delta as well as the Triangle Fraternity, Order of Omega, United Greek Council and Panhellenic Council.
- And of course the Marching Illinois and the school cheerleaders.
- Orange and blue fire trucks of the Illinois Fire Service Institute.
- Grand Marshal Mary Henson and Vice Chancellor Danita Brown Young.
- The Alumni Band, Chicago Illinois Club, UI Alumni Association, and Moms Association.
- Heartland Coca-Cola, with trailer and Cola polar bear.
- Jesse Sullivan, a Republican candidate for governor.
- The Salvation Army and Fagen Scooters and 217 Mortgage.