Students continue a tradition of community service during homecoming week


Virginia Taylor

Alumna Julia Quigley showed off her adornments after winning Top Dog in Feb 2019

Celestine J. Epps, [email protected], assistant Arts & Features Editor

It’s that time of year when students, faculty and their families swarm campus dressed in every shade of rocky blue to celebrate homecoming’s main event: Basketball. Spirit week proves to be a crucial time for student organizations and campus operations to gather the student body in support of athletics and the Asheville community.

“Freshman year, I had a blast. It was my first homecoming and so many people participated that year,” alumna Julia Quigley said.

Quigley, a UNC Asheville alumna and Graphic Designer from Durham was on the homecoming committee with Asheville Campus Entertainment and the royal court during her undergraduate career at UNCA. 

“I was shook,” said Quigley after being crowned Top Dog in 2019.

Hesitant at first, Quigley warmed up to the idea of being a contestant sponsored by ACE instead of a crew member. Upperclassmen on the royal court represent an array of groups and organizations as exemplary role models for their peers, who will determine the winner at halftime.

The alumna didn’t put much effort into campaigning during her junior year besides a singular Instagram post. To her disbelief, Quigley was met by the chancellor with a scepter and crown to officiate her accomplishment. One of her best memories was planning Rocky Stock and watching her now fiance, Josh McCormack participated in the 2020 homecoming court.

“Winning was super fun because I didn’t think I would win. It was a nice surprise,” said Quigley.

The 2019 Top Dog took home a number of incentives including a sash and robe, diploma frame, flowers and other small goodies. UNCA students said they’re not afraid to try something new if it involves giving back to the community and meeting new people.

“There’s no way,” said Kayla Bledsoe when she won Top Dog last spring. “I’m just going to do this for fun just to say that I did it. When they called my name I was so flabbergasted.”

Prospanica and Acceptance Club executive, Kayla Bledsoe rallied for donations at the Penny Wars tabling event as a candidate on the 2021 royal court. (Heather Russo)

UNCA takes an eclectic perspective on university sports and prioritizes the small college experience. Homecoming serves not only as a marketing campaign but an avenue for students to make long-lasting memories, especially the class of 2022. At a campus of 3,233 students, volunteers and club executives do everything in their power to uplift students’ voices and create events tailored to the interests of the student body.

“To be a Top Dog I think is someone who represents equality, justice and inclusion for all,” Bledsoe said.

Bledsoe, a member of UNCA’s Cheer and Dance Team and executive for Prospicana and the Acceptance Club, understands the significance of staying connected with her peers with a purpose in mind.

Homecoming’s success depends on students’ participation in scheduled events. Students have taken a liking to service projects whether it be to raise money for a cause or packaging donations, civic awareness and community service embody the core values of student groups who do similar work year round. 

Bledsoe said that face-to-face interactions with students across campus significantly help students to get active in student organizations and special events like homecoming week. In her previous experience as the vice president of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, regular tabling events allowed students to put names to faces, or masked faces in some instances.

“I’ve kind of put my foot in every door and I think that’s really important because I don’t think staff truly understands what it’s like to be a student and to walk in our shoes. I feel, in a sense, I was a representation for all,” Bledsoe said.

This year, the ACE team plans to recreate the homey environment associated with homecoming through inclusivity and previously successful events such as Drag Bingo and Friend Frenzy.

“It’s almost a repurposing of homecoming,” said senior president of ACE, Ariel Akuneme.

Akuneme, a Rutherfordton native, spent a year as a general body member for the organization amongst other commitments such as being a Resident Assistant and an e-sports club ambassador. Everchanging COVID restrictions for sporting events make in-person attendance tricky for students who want to show up for their classmates and friends. 

Akuneme said face-to-face interactions allow for clubs and student organizations to produce events that students’ want to participate in.

“I think we have a lot of success when we say It’s not just about the event. Yeah, that’s going to be fun but this is a community and we want you to be a part of it,” Akuneme said.


Edited on March 1. to change a factual error