Gators Bounce Back event reminds students not to let setbacks define them

When Gators undergo challenges, we bounce back academically and, for some, in inflatable bounce houses.

The Gators Bounce Back event took place at the Reitz Union North Lawn on Oct. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It was the first of a new annual event that encouraged students to practice resilience after hardships.

During midterms and finals season, students may feel let down after receiving a tough grade. However, the team at GatorWell strives to remind students that a few discouraging scores don’t define one’s academic capabilities. The Gators Bounce Back event is just one way staff members, faculty and volunteers show their dedication to improving the student experience.

GatorWell is a department dedicated to educating students on health and wellness topics related to the college experience. Other departments on campus, like Recreation Sports (RecSports) and the Disability Resource Center, joined GatorWell to encourage students to persevere after setbacks.

“We hope this event shows the strategies, resources and support that students have on campus to bounce back,” said Jennifer Kennymore, a Health Promotion Specialist at GatorWell. “‘Bouncing back is recognizing that even though you didn’t get the outcome you wanted, you can learn from it and move on to the next opportunity.”

Kennymore said students could practice resilience daily by focusing on their accomplishments and being kind to themselves after tackling obstacles.

There were several activities for students to reflect on their growth at the event. Nine activity tables, two inflatable bounce houses and a mechanical alligator entertained attendees as they looked inward.

The “resilience stories” table welcomed students, staff and faculty members to post bright-colored sticky notes describing when they made a come-back. GatorWell invited the community to be vulnerable and open with each other during this activity. The stories ranged from overcoming negative feedback to persevering after losing a loved one.

After reflecting on how those challenging personal experiences impacted individuals, they were asked to identify how they overcame setbacks. Numerous responses focused on different self-care tactics or leaning on friends and family members for support.

One current staff member’s story focused on struggling to get through calculus class when they were in college. As a business major, they were required to receive a ‘B’ in the course. Despite their best efforts, they couldn’t get the grade they needed.

Luckily, their discomfort in the class didn’t stop them from completing their college education. After switching their major, getting accustomed to a new curriculum and meeting new professors, they realized being a business major wasn’t their calling and that was OK. The new major turned out to be the right career path. It just took overcoming an obstacle and making the necessary changes to get back on track.

“When I was a business major taking calculus, I truly struggled with the class,” the staff member wrote. “I had to find a new major and it was the best decision I ever made.”

Moshammet Jarin, a first-year mathematics student, said the midterm season could be stressful. After taking a difficult practice exam, Jarin found the Gators Bounce Back event on social media and decided to attend with friends. She said the event helps relieve some of the stress that comes with midterms.

“I learned the most from the resilience stories table. It makes you think about how you can be good at something, but sometimes you won’t succeed,” Jarin said. “This event shows that you’re more than just a student here. There’s a whole community that supports you.”

In addition, a “resilience in focus” table allowed students to capture their ambition in a Polaroid photo. Students lined up to pose with props like signs featuring motivational quotes such as “let’s grow Gators” and fun oversized sunglasses. Students could take a moment to pause, smile for the camera and be proud of their progress.

Another activity intended to highlight resiliency happened at the “conversation corner.” Students could interact with faculty, staff and volunteers at this table to discuss their challenging experiences. The opportunity to speak candidly about one’s setbacks with other professionals can be reassuring for students. Kennymore said that activities like the “conversation corner” remind Gators they are not alone on their journey to success.

Students like Aman Pathak said the event taught him more about resources at UF. In particular, the graduate CISE student said it was interesting to learn more about how the Disability Resource Center can help different groups of students on campus. He also said the event reminded him of how students could find community on campus.

“The event’s tagline is Gators Bounce Back, and that idea is everywhere. A lot of the booths told us how to bounce back,” Pathak said. “It’s OK to go down sometimes because you will eventually come back up.”


Writer: Karter Nancy, knancy.thomas@ufl.edu;

Source: Jennifer Kennymore, jkennymore@ufl.edu;

Moshammet Jarin;

Aman Pathak