Cicerones New Member Project Melinda Abercrombie

For an event, my Diversity Partner, Sheri Kusatzky, and I attended Krishna Lunch. Neither of us had ever been before and we were exited to try something new and experience something we had not done before. We were open to trying all the food and speaking to some people there as an attempt to fully immerse ourselves in the experience. One thing I learned from speaking to someone there was how they strive to maintain purity and simplicity through their fully vegan and vegetarian food for people of all walks of life. They also stressed how they strive to uplift others’ consciousness through the positive energy and light they portray onto Krishna lunch. With just a five-dollar donation anyone can eat this food, listen to the music being played, and start to feel a sense of community. They told us that important aspects of this community are honest communications, respect, integrity, and loving kindness. Everyone I talked to and experienced at this lunch was very friendly and lead a friendly welcome into their culture. They formed a small community of people who were similar to them, but now they brought it to our campus and have welcomed people with open arms into their community to form an even larger one. Not only the people who served the food were friendly to us, but also the people who were playing music. They showed us the instruments and continue to play throughout the whole duration of lunch. They also told us that they have fundraised and played a large role in renovating Plaza of the Americas, which I did not realize. They recognize and value Plaza as a place where organizations may unite, promoting cultural diversity on campus. I could tell they loved talking about why they are involved with volunteering for the Krishna and the cause that it supports. Having Krishna lunch on campus every day is definitely something that makes our campus special, and offers another opportunity for our students to experience a culture they may not be familiar with and it exposes us to more diversity. After talking to some people at lunch I can see why this is an important point to mention on our tours, because among many other things, it does make the University of Florida stand out.

My DP and I answered the three main questions but we also took some time to get to know each other since we had not met previously. Sheri is from Chicago, Illinois and is majoring in wildlife ecology and conservation. She has never really experienced any major discrimination because of her social identity, because she is white. However, she is Jewish and has not always been surrounded with a lot of Jewish people her whole life, which has sometimes been hard. Her heritage is Norwegian and Russian but she has never been discriminated against because of that. She believes she has not experienced discrimination because of her appearance of being a white female. She is diverse and a cultured person on the inside, but things like religion are hard to see from the outside, which is why she has not been discriminated against. A lot of people who discriminate do so only based off appearances, which is not just, but it happens. Together, Sheri and I interviewed Marc in the Multicultural and Diversity Affairs Center. He told us that the identities he thinks about most often are the fact that he is left handed and that he is gay. He realizes that being gay may make other people uncomfortable and he has to find a way to cope with that. The identities that he thinks about the least are being white and male. By identifying with the gay community he thinks it sometimes affects him by having a limited consciousness, and it is a struggle trying to figure out what his “privilege” really means. In contrast, being cisgendered has not affected his life. Overall, it has affected his life experiences because he has been involved in conflicting circumstances where he does not know if others identify in the same way he does sexually, and even if they do, there are varying levels of expression he has to decipher. He has experienced discrimination due to the fact that he is gay, but he experienced it a lot more when he was younger and barely at all now. He said that college has created a bigger exposure and a larger prescence of the LGBTQ community, where back home there were barely any people like him. He gave a good example that when looking at the color red, one will see red. But if one day they become color blind and do not see red anymore, it will be a confusing and frustrating experience because something they thought they had known so well had changed. He thinks this is the way people see him and they do not know how to react to how he identifies now. This has been difficult for him at times and he said there is always room for improvement in the way others view things, but he knows it may take time to adapt.

5 Benefits of a UAA membership

1. Access to Gator Nation Tailgates at Emerson Alumni Hall

2. Access to Bostick Golf Course

3. UFAA Mentor Match program

4. Early Access to Gator Football Tickets (only life membership)

5. Access to the Alumni Network

5 Benefits of a SAA membership

1. Access to Beat Tees

2. Eligibility to be a Cicerone

3. Access to local Gator Club

4. Membership Dues are tax deductible

5. Access to Gator Run tent

Seasoned Advice!!!

2 pieces of advice on how to be an amazing cicerone

First, I asked Cole Kraft on ways I can be an amazing cicerone. He said that it is important to always be yourself and to be positive. Also, it is essential to make sure to get everything done on time, with a smile on your face. He said that when you are down, look for other cicerones to bring you back up and to do the same for other when others are in distress, and you will make for an amazing cicerone. I also asked Lukas Decker ways I can improve and be the best cicerone I can be. He said to appreciate what this organization gives to you, but not to get too caught up in it, and remember the person you were before cicerones. Also, he said to take advantage of the best part about cicerones, the people. He has regrets about not getting to know some seniors who recently graduated, and are doing amazing things around the world now. He described how finding your own family within cicerones will bring you things you could not have imagined previously. Lastly, he described leadership positions and how sometimes just being a general body member can be more eye opening than any leadership position. I think this is all good advice that I can definitely bring with me into the future.

Kaileigh Rock had short and sweet advice for me dealing with SAA that I think is useful. She told me to try out as many different events as possible, because SAA has everything from sports to graduation to tailgating and everything differs from one another. She recommended to pick up events that I am not familiar with and just try them, because you never know what you may experience or who you may meet.

Toni Deane had a lot of insightful advice on how to succeed on tours and always improve. She said the biggest thing was to be yourself on tours. Obviously it is important to hit all of the non-negotiables but it is also important to not be robotic. She told me that the best tours are the ones that are not done by just interacting with the group but also giving personal experiences and tips. We are cicerones and tour guides but also students, and they want to see what it would be like to be a student here. She made a good point to never be scared of questions, because you know more about UF than you think, and answer them to the best of your ability.

I asked Bri Bazail for advice on UAA programing. She gave me a lot of good advice about swamp squad and why she loves it so much. She told me that it is fun to get to know the families you encounter on game day. They are typically focused on more than just football; they want to learn about student life and other things UF has to offer. There is also a lot you can get out of working these events. She said she does things like learn football terms with the athletes but also talk to parents about jobs and possible future employers. She has many fond memories out of all her college experience so far from working these games and it s an experience that is far from ordinary.

Erica Rego talked to me about how high of an honor it is to be a presidential host and how many amazing experiences she has had doing it. She has had the ability to interact with some of the university’s most notable guests, faculty and alumni. She said that of course it is important to be firm, friendly, and flexible, you have to be ready at a moment’s notice for anything else to happen at the president’s house or in his box. The biggest piece of advice she could give me is to take it all in when you are presidential hosting. She loves seeing the calm before the storm before everyone rushes into the nicest box on game days and seeing how the day unfolds. She made a good point that it is more than just saying “thank you and go gators,” but the more special moments come when singing we are the boys and giving a child their “my first gator game pin.” I learned from her that being a presidential host is not something that should be taken lightly but rather something to enjoy to the fullest.

One amazing campus resource we have here at UF is the Multicultural and Diversity Affairs Center. I visited their office to learn more about them and how they make an impact on campus and the services they offer, because I had never been there before. I learned that it is divided up by different affairs such as Black Affairs and Hispanic-Latino Affairs, which makes it easy for students to get involved in certain aspects or learn more about them. The MCDA stands for supporting underserved communities and creating a campus with a large sense of inclusion. They have events throughout the year such as the MLK Celebration that is open to the whole Gainesville community, and other programs such as the University Minority Mentor Program. These are just two ways to get involved in this organization, but there are many more that prove it has a large presence on campus and a vital part of maintaining inclusivity and culture at our University. A second important campus resource is UMatter We Care. I knew this organization provided aid to gators in distress, but I was not exactly sure how. I learned that they have a team of ambassadors who are dedicated to supporting their fellow gators and promoting the fact that every gator counts around campus. When in distress, they can also tell you helpful places too seek advice and counseling. These places include the Counseling and Wellness Center, and the office of Victim Services. I also learned that the Counseling and Wellness Center offers a free program to identify and address help-seeking students who are seeking emotional distress. It consists of an online training simulation to learn effective referral techniques and questions to ask when being in a situation with a person who may be in distress. There are many other resources not only on campus but around Gainesville that the UMatter We Care ambassadors are familiar with and can refer people to. These include the Alachua County Crisis Center and UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital. It is important to have this organization and its ambassadors on campus because they create a sense of comfort that someone does care and there are many resources that want to help students in distress.

My Goals!!

1. Be a P-Host or at least apply by the time I graduate

2. Before we leave for summer and I don’t see a lot of these people for a few months, I want to make sure I really have made an effort to get to know everyone and have a conversation with everyone by the start of next semester.

3. Every semester I want to try working an event I haven’t had the opportunity to try yet (For example give a VIP tour, work a CASE ASAP, work a gymnastics meet, etc)

For the VP hangout I ate lunch with Forrest at my sorority house. I sat with him for a while and learned a lot more about him and what he has done in cicerones to be successful. I learned that he is from the coco beach/ Melbourne area and joined cicerones as a sophomore. He is also a finance major and graduating in May. He told me that when he joined cicerones he wanted to be involved in it even though his cicerones family told him they were the type of family that sat in the back and didn’t do that much. He realized that it is completely acceptable to just be a general body member and some of his favorite people in cicerones are general body members, but getting involved opens a lot of doors and creates memorable experiences as well. We also discussed how we both struggled in school a little bit during our new member semesters trying to balance everything, but he assured me that during the fall semester everything is spread out more and it is easier to earn credits because people are occupied with other events such as P-Hosting and Swamp Squad. I am glad I got to talk to him and learn more about him in general but also more about cicerones.

For my mentor mentee date with Marcela, we met up and went on a run, because that is one of my favorite hobbies. We ran to the stadium and back near sorority row. I have been walking around the stadium and near the stadium since I was little, but it has been cool to experience campus in different way and with different people since I have been in cicerones, especially Marcela. I learned a little more about her during this hangout like what else she is involved with such as student government, and we just talked about our lives and how she has been. For one of her classes she is currently working on a blog and her worth ethic inspired me to go home and do work after I hung out with her. Relating to cicerones she said it has definitely helped her grow as a person and added immensely to her college experience. the one hard thing has been having a small family in cicerones (it is just us two) but she is excited for next year when we will have three. She will be here over the summer because she is required to be for Innovation Academy, and she will be preparing for her senior year. I think mentorship is important because it forms a bond with someone who is older and therefore has more experience in the organization, so they are there whenever you have doubts or questions. They also understand what we are going through because they went through it themselves, and they are there to offer advice and support.

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