Summer Fun for College Students: Keeping them connected to their faith!
August 21, 2015 • Diocese of St. Augustine

by Elena Castello

The University of Florida Catholic Gators hosted their seventh annual Summer Party, in their usual Lake Wauburg location in Gainesville. More than 50 people, from alumni to freshmen attended the event. Food, games and music were the foundation of this annual get-together that welcomes new students into the community.

Photo courtesy of Elena Castello.

The Summer Party is hosted during the Summer B term at UF, and aims “to bring together a bunch of the students – the ones who are in town and out of town,” according to Sandy DeTeresa, one of the campus ministers at St. Augustine Church. “It gives them a chance to meet new students. This is a big freshmen event,” DeTeresa said.

Ashley D’Emo, the senior campus minister at the parish, discussed the importance of this event, and the repercussions that an early, good foundation can have for students at the university.

“It builds up community,” D’Emo said. “When you’re in college, you are trying to figure out who you are and who God wants you to be and it’s really important to have a group of people who are on the same path as you are.”

“One of the easiest ways to encounter Jesus is through the community,” DeTeresa added.

It takes a lot of effort and seemingly endless planning to host the Summer Party each year. That is why the co-coordinators are so important.

Lauren Troncoso, a senior psychology major, and Veronica Celis, who studies nursing, are the Catholic Gators’ leadership team. They head up all the major events, and oversee all ministries involving students at the church. They were elected in May, so the Summer Party is their first event, a sort of trial-run for the rest of the year.

“We definitely planned a lot in advance and had to do it right when we got elected. A lot of it was online or calling, because we weren’t even in town,” Celis said. “Seeing all this done is a huge relief. I love seeing the new faces.”

“I definitely feel good,” Troncoso said. She expressed her delight at seeing the freshmen interact with each other and the other students. “[We’re planning] things that will be fun and exciting and inviting.”

The team is already planning Blast Off Week, the first week of the fall term. It begins next week August 24-30, and there are two events planned each day.

Freshman Catherine Palmer, a nutritional science major, was eager to join Catholic Gators when she decided to attend UF. She said she recognized the importance of being involved in a good community to help her stay on track.

“I knew I had to hold onto my faith,” Palmer said. Palmer has attended every summer event with the Catholic Gators, and said she likes to see familiar faces and keep relationships growing.

“I had fun. It was very casual and very relaxed, and people are really friendly,” Palmer said. Williams, whom Palmer convinced to attend the event, said he also enjoyed it.

Tyler Williams is a first-year theatre major. “I always saw myself joining Catholic Gators, ever since I decided I was coming to UF. It was mostly because I didn’t want to, at any point, losing touch with my faith,” Williams said.

About the Summer Party, Williams said, “I really liked it. It’s nice, and this is a great group of people. I’ve never been to Lake Wauburg, so this was a great first experience.”

Reaching out to new students is a key part of the Catholic Gators’ Mission 10,000. This endeavor is to reach out to all 10,000 Catholics at the university, in hopes of bringing them closer to Jesus. This end goal can be achieved through events like the Summer Party and building relationships rooted in Christ.

Elena Castello is a Catholic Gator studying journalism at the University of Florida and a correspondent for the Diocese of St. Augustine’s Office of Communications.