A Collaborated Post :: Behind the Scenes of Love, A UF Student
The Creators: Rachel & Emma
Hi, my name is Rachel Walton. I’m a second year student at the University of Florida studying Psychology and a member of AC '18. I am a research assistant in a social cognition lab, a research assistant in a youth risk and resilience lab, certified first responder gator, MentorGNV volunteer for Alachua County Schools and the Wellness Specialist of Alpha Delta Pi. But most importantly, I am an advocate for mental health awareness. Emma Weiskof and I have spent the last year creating a platform where students have a safe space to share their personal stories to help others.
This website is called Love, a UF Student. Backed by You Matter We Care, Love a UF Student’s goal is to create a sense of community and belonging for all UF students. Each individual story is vulnerable, REAL, and connected to a resource (CWC, Gator well, etc.). The goal is to empower students, help them feel supported, and ultimately connect them with resources that can help them. Our hope is that Love a UF Student will help everyone recognize that their story matters and that by sharing their story they are a part of something bigger. I feel that it is not just our job, but it is our responsibility, to always be working to make others feel loved and accepted.
Hello! My name is Emma Weiskopf and I am a third year studying Education. I currently serve the University as a Florida Cicerone, I was the Director of Disability affairs for Student Government during the 2019-2020 term, and I am the VP of Member Development for Gamma Iota. Like Rachel said, we worked together over a year on a project promoting mental health and wellness on campus.
I started working on the project the second semester of my Freshman year. At this point I was quickly in over my head and needed to find the right team of people to help for the idea to ever work. I met Rachel when she was an Alpha that next fall and we instantly connected over a passion for mental health awareness. I knew that together, we would be able to make this website happen. At that point, we got picked up by U Matter We Care. Working with their web designers and adding a few more people to the team, we were able to create something long lasting. While there were many setbacks, the website, Love a UF Student, launched this past fall (2019).
I was met with incredible pride as this website was something that I had been working toward since I was a Freshman finally came into fruition. Pride in a University that supported our efforts to help students overcome struggles and feel that they are not alone. Pride in the strength in collaboration and community working towards a common goal. And finally, pride in Alpha Delta Pi. Not only did ADPi bring Rachel and I together, throughout the making of the website we were met with incredible support. We were astonished by the number of people willing to be involved and write letters for the website. When the website was first published, three of the first nine letters were written by ADPis. It was so empowering to see our members write vulnerable stories about overcoming struggle and the struggles they still face every day.
Two of The Featured Members: Sydney & Allison
Hi everyone! My name is Sydney Rintoul and I am a rising sophomore in AC '19. I am majoring in marketing with an interest in real estate and on campus, I am a Small Group Leader for YLC and an Assistant Director for Florida Blue Key’s Orange and Blue Golf Tournament. In my free time, I love going to the beach, reading, and playing with my new puppy!
Just a few months into my freshman year, one of my sorority sisters, Rachel Walton, reached out to me about a new organization on campus called Love, a UF Student which showcases real stories by real people and allows students to use their voice. Rachel asked me if I was interested in writing a letter about my experiences and I was hesitant at first to share my story. But months later I can say writing a letter for Love, a UF Student was truly one of the most inspiring and memorable things I have ever done.
My letter is about my journey with overcoming depression and anxiety as just a sophomore in high school. At that time, I was in such a dark place and resorted to suicide as a way to “fix” my problems. But looking back now, I am so grateful to be alive and healthy and most importantly, happy.
After two suicide attempts, countless psychologist and psychiatrist appointments, and lots of soul searching, I eventually found myself again. It wasn’t easy - I had to learn how to handle difficult situations, how to find the good in the bad, and most importantly, I learned that everything happens for a reason. Through my healing, I have come to understand that God has a plan for everyone and you have to trust His process. And now three years later, I couldn’t be happier with the life I live. I have such amazing friends, a great support system, and a wonderful university that truly cares about its students. After joining ADPi, I immediately knew this was where I was meant to be. I have met the most incredible and inspiring people through ADPi and made the most wonderful friendships that will last a lifetime. Three years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be where I am today, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Writing a letter to Love, a UF Student allowed me to reflect on my experience with anxiety and depression, as well as my recovery. I was able to put my emotions into words and express how important mental health really is. I ultimately wanted people who read my story to feel inspired and know that their existence matters. I wanted to prove that things fall apart for better things to come because I am living proof of that.
Hi, my name is Allison Russakis! I am a rising senior currently pursuing my bachelors and masters degrees in Public Relations. I'm also a member of AC' 17! I got the chance to have my letter published as the first of many in the launch of Love, a UF Student last semester.
I was asked to write my story as a representative of a grief support organization I am a part of called Actively Moving Forward, and at the time, I did not even know that the initiative was started by my own sisters. My letter is about the loss of a close relative my freshman year, and how I found irreplaceable comfort and support in my communities at UF, especially in Alpha Delta Pi.
I am so proud to have played a role in Love, a UF Student; however, I am even more proud to know and admire its founders who through it, have left a lasting and meaningful mark on the University of Florida.
Link to Love, A UF Student: