UF student veterans celebrated 

Students searched for little soldiers at UF on Thursday.

To start the monthlong Bet on Vets celebration, two student organizations painted toy soldiers a brass color and hid them on campus.

UF’s Bateman Competition team, a public relations group, collaborated with UF’s Collegiate Veterans Society to bring traditional and veteran students together.

The organizations will hold several events on UF and Santa Fe College campuses in February and March.

Stephen Spangler served six years in the U.S. Army before he moved to Gainesville.

Spangler, a 30-year-old UF civil engineering junior, said his friend found a brass army man near Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, entering him into a drawing for Walt Disney World tickets.

He said enrolling at UF was both a dream come true and a tough transition.

In the military, the day ends after your shift, he said. In school, the work follows you outside of class.

“Everything is structured in the military,” he said. “In the civilian world, you’re on your own.”

Erin Wronka, a Bateman team member, said about 750 veterans currently attend UF, and even more have enrolled at Santa Fe.

Wronka, a 21-year-old UF public relations senior, said the event has led to meaningful interactions in the university community thus far.

“Students are going to get to know these incredible men and women,” she said.  

Spangler was among those veterans Thursday.

“It makes me really happy to see other people appreciate what you did,” he said.

 - Catherine Dickson 

Locals host LGBTQ+ open mic 

 The Civic Media Center will host an open discussion for the LGBTQ+ community Saturday night at 8 p.m.

Queer People of Color United, a UF student organization, is partnering with Mellow Soul for the Queer People of Color Open Mic at the CMC, situated at 433 S. Main St.

Attendees are suggested to give a donation of $3 to $5. 

Saturday’s event is geared toward providing queer people of color from Gainesville and UF a safe place to share without fear of judgment, said Michael Caputo, president of QPOC United. 

QPOC United programs focus on race and ethnicity and how they interact with queerness and gender, Caputo said. 

When Caputo became president, he felt a disconnect between the QPOC communities of UF and Gainesville. 

This year, the organization programmed more off-campus events to encourage the communities to interact, Caputo said. 

Over the summer, Caputo’s friend convinced him to attended Mellow Soul Tuesdays, a biweekly open mic night at Rockeys Dueling Piano Bar. 

When he walked in, a biracial woman recited a piece on whether she was black enough. 

“That really resonated with me because I’m also biracial,” Caputo said. “I was kind of in awe of the whole experience.” 

He reached out to the founder of Mellow Soul, Ashley Wallace, who said it made sense to team up. 

“Queer people of color are underrepresented. That’s why we wanted to give them a space to express themselves,” Wallace said. 

 - Andrea Benaim 

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