Clad in black and gold attire, students storm the Reflecting Pond every fall in hopes of snatching up one of UCF's coveted Spirit Splash ducks. But they weren't the only ones who took the plunge this semester.
The Cocoa campus, one of the 11 UCF regional campuses, hosted its first rendition of Spirit Splash this fall — allowing students to snag a sacred duck without the threat of being trampled by their peers.
"It didn't include bathing suits. No one got claustrophobic, and no one got sick," said Desiree Trujillo, who serves as the team coordinator for Regional Outreach Services at the Cocoa campus. "Our goal was to get students to show their UCF spirit."
With an inflatable kiddie pool, colorful plastic balls and a handful of ducks, room 236 became the site of one of UCF's core traditions from Oct. 26 to 29. Each participant received a duck and a green Homecoming week T-shirt, provided by the Orlando campus.
"I'm one of the oldest students in my major, but I decided to just jump in and have a moment of fun," said Joy Davis, a 39-year-old nursing major and mother of three.
Davis' duck currently sits atop a counter in her Palm Bay home. She said it's one of her most prized possessions, serving as a reminder of her connection to and growth at UCF.
"I want to embrace these experiences as much as I can," said Davis, who is set to graduate in August 2016. "I've had a lightweight college experience compared to students at the main campus. But for me, this is the closest I can get to having one."
The Cocoa campus is comprised of a single building, with enrollment numbering just less than 200 students. While most Knights there don’t see their peers outside of the stringent classroom setting, Spirit Splash gave them the opportunity to do so.
"It reminds you that you’re not just going to the Cocoa campus, but that you’re a part of the UCF community," said 24-year-old senior nursing major Caitlin McGee, one of Davis' classmates. "These types of events bring us together."
With only two to four ducks scattered in the ball pit at a time, both McGee and Davis said they had to dig to find this year's hippie-themed duck.
"Sometimes there's a reluctancy to engage in activities like this because we're supposed to act grownup," Davis said. "But it turned out to be a great way to relieve stress. We had a few minutes to just enjoy ourselves."
In addition to coordinating an adaptation of Spirit Splash, ROS has gone to great lengths to make Cocoa students feel welcome and at home. From passing out free UCF accessories to providing complimentary snacks to students, the Cocoa campus tries to stay true to some UCF traditions while implementing its own.
The ball pit is set to make its second debut this semester between Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, the week before final exams. Although there won't be any hidden ducks, students will be able to dive inside for a bit of decompression time before hitting the books.
Having served as team coordinator since the end of July, Trujillo said she’s pleased with the strides ROS has made in scheduling events for students thus far. The communal atmosphere on campus is strengthened through activities that promote UCF spirit, she added.
"We're more than just a community college, and we're more than just a branch of the central campus," Trujillo said. "We're proud UCF Knights."