Graduating from college is the end of a cycle for many, but for University of Florida alumni, it means joining a community. The Gotham Gator Club, the New York City and tri-state region chapter of UF’s alumni association, gets together to watch Gators’ football games, give back to the community and reconnect with fellow Gators in the greater New York area.
The Gotham Gator Club was established approximately 35 years ago, and it continues to bring people together from all across the country. Members get access to table reservations for UF games, social and networking events and other perks that rank them as one of the top alumni associations in the country.
Kimberly Schneider, the current president of the club, strives to foster a community in which former Gators can come together and socialize. She said this gives newcomers to the area, who often move here alone, the opportunity to become part of a network while they get acquainted with the area.
This past Saturday, the Gotham Gator Club gathered at The Tailor Public House, an affiliate bar in Manhattan, to watch the Gators play South Carolina. Most people reserved a table beforehand, and those who hadn’t sat at the bar. Many of them didn’t know each other, but that didn’t stop them from bonding.
“It’s a great way to build community and stay connected to the university and ties to memories you have while you were in school,” said Imani Clenance, a club member who spent her Saturday afternoon watching the Gamecocks game with fellow alumni. “Especially when moving to a new place, it’s a great way to meet new people and make new friends and just be connected with a whole group of people.”
Clenance has been an alumni association member since she graduated from UF. She moved to Charlotte, NC soon after graduating and became involved with the Gators club there. She now resides in New York City where she is part of the Gotham Gator Club.
The club not only hosts game watch parties at bars, it also raises money for New York-area high school students with exemplary academic and community service records who will be attending UF. They raise this money through membership dues and T-shirt and raffle ticket sales at gatherings, as well as award money from intramural sports programs and individual donations from alumni and friends. The money raised is also used to support UF students who come to the greater New York area to intern.
The Gotham Gator Club has won numerous awards including Most Outstanding Event/Program Overall and Most Outstanding Gator Club Overall for 2016-17, according to their website.
Ultimately, the goal of the alumni association and the club is to cultivate the university’s Gator pride. “When I walk down the streets of New York City with my Gator merch, I always get stopped by fellow Gators,” said Alex Stein, UF alumnus and member of the Gotham Gator Club.
Schneider also recalled the time she was going for her regular run while wearing her Gator T-shirt and a fellow runner and Gator saluted her with the school’s “gator sign,” clapping both arms together up and down resembling an alligator mouth opening and closing.
The Florida Gators, currently rated seventh in the nation, successfully ended the game by beating the Gamecocks 38-27. They have a bye this weekend and are set to play November 2 against archrival Georgia.