Sophie LeFew, a senior Spanish major, felt alone when she first came to JMU. She thought she was the only one experiencing disappointments during her first year or two of college, but with the help of those around her, she joined the Student Government Association and was able to overcome her struggles and realize that she wasn’t alone.
“When I first came to JMU I felt so alone because I hated it, I hated JMU,” Sophie Lefew said. “I love it now, so it’s all fine, but I felt so alone, everyone was so excited to be here, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I just want to go home.’”
After going through this challenging time, LeFew decided to share her story through the Rebound website. Through this experience, LeFew said she “grew as a person.”
Rebound is a new program at JMU that encourages the community to bounce back from failure or setbacks and turn them into learning opportunities through visual storytelling. Josh Bacon, JMU dean of students, and Brad Jenkins, general manager and advisor of The Breeze, teamed up to create a program where disappointments are seen as something to grow from.
“Our idea was to develop a website that is very heavy on storytelling,” Jenkins said. “To show a community of JMU students and faculty who have faced some kind of disappointment, big or small, and how they came through it.”
Bacon said the program, which began in early August, has cost only $50 to implement. The platform provides a website, which includes various videos of students and faculty sharing their Rebound stories. The program has a Facebook page, which also includes tips for resiliency and opportunities to participate in yoga and meditation classes. Rebound also has an option to join a small group that meets in person with a facilitator and a tool called a “Rebound journal.”
The journal asks difficult questions about the restorative process, accountability and self-care.
David Wang’s SMAD 203 summer semester class took on the project of making the Rebound website.
This website gives anyone in the JMU community who has struggled with overcoming disappointments an outlet where they can see other people handling similar situations. Bacon said this practice not only helps the people hearing the stories but also benefits the people sharing their hardships.
“When you’re holding something up inside, when you’re suffering and struggling, you are creating negative self-talk, and when you are vulnerable and have the courage to release it, it helps you heal,” Bacon said.
Nine students have shared their stories through the Rebound website. One of them is Billy Garmer, who is a graduate student in the College of Student Personnel Administration at JMU. He discussed how deciding to share his story positively impacted his life. Garmer changed his major eight times at JMU, and he hopes that other students who relate to his struggles can watch his story and overcome them just as he did.
“I think this program gives this amazing opportunity to help students like me find people to relate to,” Garmer said.
For Bacon, the creation of Rebound also came from a personal experience. Like many other college students, Bacon struggled his first year.
“There was a day at college orientation when I was scared to come out of my room. I was scared that everybody else was so confident and doing so great and I thought, ‘Who am I to be here at college?’” Bacon said.
Jenkins and Bacon said the goal for this program is for students to realize they aren’t alone, and there are countless individuals overcoming similar obstacles. Bacon and Jenkins hope to create a culture that accepts failure at JMU, and that regardless of what happens, there’s always an opportunity to make a comeback. They see these setbacks as a crucial part to becoming who you truly are.
“Everybody struggles with something, so don’t look around and think everybody’s perfect here because JMU is a great place, but we have to realize too that there are people out here who are struggling,” Jenkins said.
Bacon said that this Rebound program isn’t just for college students and that everyone experiences setbacks and failures their whole lives. He believes that students will graduate as different people because of this.
“Rebound goes way beyond college, it is a skill for life,” Bacon said.
ContactIsabela Gladston at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.