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Students find ice cream, space to unwind from midterms at UCLA First Thursdays

Pictured is First Thursdays in Wilson Plaza. This month’s theme was “Bruin Beats,” and the event was designed to give students a space to relax after midterms. (Courtesy of David Esquivel/UCLA)

By Eva Danesh and Jonah Danesh

Nov. 7, 2023 11:36 p.m.

Bruins gathered on Wilson Plaza on Thursday for music, soft serve ice cream and lawn games during the November edition of First Thursdays.

The event series, which is hosted by UCLA, launched in March 2022 with the goal of bringing the community together. This month’s “Bruin Beats” theme was designed to serve students during midterm season, said Eddie North-Hager, the interim executive director of UCLA Media Relations.

“We wanted a mellow vibe where people could relax, chill out and not necessarily think about the pressures of studying and those quarter finals or midterms,” he said.

Away from its typical spot on Broxton Avenue, this month’s event was held on campus and was designed to be easily accessible to students passing by.

North-Hager said this is the first of many plans for First Thursdays to expand beyond Westwood, and he added that an event in downtown Los Angeles is already in the works.

“It will always be tied to Westwood and always tied to our campus,” North-Hager said. “But you always got to think about innovating a little bit.”

In designing the series, an emphasis was placed on involving local and Bruin-affiliated businesses, North-Hager said. The event included UCLA alumnus Greg Herman, who was serving ice cream, milkshakes and hot chocolate out of his food truck, Sure Good Soft Serve.

Sure Good Soft Serve was designed as a combination of Herman’s experiences growing up in LA and co-founder Jodi Simon’s roots in South Africa, Herman said, adding that their ultimate goal is to create happy and tasteful experiences for people.

“The thing about ice cream is that it has heart,” Herman said. “When you look at your college experience, you always want it to have some sort of heart. Bringing First Thursdays definitely brings more heart and substance to the campus.”

Herman and Simon have served the UCLA and Westwood communities from their truck at several First Thursdays events, including one where they met their current employee, Grace Donohue.

Donohue, a third-year biology student, said while getting ice cream from Sure Good Soft Serve at a First Thursdays event last spring, she sparked a conversation that ended with her getting hired. She said she enjoys how the events emphasize student involvement and engagement with small businesses, adding that she felt ice cream fit the theme of mellowing out well.

(Courtesy of David Esquivel/UCLA)
Pictured is Wilson Plaza. The event featured free beverages and a space for students to get a treat and enjoy themselves. (Courtesy of David Esquivel/UCLA)

Evan Delgado, a first-year electrical engineering student, said the event was a great way to relax and connect with other students toward the end of a week of midterms.

“It really gives a social atmosphere to a great school like UCLA,” Delgado said. “It’s a way to connect with other people and have fun, especially now with the midterms being over – a nice way to relax and unwind here.”

First-year history students Jocelyn Dang and Melissa Vera said the shift to an on-campus First Thursdays event made attending more accessible and convenient, especially during exam season when students are often busier than usual.

They added that the event had many fun activities, including Jenga and bean toss, as well as spots for relaxing with ice cream and free hot chocolate.

(Courtesy of David Esquivel/UCLA)
Pictured are students enjoying ice cream, milkshakes and hot chocolate from the Sure Good Soft Serve food truck. The truck is owned by UCLA alumnus Greg Herman. (Courtesy of David Esquivel/UCLA)

November’s event comes on the heels of last month’s “Night Market,” which was the most-attended First Thursdays ever with around 7,000 guests – ranging from students to Westwood community members, North-Hager said.

[Related: UCLA First Thursdays ‘Night Market’ features food from around the world]

He added that a core value of the First Thursdays event series leads back to one of Chancellor Gene Block’s priorities – connecting UCLA with LA.

“That’s why we wanted to go to campus, why we wanted to go to downtown LA and why there’s a story of a Bruin food truck owner who then hires a Bruin to work in that specialty environment and learn about business,” North-Hager said. “That’s exactly what First Thursdays is about, and that’s why the show is going on the road.”

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Eva Danesh
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