Student Voice


July 4, 2022




UW-River Falls students sport tattoos with diverse meanings

September 26, 2013

Tattoos come in many places, and in many designs. Such as on the wrist, ankle, back, side or foot. Lettering, phrases, flowers or skulls.

With the earliest tattoos originating around 3300 B.C., the process of injecting various forms of ink permanently into skin has been around for quite a long time. Each person has their own opinions of tattoos, yet we only seem to hear the two extremes.

There are those who consider them to be a destruction of the human body are considered “prudes” by their counterparts. Then there are those who believe they are an art form, who are thought to be “freaks.” We all know people from both of those categories, and maybe even consider ourselves to be in one.

Regardless of the opinions behind tattoos, each tattoo has a story to tell. There is a reason that the person wearing the ink chose to have it there. With a little over 45 million Americans sporting at least one tattoo, you are bound to find someone who has a special meaning behind theirs.

According to Greg Ellyson, tattoo artist and licensed piercer at The Vault tattoo shop in River Falls, “We see a lot of meaningless tattoos, but we also see a lot of meaningful tattoos. They balance each other out.” Ellyson went on to say, “We frequently get college students. Definitely a lot more girls than guys though.”

Here in River Falls you are just as likely to see a person with a tattoo then you are in any other town in America. With two different tattoo shops in town, 15,000 residents, and 6,447 students, there are bound to be some people with stories behind their ink.

Take UW-River Falls freshman Abigail Dernovsek’s story for example. When her cousin, Shayla, who was only one year younger than Dernovsek, died this past July 4, in a car accident, Dernovsek decided that she wanted to honor Shayla’s memory with something that will stick with her for a lifetime. Because both Shayla and Dernovsek’s middle names are Rose, she chose to someday get a tattoo of a rose with Shayla’s initials and handwriting underneath.

When faced with the devastation of a lost loved one, some people turn to tattoos to keep the legacy and memories alive. That is how UWRF freshman Allie Delacy kept the memory of her friend Lauren alive. She has the quote “All we have is now” tattooed on her collarbone as a reminder of what her friend lived by each day.

Although not every tattoo signifies a memory of someone who has died, many people use tattoos to remind them of someone important. Dani Bents, a student at UWRF, got a tattoo in her father’s handwriting that says, “It will only hurt for a little while.” Bents had this placed on the left side of body because she believes her dad has never “left” her “side.”

There are also tattoos that are special to people because of what they meant at one point. Take Allie Schroyer’s tattoo, for example. A student at UWRF, she explained that she got a tattoo of her childhood dog’s exact paw print on her foot with the words “Always in my heart” below it.

Other people get multiple tattoos that have a variety of meanings. In Amy Soucek’s case, she got a total of six tattoos with their meanings ranging from the memory of her father, who died because of cancer, to not worrying about the little things in life. Mike Jackson, a transfer student at UWRF, has three tattoos and plans on adding to his tattoo of a tree in the future, when his life and family expands.

Regardless of your opinions on tattoos, there is no denying the raw emotions that a person could find within the designs, words and pictures.

Maybe if we took time as a society to hear the stories behind the ink, instead of looking for another reason to separate ourselves and judge those who chose to allow the needle to permanently mark them, we would find that maybe we have more in common then we think. Maybe, just maybe, the “prudes” and “freaks” can find a common ground within the emotions. After all, we are a society that bases our standards on equality for all.

Kate Vruwink is from Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. She loves playing and watching sports and plans on majoring in journalism with an ultimate goal to work for ESPN some day.