Yvette C. Hammett


Giving back is a ‘heart thing’ for physician and alumna Kamille Garness ’11.

When Kamille Garness was just 4 years old and living on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, she was taking in stray animals off the streets to feed and house them.

Giving her time and talents to those who need her help — human or otherwise — is just a “heart thing” for her, said Garness, who graduated from Saint Leo University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry.

Today, in addition to her thousands of hours of community service, Garness is working toward completing her residency to become a specialized medical doctor, having graduated from medical school at the Spartan Health Sciences University in St. Lucia, and completing medical internships in Miami and Chicago, as well as earning a Master of Public Health degree from The George Washington University.

While she works toward the goal of completing a medical residency, the 34-year-old, who lives near Orlando, FL, continues to devote much of her time to others. That work is earning her recognition and numerous awards.

“I have been involved with the Red Cross since as far back as high school in St. Lucia,” she said. “I visited the homes of the elderly and the sick, and I also volunteered at different sporting events.

“When I came to the U.S. in 2007, I decided I wanted to undertake a number of volunteer opportunities, and the Red Cross was one of them.”

Garness was honored with the American Red Cross Rising Star Award for her contributions in improving the quality of life of South Floridians and for demonstrating the humanitarian principles of the Red Cross. She received the award at the Sarah Hopkins Woodruff Spectrum Awards for Women in Miami.

She has volunteered with the Red Cross in Orlando and Miami since 2016, assisting families affected by natural disasters. Her efforts also have earned her the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Service Award, the highest honor for a volunteer. To be eligible, an individual must volunteer more than 5,000 hours in his or her lifetime.

Her time at Saint Leo also included “serving humanity from her heart.”

“While at Saint Leo, I volunteered for the Good Samaritans Club and homeless shelters, including the Love One Another Homeless Shelter, and I also took part in the Haitian education project to raise funds for earthquake victims. And I volunteered for the Hernando-Pasco Hospice. I was a caregiver for the hospice, preparing meals for the patients and speaking with them so they had someone to speak with, since they sometimes get lonely.”

Garness recently received her medical license and hopes to specialize in internal medicine, family medicine, or pediatrics.

“Just as I was about to apply for my residency in 2020, the pandemic started so I started working as a disease investigator,” to track COVID-19 cases, she said. Following the setback of the pandemic, she is now working to obtain a residency placement.

“I always knew it was my calling in life to help other people,” Garness said. “I always wanted to be a part of alleviating human suffering.”

The university emphasized giving back to the community through service. “That just reinforced that this was the field I wanted to go into,” she added.

Majoring in biology, “improved my fascination for the human body, and how systems interact to produce the miracle of life,” Garness said.

Giving back is simply a part of her — an internal requirement for her life, fulfilling her life mission by doing God’s work, she said. “I always wanted to help the world.”

Alumnus uses relationship-building skills he learned at Saint Leo to grow digital marketing business.

Five doctors are sitting at a bar … No, it’s not the punchline to a joke. It is how Saint Leo University alumnus Billy Ash ’11 took his digital marketing business into the medical realm.

At the time, Ash and his business partner, former NFL player Tom Ottaiano, were working above a pizzeria and bar owned by Ottaiano’s father. They had finished work and were sitting at the bar when they struck up a conversation with five OB-GYNs. Before they left that night, the doctors agreed to sign with their company, Today’s Business, and Ash and Ottaiano had agreed to travel with the doctors to a Las Vegas convention to pitch the company and how other doctors could use their company’s services.

Social media was new, and they were on the cutting edge when it came to marketing companies using Facebook and Twitter.

“We told them, ‘What is the first thing people do when they have a baby? They post it on Facebook,’” Ash said, remembering that conversation. “If the doctors are named in that post, their business will grow. Nobody else was doing that. We knew social media was not going away and companies needed someone to manage it for them.”

Now, Today’s Business brings in about $5 million annually. Ash attributes much of its success to relationship-building, something he fine-tuned while attending Saint Leo. The business also is now fully remote — no more pepperoni wafting to the office upstairs.

Billy Ash ’11Ash and Ottaiano opened Today’s Business in 2011 in New Jersey after friends convinced Ash he should follow his passion, the growing field of social media. That same year, Ash graduated from Saint Leo with a bachelor’s in business management.

The two first worked at running networking events, with Ash using email to invite attendees, then setting up a website to market the events and allow those interested to register. It was a whole new way of marketing, and people were impressed.

“Everybody was very interested in how we got them there,” Ash recalled. “It didn’t take us long to realize networking wasn’t really our route. We changed drastically and became a social media company selling services to any company out there. We ran their Facebook and Twitter accounts, organically posting for the companies.”

One of the earliest big-name clients Today’s Business signed was Cablevision in the New York City area, which was one of the largest cable and television companies in the nation. Three months later, Super Storm Sandy hit, and the two found themselves using cell phones — there was no power — to issue reports to Cablevision on who needed services. They connected the company with its customers.

“We became the social media guys,” Ash said.

The NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers heard the Today’s Business pitch and immediately bought into it. “We monitor all their accounts from 6 to 11 p.m. when social media is busiest,” Ash said. “We started doing game-day reports. If a fan was complaining, we could have someone in the arena there within 15 minutes to resolve the issue.” Tweets were replied to instantly, in order to increase customer satisfaction.

Today’s Business examines an organization’s needs and builds social media, websites, and influencer marketing to meet those needs, in turn gaining new customers based on their success, Ash said. “We stay in our lane and do what we do best.”

The digital marketing company does not have a sales team. It grows through word of mouth and relationship- building, Ash said. “Surround yourself with the correct people. I learned that at Saint Leo. I learned how to cultivate relationships.”

One of the company’s biggest clients, Red Rover®, a moving and storage company, came to Today’s Business through Joe Fortunato, Ash’s freshman roommate at Saint Leo.

It also signed Netflix, focusing on the streaming service’s new shops. They work with media conglomerates to place Netflix in publications such as Rolling Stone, Ebony, and Business Insider. They utilize affiliate marketing, an advertising model in which a company compensates third-party publishers to generate leads to the company’s products.

Early on, Today’s Business started an internship program that has turned into its greatest source of new employees — employees who Ash and Ottaiano trained themselves. Today, 40% to 60% of the company’s 35 employees are former interns, Ash said.

Everyone works remotely, including employees from 13 states and Washington, D.C.

“We are a marketing company that does not have to market our company,” Ash said. “It is built entirely on relationships. Real relationships. That is what I cultivated and grew based on my experience at Saint Leo. Being in a remote environment has changed the way we think about relationships. In the past, we used to have to travel five hours to visit a client. Now that we are completely remote, it makes us much more accessible to our clients, and they can meet with our strategists face-to-face with one click of a button. It allows us to build on those relationships.”

Ash served as a resident assistant while at the university and built good relationships with the students in the residence halls he supervised. He was a member of Kappa Theta fraternity and formed more connections there.

“I learned the importance of being honest, holding yourself accountable,” he said.

Professors at Saint Leo cared more about their students than if they passed or failed, Ash continued. But, “They would get disappointed if you did not get an assignment in or did not do your best. I still talk to my teachers, even the one who pushed me hardest to get everything done. Her name was Dr. Barbara Caldwell [professor of economics]. She is retired now, but still involved with Saint Leo.”

Today, when Ash is meeting with his team, he thinks about the accountability he learned at Saint Leo. “The thing that has kept us going is our relationships.”

Get Involved

Billy Ash gives back to the university by serving on the Saint Leo University Alumni Association Board of Directors. If you are interested in learning more about alumni volunteer opportunities, please contact

Her Saturdays started at 6 a.m. when she would move from room to room, collecting laundry, cleaning the house, and helping with the cooking. She was 8 years old.

“Growing up, I knew life shouldn’t be like this, but I was taught never to complain,” said Saint Leo student Alexandra Joseph, who graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in political science. “There was a lot of guilt growing up. Home was very stressful. I always felt like I was the outsider intervening in someone else’s life. There was no room for complaints. It was very weird, but I was driven to move forward and move ahead.”

Joseph moved from Haiti to Florida when she was 3, following her mother’s death when she was an infant. As her years in Miami droned on while she was living with an aunt and her family, she never complained. She was lucky, they told her, that she had a place to stay.

Even when she suffered physical abuse, and later sexual abuse inflicted by a family member, Joseph stayed silent. And she remained silent when she was forced to give half of her small paycheck to her family, while still purchasing her own belongings and necessities.

Joseph saved $3,000 for a car while working multiple jobs. But her family took that money, and she never purchased the car.

She faced many struggles with her family life and stayed silent until the day she built up the courage to speak to her school’s social worker and her counselor after her family refused to sign loan forms so that she could attend college. Those two helped her change her life. “The counselor told me college was my only way out,” Joseph said.

It hurt, she said. “You work so hard and think you are finally going to get something, then they show you they are not looking out for you.”

Her family kicked her out of the house when she was an 11th-grader because she attended homecoming, Joseph said, and she was forced to leave behind her passport, birth certificate, and green card (permanent U.S. residence card)—documents she still is struggling to replace.

She turned her hurt into strength. “I was able to graduate from high school despite the struggles,” she said. And, this year, she graduated from Saint Leo and is studying for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

Saint Leo University finally gave her a place to let go of the demons and focus on her bright future, she said.

“Law school was always the goal,” Joseph said. “To be told I wasn’t going to college, I was shell-shocked.”

After moving out of the family house, she saw an advertisement for Saint Leo University. “I finally had to check it out,” Joseph said. “It seemed like a ‘God thing.’ I applied, and I got in, and I didn’t look back. It was the best decision I ever made.”

“I just love that I took that leap of faith and the best things are still to come. Saint Leo was the giant change in my life. People paid attention to me. A lot of people advocated for me. If I was having a bad day, people noticed and would ask how I was doing. So I began to practice advocating for myself.”

She spent many sleepless nights at Saint Jude Chapel on campus. “I suffered from insomnia, but if I was going to be up, I wanted to be in a place that gives off energy, that is community and passion,” Joseph said. And that was the campus chapel.

She found the church to be a place to shed her problems and, “I could remember what I had overcome.”

Joseph won the 2020 Scholarship America Dream Award during her sophomore year that paid for her junior- and senior-year tuition. She also became a resident assistant in 2020, which enabled her to continue living year-round in the university residence hall with less financial burden.

During the Spring Semester, she completed an internship with a private defense attorney in Miami. “I am overwhelmed, but I know exactly what I want to be,” Joseph said. “No matter which field of law I decide on, I know I will give the best representation, no matter what it is.”

Alexandra Joseph made an impact in and outside of the university community. She created The Dream Room for WLSL-FM, 92.5, the university’s radio station to create a safe place in which students could listen to peers discuss issues and events that affect them.

Even while pursuing her degree, Joseph has made an impact in and outside of the Saint Leo University community. She is one of the co-authors of the book Women Breathe Again, which shares testimonial of women overcoming obstacles; chair of the multicultural and diversity committee of Campus Activities Board (CAB); and a LEAD Scholar, a program for those who wish to develop strong leadership skills. She also created and hosted a program, The Dream Room, for WLSL-FM, 92.5, the university’s radio station. Her goal was to create a safe place in which students could listen to peers discuss issues and events that affect them.

Saint Leo proved to be a perfect fit, Joseph said, offering her support and opportunities. “The first two years were hard because it is expensive. But it helped shape me as a person. Now, I get to advocate for others.”