Adult Education Center


When abused, abandoned, or neglected children need an advocate, Guardian ad Litem (GAL) child advocates are there to help. These volunteers collaborate with an attorney and a child advocacy manager from the GAL Program to work with families, child protective agencies, and the courts to ensure the best interests of the affected children are served. The advocates visit the children monthly, attend periodic staffing meetings and court hearings, and help ensure that the children receive all the necessary services they need.

A Voice for ChildrenJon White, a Saint Leo student working toward a Bachelor of Social Work degree at the Adult Education Center at the Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) location in New Port Richey, FL, is one such advocate. A Marine Corps veteran, he works for Veterans Affairs in the combat counseling center, but he also finds time to volunteer for the Guardian ad Litem program. White makes it a point to attend court hearings, explaining that “in court, I can speak directly to the judge.” White noted that his main goal is assessing each situation and recommending what is best for the children involved.

Dr. Marguerite McInnis, chair of Saint Leo’s Department of Social Work, first told White about the program. He agreed to get involved but did not expect it to be long term for him. However, two years later, he said that “Once you see what it’s all about, you find it therapeutic.” He observed, “You learn about yourself—you find out what is important to you. Nothing else points out what you have, what you take for granted, more profoundly than watching someone lose everything.”

A-Voice-for-Children-(2)Linda Poulette ’15, who earned her Bachelor of Social Work degree fromthe Adult Education Center PHSC location in Spring Hill, FL, is also a GAL child advocate. Helping others has always been a passion of hers, she explained. “I have seen so many unfortunate children in our community and in other countries, too. I thought, ‘What can one person do to help?’ Working through Guardian ad Litem, I can help those children. They deserve to be heard.”

Poulette assures the families she is working with that she is not a 9-to-5 person—she is a volunteer and is available to them as much as possible.

She appreciates that the GAL program offered her excellent training and continues to provide invaluable support. “It is an honor to be part of a team that strives to make a difference in the children who are abused, neglected, and abandoned. By being their voice, I strive to bring hope, happiness, love, and security, giving them a brighter future. My goal is to provide a road map, to educate the biological parents and keep the family together. However, sometimes this is not possible and the parents are not willing or ready to make that change.”

VolunteerThere are more than 900 abused, abandoned, and neglected children in the Pasco County dependency court system, so the Guardian ad Litem program is always in need of dedicated volunteers.

What advice do White and Poulette have for those interested becoming a GAL volunteer? “Children need you,” Poulette said. “And knowing that you help make a difference in an innocent child’s life will be the greatest reward you could receive. You can make a difference.”

“Just do it,” White added. “This is a good outlet for anyone who needs to give themselves a quiet purpose. Without Guardian ad Litem, things would not turn out well for a lot of kids.”

A Message to the World
“If you had one story to share with the world, what would you say?” That is the premise behind the powerful Dear World interactive portrait project that came to Saint Leo University for two days in September. Faculty and staff were invited to join students in the photography project “that unites people through pictures in their distinct message-on-skin style.”

Participants wrote messages in black marker on their arms, hands, faces, or other body parts to tell their individual stories. “The words you wrote on your skin are a window into your story,” Katie Greenman, storyteller, photographer, and facilitator for the project, told the participants.

A Message to the World  A Message to the World (2)  A Message to the World (3)

The goal for the project was to find understanding and common ground among the Saint Leo community members. The event was sponsored by the Student Government Union; Campus Activities Board; Student Activities; Multicultural and International Services Office; Residence Life; and Counseling Services.

See more photos at spirit.saintleo.edu/dearworld.

Feeding Those in Need
Last fall, staff members in the Center for Online Learning Student Support Center collected four barrels of food for Metropolitan Ministries, based in Tampa, FL. That was nearly 600 pounds of food!

Lending a Faithful Hand
Lending a Faithful Hand“Little things can make a big difference to people.” That is an observation from Barry Doupnik, a sociology major at University Campus, who offers his time to Faith Tampa Bay.

Volunteering with this nonprofit organization founded in Tampa, FL, in 2007, Doupnik works with schools, churches, and other organizations to promote positive change. He and fellow volunteers organize teacher breakfasts, provide home rehab services, do yardwork for those in need, and even serve as a table host for annual celebrations. “We have no agenda,” he said. “We just do what we can to help.”

A Tampa native, Doupnik first got involved with Faith Tampa Bay as a Wharton High School student. He was also active in Young Life, helping adolescents learn about Christianity. In addition, he has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, Metropolitan Ministries, and other worthy causes.

Doupnik recognizes that many people want to lend a hand to those in
need but cannot afford to give financially. “There are other ways to give,” he explains. “I always love seeing a completed project. I step back and say, ‘We accomplished this. We did this to help someone.’ It’s a great feeling.”

Learn more at www.faithtampabay.com.

Offering Inspiration
Lending a Faithful Hand (2)
Lions Serve is exactly what it sounds like. It is a group of Saint Leo Adult Education Center students who study at the Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) locations—primarily at the Spring Hill, FL campus—and who are called to help others.

“We hope to inspire and help the community as a whole, said Sativa Fisher, president of Lions Serve.

Most of the members are pursuing degrees in social work, like Fisher, who is a senior and will graduate April 28. And a few members are majoring in psychology. “We all want to give back,” Fisher said. “We have a mind-set to help.”

Lions Serve is open to all students enrolled at Saint Leo through the Adult Education Center. Members meet to discuss ways they can help the community. Last year, they participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at Nature Coast Technical High School in Brooksville, FL, and will do so again this year.

The students recently embraced the hot trend of painting rocks with messages of hope and encouragement and leaving them for others to enjoy. Before final exams for Fall 2 Semester, the Lions Serve members gathered to paint rocks with inspirational messages to help students make it through their tests and papers. “We wanted to boost morale because exams can be so stressful,” Fisher said.

One of the members saw a post on Facebook along with a photograph of one of the rocks. Whoever found the rock said, “At the most random time, you find inspiration.”

“It warms my heart that we made an impact,” Fisher said.

Helping Pasco County Veterans
Helping Pasco County VeteransSaint Leo University was one of the sponsors of One Community Now Stand Down for Pasco County (FL) veterans, which took place from September 29 to October 1 at Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson, FL.

University President William J. Lennox Jr., his wife, Anne, and Pamela Martis, director of Military Affairs and Services, joined other volunteers in filling plates and serving steak dinners to the veterans in attendance on Friday evening. The Military Resource Center also collected new socks for the veterans.

Saint Leo social work students and faculty provided a “coffeehouse” atmosphere in a tent at the Stand Down so veterans in transition could relax and talk.

Veterans who attended the One Community Now Stand Down were able to take showers, get haircuts, receive clothing, share meals, obtain career counseling and medical care, and receive referrals for housing and mental health counseling.

Helping Pasco County Veterans (2)   

Shoes for Shelter and SustenanceShoes for Shelter and Sustenance
In December 2016, Frances Volking, senior academic advisor at the Fort Eustis (VA) Education Office, led students and staff in hosting a shoe drive that collected 71 pairs for THRIVE Peninsula’s Walk a Mile in Their Shoes Mission. This effort assisted in raising funds to help feed, shelter, educate, and encourage families in crisis in the local community. The footwear contributions also supported a vital cause by helping create and/or sustain micro-business opportunities for low-income families in developing nations, where 1.3 billion people—400 million of them children—walk barefoot.

Comforting-the-Youngest-VictimsComforting the Youngest Victims
Sometimes, when victims of domestic violence flee their homes, they do so without clothing or a comforting blanket or stuffed animal for their children.

With this concern in mind Dr. Joanne Crossman, professor of education, suggested to members of the Lions women’s lacrosse team that they make baby blankets for Sunrise of Pasco County Inc. Domestic and Sexual Violence Center. Sunrise helps women and their children escape abusive situations.

“We hope that the women who come to the Sunrise Pasco shelter will select a blanket for their baby or toddler and find comfort in the bright colors and soft fabrics,” Crossman said. “We hope this small gesture helps the women to know that our Saint Leo community supports them during a difficult time in their lives.”

On September 27, Coaches Lesley Graham and Marial Pierce along with 27 team members cut and knotted pieces of fleece, turning them into blankets sporting pink and blue hedgehogs, Lacoste-like alligators, puppies and dog bones, and other motifs.

“I sure hope the babies like it!” player Danica Leili said of the colorful blankets. “I think it is heartwarming, and it’s nice to know we’re helping somebody else.”

Coach Graham echoed that sentiment. “It is important for these young women to realize that life is bigger than themselves,” she said. “We are lucky. Most of us are healthy, happy, and play a sport we love. It is important to give back to someone in a completely different situation.”

Psychology in the Saddle
When children are scared or sad, sometimes there is nothing like a horse to improve their day. No one knows that better than Theresa Malky ’15. Since earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology through Saint Leo’s online program, she has continued to follow her calling of helping people in need. These days she is pursuing her master’s degree in counseling from Messiah College while managing Trinity Equine Ranch, a nonprofit based in Pennsylvania and devoted to equine-assisted therapy.

On this 25-acre farm, she and her husband, Brock, use horses to help children work out grief, depression, and other problems. Malky has completed the first level of Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) training and will continue to level two. To date, she has worked with hundreds, both as individuals and in groups. “To serve others is a calling, and I have to be true to that person,” she said.

Years ago, Malky was a successful commercial real estate agent. “Sometimes I really miss that when I have to clean out the stalls,” she explained with a laugh.

Psychology in the Saddle

Our alumni, students, faculty, and staff enjoy a variety of special events throughout the year. Take a few moments to experience Saint Leo in Pictures. Click on any photo below to learn more.


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Teens, parents, and mentors from 28 robotics teams rocked the Marion Bowman Activities Center on February 13, as Saint Leo University hosted the Florida statewide FIRST® Tech Challenge for the second consecutive year.

The Saint Leo University alumni ranks grew to more than 80,000 this year with commencement ceremonies taking place from coast to coast. At University Campus, close to 1,200 students graduated during three ceremonies held April 29 and 30. Those events kicked off the “commencement season” for Saint Leo with 15 more ceremonies being held near education centers throughout May and June. Click the photos to learn more.


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Abena Ankomah ’11, ’16 earning her MBA

achonwaFlashback to 2014:
Chukwudi Peter Achonwa ’14

Originally from Imo state in southern Nigeria, Chukwudi Peter Achonwa has lived and worked across the Niger River in neighboring Delta state for more than 20 years. His home is in the city of Warri, which is not far from the Gulf of Guinea.

His entire life, Achonwa had never been outside Nigeria.
That was until May 2014, when the Saint Leo University online student—and now alumnus—boarded a plane and traveled for nearly 24 hours to arrive in Florida and attend commencement at University Campus.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting that day, and now he is an accountant in his native country. He hopes to earn a master’s degree and a PhD in his field.

Mary Beth Erskine, web content writer, posted a longer story about Chukwudi Peter Achonwa on Saint Leo’s online blog.

grad_4Want to see more photos from the Class of 2016 ceremonies? Be sure to visit
this page.