Making a difference in the lives of youngsters has always been a big passion for Rashay Hudson. She recently completed the coursework in her online master’s in psychology program at Saint Leo University and is taking everything she learned to heart in order to ultimately launch a nonprofit focused on transforming the lives of kids.

Hudson, 35, is a native of Bermuda and moved to the U.S. with her family at age five. She and her husband, NaDorian, are the proud parents of Rylee and Cameron. The family resides in Kissimmee, FL.

In 2010, Hudson earned a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of South Florida. Little did she know she would be pursuing a graduate degree a decade later.

Selecting the Online Master’s in Psychology Degree Program at Saint Leo

Before becoming a mom, she owned and operated a successful tutoring business in Wesley Chapel, FL. After the family moved to the Orlando area, she had to leave the business in the rearview mirror. She says she wanted to do something for herself and thought pursuing graduate studies would be an exciting option.

“I decided I wanted to go back to school,” Hudson says. “I started researching programs and had known about and liked Saint Leo University having lived so close to the school. I had visited University Campus a few times and absolutely loved it.”

In January of 2020, she enrolled in the Master of Science in psychology degree program.

“I’m also interested in social work, so I was a little torn between social work and psychology. I knew that psychology is my heart and soul and I didn’t want to start something and not enjoy it as much as I would with psychology.”

A Worthwhile Academic Journey

She completed the coursework in December of 2021, proudly finishing with a 4.0 GPA. In the graduate psychology degree curriculum, some of her favorite classes included Psychology of Teaching, Lifespan Development, and Advanced Social Psychology. All of her classes allowed for plenty of engagement with the instructors, she notes.

“It was really refreshing to see how much the professors want you to do well and win in the end,” she explains. “In undergrad programs at larger schools, there can be so many students per class and it’s often easy to get lost in the shuffle.”

Several professors in the master’s in psychology program were memorable to her.

“Drs. [Cathleen] Dunn and Lara Ault were very instrumental in me getting this degree,” she says. “I also appreciated Dr. Harry rotter and his guidance throughout the program. He was very patient and kind to me.”

The Online Format of the Master’s in Psychology Program

A photo of the Hudson family with parents Rashay and NaDorian and their two children, Rylee and Cameron, standing outside; Rashay Hudson recently completed the master’s in psychology degree program from Saint Leo University

While the traditional on-ground environment in her undergraduate studies at USF worked well for her as a traditional student at the time, the online structure of the master’s in psychology program fit perfectly into her hectic schedule.

“I found the online format to be a blessing honestly because I’m busy with my kids,” she says. “They’re both in school, so life as a mom is certainly busy. To be able to put the kids to bed at night and work on my coursework for the program was very convenient.”

She adds that the online platform was easy to use and navigate and that the library website was extremely accessible.

Aligning with Saint Leo University’s Core Value of Community

According to Hudson, the Saint Leo core value of community defines her as an individual.

“Community stands out to me most. I definitely have a servant’s heart and my passion is working with children and bettering the community. Saint Leo University is a great representation of this. I can say that some of my professors actually worked together to help me find my niche, and many of them encouraged me to stay in touch after graduation. I always felt such a great sense of community in the program.”

Joining two groups outside of her psychology degree studies also exemplified the numerous opportunities for her to feel part of a community. She was a proud member of the Omega Nu Lambda National Honor Society and Psi Chi International Honor Society chapters.

“Saint Leo University works really hard to support and embrace all of their students as individuals. For someone looking to do a master’s program, just go for it. There is so much help along the way from the advisors to professors to the library staff. They are all so invested in helping you achieve your goals and become the best version of yourself.”

An Early Entrepreneurial Endeavor

Hudson previously ran Beautiful Minds, LLC, the tutoring business she had prior to graduate school.

“We served over 60 families in the business,” she explains. “After my husband got a job with Disney and we moved, we had to close that business.”

In the five years of its existence, she and her team tutored students starting at age four through freshmen in college.

“I’ve been tutoring children since I was 12 years old,” she explains. “Helping kids learn has just been something I’ve always enjoyed doing.”

In addition to tutoring across all academic subjects, she developed a nonprofit division in which she partnered with the Center for Girls in Tampa to provide social and emotional support to young females through group tutoring.

Scoring Success with Books and Basketball

More recently, Hudson and her husband launched a program called Books and Basketball. The innovative curriculum, which combines academics and basketball, is geared toward both boys and girls in Kindergarten through sixth grade.

“We want them to learn the importance of teamwork, communication, and social skills,” she says. “We implement little huddles to talk about responsible decision making, being socially aware, self-management, and relationship skills. Our goal is to help build an all-around great child who is successful academically, physically active, and a responsible individual. We’ve done surveys and found that many of the kids have learned how to better manage stress in their lives. I’ve been able to use a lot I learned from the master’s in psychology program.”

The basketball component of the program comes for the couple’s athletic backgrounds. Her husband played basketball in college at Georgia Southern University and was a member of the American Basketball Association. She also played basketball and volleyball in high school.

“We have created a non-competitive basketball environment. Many times, kids love to play basketball but don’t want to play on a team or have time to commit to this. We teach them dribbling, shooting, and offensive and defensive strategies. We use fun games like ‘dribble tag’ where you dribble with one hand and tag the next person.”

The Hudsons hope to create a nonprofit and expand the program in the near future.

“We are hoping to turn this program into a formal nonprofit organization. We want to create a program that can be in school systems or picked up by private schools as an enrichment program.”

Photo credit: The photographs included in this blog article were provided by Rashay Hudson and are used with permission.