"God puts us here to help each other." It's as simple as that for Crystal Springs, who helped Saint Leo collect and deliver relief items for those living in the Bahamas. The country suffered great devastation from Hurricane Dorian.

While the storm did not strike Saint Leo University, its impact on the Bahamas is strongly felt by the university community located north of Tampa. Nearly 150 Bahamian students attend Saint Leo, with 64 members of the Class of 2023 being from the country. The university boasts many alumni from the Bahamas, as the university has maintained a relationship with the country for many years.

The university's efforts to help its Bahamian students and those living in the islands have garnered news media coverage around the Tampa Bay area including from the Tampa Bay Times; Land O' Lakes Patch.com; The Laker/Lutz News; Pasco News Publications; and the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL.

Some of the news clips can be found at:




Saint Leo began collecting much-needed supplies for the Bahamas on September 6. Students distributed bins throughout campus to accept items including nonperishable food items and snacks; flashlights and batteries; diapers; baby wipes; water containers; toiletries such as soap, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes, disposable razors, and lotion; work gloves; garbage bags; and power packs. Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Shady Hills, FL, and Myrtle Lake Elementary School in Land O' Lakes, FL, are partnering with the university to collect needed items.

On September 13, the first donations collected by Saint Leo University students were transported by Springs, sales director of the Hampton Inn and Suites Wesley Chapel (FL), who also works with the Hilton Garden Inn-Wesley Chapel. Springs works with the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo in Lakeland, FL, and volunteers from that organization are flying the donations to those in need in the Bahamas. Springs also is the aunt of alumna Chelsy Springs, Class of 2017, who was a member of the women's basketball team.

In lieu of admission to the September 19 men's soccer game and the September 20 volleyball games, fans are encouraged to bring donations for the Bahamian Relief Drive. Donations may include items for babies, pets, cleaning, and life without electricity or permanent housing. Financial contributions also will be accepted.

Men's soccer hosts Pensacola Christian College in its home opener at 7 p.m., Thursday, September 19, at the soccer stadium, and the volleyball team opens Sunshine State Conference action against Florida Southern College at 7 p.m., Friday, September 20, at the Marion Bowman Activities Center. In addition to the games, collection bins are located throughout University Campus. For more information, contact studentaffairs@saintleo.edu.

Taking Care of Our Lions

Saint Leo also is taking care of its students who are from the Bahamas. On September 5, the Saint Leo community held a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Tapia College of Business building at University Campus. More than 100 people attended the vigil, which featured prayer, music, and remarks from several speakers including President Jeffrey Senese; Father Kyle Smith, university chaplain; Vice President of Student Affairs Jen Shaw; Student Government Union President Celine-Deon Palmer; and Caribbean Student Association President Ashley Butler. 

The Bahamian students as well as other students, faculty, and staff sampled a taste of the Bahamas on September 10 in the Dining Hall.

"Student Affairs staff and students came up with this together," said Giana L. Fernander about the idea to host a Bahamian comfort foods dinner. Fernander is a graduate assistant in Orientation and Parent-Family Programs, who is pursuing her MBA with a health care management specialization. "Someone had mentioned what type of food we eat back home, and I was excited. I'm a foodie! We're doing this to offer some type of comfort to the Bahamian students. This is to let them know we are here if they need anything."

The university purchased all the food and Dining Services assisted the students, who prepared the dishes including chicken souse (a type of stew with broth, explained Justin Bush, executive chef); cracked conch; peas 'n' rice; chicken wings; and more. Dining Services also created a large cake in the shape of the Bahamas national flag. The students served their dishes and explained what they were and when they are eaten, such as during a holiday celebration. More than 100 students feasted on the Bahamian food.

Other ways Saint Leo is looking after its own are daily check-ins on the Bahamian students by Residence Life staff, Multicultural and International Services Office (MISO) staff; Student Success coaches; and Student Affairs staff. Human Resources and Student Affairs are working to add additional campus jobs, especially for Saint Leo's Bahamian students.

The university is living its student-centered mission while helping those in need and contributing to improving conditions for those suffering after Hurricane Dorian.