Doing good for others. Finding solutions to tough problems. Making our communities better places to live and work. While these are nice goals, just how can people truly make a difference?

Saint Leo University is taking on the challenge of answering those questions and to do so, recently hosted a social impact competition, What Matters on Mane Street (a play on Saint Leo’s lion mascot). With lead funding by The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation and the San Antonio Citizens Federal Credit Union, the competition was open to Saint Leo students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Participants were asked to create innovative ideas and solutions that have powerful potential for social, environmental, or economic impact. Faculty and staff also could propose or submit existing university programs and courses that are addressing challenges, locally or globally.

“Solving our communities’ stickiest challenges and addressing the world’s wicked problems takes innovation, intellect, and commitment,” said Dr. Mark Gesner, vice president of Community Engagement & Innovation. “So why are we doing it—why did we start What Matters on Main Street? This is about who we are Saint Leo University. We wanted to cultivate, encourage, and celebrate all the different folks in our university community who are concerned about social impact—folks who want to align their values with action and who care about the community deeply.”

More than 50 participants entered the inaugural competition and 16 winners were selected and announced on Thursday, June 2. Third-place winners will receive $250; second-place winners will receive $500; and first-place winners will receive $1,000. Faculty and staff members’ programs will receive the funding. Awards also included a professional recording session with Bake More Pies marketing, a “Sprinternship” from Basil Data, custom T-shirts from Champa Bay Sports, and a special announcement about all of the winners by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

With ideas that tugged at the hearts and wowed the judges, the winning submissions included everything from providing shower facilities for the homeless of Pasco County, FL, where Saint Leo’s residential campus is located, to starting a doula program for the Healthy Start Coalition of Pinellas County, FL, in order to provide care for mothers, babies, and families.

“I got emotional honestly, when I was reviewing these submissions,” said Tammy Charles, founder and CEO of Inovo Strategic Consulting who served as one of the competition’s judges. The contest entries moved her, she said, “because there's so much going on in our world, and just to know that there are people out there, and there are those of us who are still committed to doing great work and being a light to our community in a powerful way.”

The winners of What Matters on Mane Street, Saint Leo University’s social impact competition are:

A Post (social media post) That Matters

Presenting judge: Lynn Kroesen, manager of Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, Hillsborough County

First place: Kendall M. Britt (alumna)​, gun safety

Second place: Lok Yu Tsang (student)​, Lions Make Some Changes!​ Bring your own cup and save our planet today​

Third place: Natalie Rodriguez (student)​, Help Ukraine: Donate Insulin Today!​

 

An Idea That Matters

Presenting judge: Jeff Montanez-Jones, founder and CEO of Basil Data

First place: Grayson DeVito (student)​, Mobile Showers for Pasco County: ​Let's Shower Hope for the Homeless

Second place: KareLin S. Ellis (student), ​Restorative justice through prison reforms, diversion programming, and re-entry initiatives​

Third place: Bradley Eidenmueller and Maria Soler Valverde​ (students), Reducing plastic and food waste in the Dining Hall in ​partnership with local organizations​

 

A Solution That Matters

Presenting judge: Tammy Charles, founder and CEO of Inovo Strategic Consulting

First place: Julia Sharp, Mary Martinez Drovie, and Maria Dacosta (alumni)​, Healthy Start Coalition of Pinellas promotes healthy pregnancies, babies, and families through an innovative doula care program

Second place: Anthony Santa (alumnus)​, Surprise Sign Project: Surprise birthday deliveries for children who have physical or emotional hardships​

Third place: Hope Michelle Holman (alumna), Hope4myteen: Training tools for parents to support teen driving​

 

A Program That Matters

Presenting judge: Sammy Ortiz, founder of Young Entrepreneurial Students

First place: Maria Santos (student and staff), Dr. Ebony Perez (faculty), Sevana Gunn (student), and Megan Rowe​ (student), Leo's Market provides affordable, fresh produce to Saint Leo and the surrounding community

Second place: Tamarra A. James (alumna)​, Hey-U: Helping Elevate Youth with Unity, helping students who age out of foster care​

Third place: Dr. Michael Bailey​ (staff), Autism Connect: Providing enhanced services to college students​ with ASD​ (Autism spectrum disorder)

 

A Class That Matters

Presenting judge: Steve McDavid, president of Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation

First place: Dr. Helen MacLennan and Dr. Kelly Atkins​ (faculty), Good Business: Social Impact through Entrepreneurship

Second place: Dr. Nancy Wood and Dr. Susan Kinsella​ (faculty), Human Services Administration and Social Entrepreneurship​

Third place: Dr. Rhonda Waddell​ (faculty), Exploring Systematic Innovation in Higher Education through ​Photovoice​

 

Special Alumni Recognition

Presenting judge: Iskra Sbraccia, Class of 2005 and 2009, Saint Leo University Alumni Association president and member of the Board of Trustees, compliance sanctions director, global head of content management of Citi

Winner: Mariana Navarrete Villegas​ (Class of 2022), Mitigating Food Waste: ​ Why Should We Care?

Saint Leo University’s next social impact event will be a Social Impact Roundtable, set for 4-5 p.m. (EST), Wednesday, June 8, via Zoom. Innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, and members of the university community are invited to attend an engaging discussion on the topics of social and economic impact.

The Social Impact Roundtable is hosted by the university in partnership with many organizations, including Basil Data, the Hillsborough County Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, the Indo-U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Institute for Economic Evolution, Florida for Good, the Nonprofit Collaborative, One Work, SmartStart Pasco Enterprise Network, the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, and the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce.

The Social Impact Roundtables are free and open to all, but reservations are required to attend. To register, visit saintleo.edu/impact-roundtable.

Questions about Saint Leo University’s various social impact programs can be sent to the Community Engagement & Innovation team at cei@saintleo.edu or directly to Mehak Arora at mehak.arora@saintleo.edu. Arora is a graduate assistant for the CEI team who is earning her Master of Business Administration degree, and has played a lead role in the implementing What Matters on Mane Street. A recording of the social impact competition awards program can be viewed here.