Home sweet home: About 700 new students moved in to Saint Leo University's main campus today (Thursday, August 16). They were welcomed by orientation leaders, faculty, staff, student-athletes, and coaches. As a car loaded with back-to-school gear would pull up to the residence halls, it would be surrounded by volunteers, eager to help the new Lions move in to their rooms.

"Dad, you don't have to carry a thing," Mike D'Ambrosio, director of Campus Security and Safety, told one father as he pulled his car into the parking lot for Benoit and Henderson residence halls. Parents appreciated the helping hands.

Even Dr. Jeffrey Senese, the new university president, pitched in and carried students' gear. He welcomed parents and calmed some move-in jitters.

Doug and Brandi Allen of New Tampa moved in daughter Madison Dillard, who will major in accounting. "Following in the footsteps of the old man," said Doug, who earned his master's degree from Saint Leo in 2015 and is a member of the President's Council.

Mom Brandi said they first began bringing Madison to Saint Leo when she was a freshmen in high school. While she looked at other universities, "she fell in love with Saint Leo," Brandi Allen said. "She met with one of the accounting professors, Passard Dean, and he just took the time to answer her questions. He told her she would not be just one in a big crowd and her professors would know her name."

As for Madison, she hopes to earn a spot on the women's lacrosse team and meet lots of new friends.

For parents, leaving their children produces a little anxiety. Calvin Robinson's T-shirt said it all: "I'm leaving my heart at Saint Leo University. Proud parent of Crystal." Robinson's daughter Crystal, of St. Petersburg, FL, will study in the College of Business. "I like it," he said of Saint Leo. "I've worked hard to get her ready. And she's ready."

Orientation Leader Destiny Herbert, a junior majoring in education with a minor in psychology, said it was important to provide the new students—and their parents—with a sense that everything is going to be OK.

Earlier in the week, Saint Leo welcomed international students as well as students enrolled in the Honors Program and Emerging Mathematics and Computer Science Scholars (EMACS). Each of those groups had orientation programs to acclimate to Saint Leo. A welcome reception was held Tuesday, August 14, for those students and their families.

In addition, Saint Leo hosted Bio Boot Camp for incoming students who are pursuing a degree in biology. The new students were introduced to their challenging program during the boot camp, held Saturday, August 11, through Thursday, August 16.

Dr. Cheryl Kozina, assistant professor of biology, led the students in building DNA models and later they worked in the laboratory. "They're isolating their own DNA from cheek cells," Kozina explained.

Bio Boot Camp gave the participants an opportunity to practice and learn as well as study for assessments, she said. During Bio Boot Camp, the students covered the first four chapters of their biology textbook.

"It's a lot of knowledge in a short amount of time," said Ahrend Raab, who is from Warren, IL.

"It definitely made me more confident," added Kevin Szafran of Sarasota, FL. "And I got to meet other people with the same major and made friends. It excited me to learn more about biology."

Welcome to the Pride
During the afternoon welcome ceremony on move-in day, Senese reinforced the feeling that Saint Leo is home for the new students. And he reassured parents that Saint Leo also welcomes them and encourages them to be a part of their child's lives at the university.

The new Lions were recognized by their colleges—the College of Arts and Sciences students were welcomed by Dr. Randall Woodard, chair of the Department of Philosophy, Religion, and Theology; the College of Education and Social Services students were welcomed by Dean Susan Kinsella; and Acting Dean Charles Hale welcomed students to the Donald R. Tapia College of Business.

Next, it was time for tears, hugs, and celebrations as the families said goodbye and departed. The students will enjoy many activities this weekend leading to the start of classes on Tuesday, August 21.