Saint Leo and Educational Nonprofit Share in the Successes of Recent Grads

February 09, 2017

The local Pasco County (FL) Take Stock in Children® program and Saint Leo University are sharing pride in the accomplishments of two young people who are graduates of both the mentoring program and undergraduate degree programs at University Campus.

Roseanne -Heyser _announcement

Take Stock in Children® is a Florida nonprofit program that provides resources and mentors to middle and high school students who have academic potential, but are from families struggling with poverty and unlikely to be able to provide a pathway to college. Young people who complete the program’s requirements are eligible for full Florida Prepaid tuition scholarships at institutions such as Saint Leo. University Campus, in fact, has attracted a number of Take Stock in Children® graduates from Pasco and surrounding counties. The university routinely reaches out to prospective undergraduates who are the first in their families to enroll in college, and Saint Leo’s mix of academic programs, personalized attention, and small class sizes helps high school graduates make the transition to college.

The positive partnership has yielded more good news this spring, Rosanne Heyser, executive director of Take Stock in Children® (operated locally through the Pasco Education Foundation) announced Tuesday, February 7, during an event hosted at University Campus (pictured). Saint Leo alumnus and attorney Brendan Gorman ’13 (pictured) is being recognized as the 2017 Alumnus of the Year for Take Stock in Children throughout Florida. He will be honored in Tallahassee in March, and his accomplishments will be shared as inspiration for others.

He started with Take Stock in Children during seventh grade and continued with the program through his graduation from Ridgewood High School. From there, Gorman earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2013 from Saint Leo, and immediately went on to Barry University’s Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law in Orlando and graduated in 2016. He passed the Florida bar exam on his first attempt (a feat accomplished by only 68 percent of law school grads) and is employed at a private law firm, Proly, LaPorte & Mulligan.

Because of his work obligations, Gorman was unable to attend the event where the announcement was made—a lunch to thank the volunteers who serve as mentors and to help inspire potential and beginning mentors. While Gorman could not make the gathering, another Saint Leo/Take Stock in Children alum addressed the group and explained why the Take Stock in Children program was so meaningful to her.

Jessica Miller ’15 was sickly throughout her childhood (her underlying ailment was only recently diagnosed), and the medical bills were a persistent strain on the pay her divorced mother earned as a certified nursing assistant. The two were sporadically in homeless shelters or housed in rooms in other people’s homes. The young Jessica was consequently withdrawn, and though she did her school work, missed school often. When she was invited to participate in Take Stock in Children­­­­—and was offered mentoring and access to field trips or study workshops— everything shifted for her. She felt someone was saying to her: “We’re going to take a chance on you. We trust you.”

Jessica -Miller -speaking

She was drawn to Saint Leo’s English major and campus writing and editing opportunities. Now Miller (pictured) works as an instructor for the pre-college-level English courses the university offers and is enrolled online in a state university graduate program in educational technology. Her dad began working for the campus grounds and maintenance department four years ago, and is supportive in her life. Buoyed by all this, Miller joined the ranks of mentors and, after only a couple of years at it, already finds it satisfying to do what others did for her. “You can see the cycle of poverty ending.”

Take Stock in Children operates as a program of the Pasco Education Foundation and as a partner of Pasco County Schools. More information is available at: