- 2. 3. Success! These words severed the ribbon and officially opened the doors of the newest center in the Saint Leo University community. The newly renovated space is a whopping 9,172 square feet and occupies the entire first floor of the three-story building that it inhabits in the Northwest corner of SW 38th Avenue and SW 20th Street in Ocala, Fla.
The center is outfitted with ten classrooms featuring the latest technology similar to that found in the School of Business and Kirk Hall on the University Campus. One of these features is the eBeam interactive board system, which essentially allows a television to be used as a white board for instruction purposes.
The opening brought a taste of the University Campus to Ocala City with Fr. Kyle Smith who blessed the Center and the melodious voices of SASS that sung the alma mater. Even Fritz the Lion made a special guest appearance just in time to cut the ribbon.
In a press release dated Mar. 1, the Center’s Director, Rena Thomas, said that “Classes are available when students mainly adult learners need them.” The university has been working along with the Ocala/Marion Chamber and Economic Partnership and in tandem with local businesses to bolster the numbers of an educated workforce.
Ocala City Mayor Kent Guinn, also in attendance at the event, emphasized enthusiastically his excitement with the University’s expansion into the community. Guinn said, “I really appreciate Saint Leo being within the community, it’s great for the local businesses that require more qualified persons.”
Guinn lauded the continued relationship between Saint Leo University and the work it does with active and veteran military personnel. Ultimately, Mayor Guinn praised the University President, William Lennox, for his work while mentioning that the Police Chief of Ocala City, Greg Graham, received a degree from Saint Leo University.
Melanie Storms, V. P. of Saint Leo Worldwide, in a sobering tone, said that the expansion brings the opportunity for Saint Leo to be present in the Ocala community. “It offers the University the ability to be accessible and integral to the growth of the local workforce.”
Supporting Storm’s statements was Jessica Barnes, assistant director of admissions, who reiterated the sentiments of accessibility to the community. Her elation continued to exude as she mentioned the numerous opportunities to serve the local community as a result of the center’s expansion. These include, but are not limited to, free mental health screenings and event hosting.
Notably, in the scores of persons that streamed through the newly open doors, were potential Saint Leo students, one of whom introduced herself as Michelle. Michelle walked the halls of the newly renovated space and stated that she was strongly considering the Ocala Center to seek her first degree.
The halls of the center, which are draped with pictures from the University Campus, bolster a strong sense of Community. Sports Teams, special events, and images of students enjoying daily campus life are displayed to give an overwhelming connection for center students to main campus life.
Lennox underscored his commitment to growing the community of Saint Leo students on and off campus. Lennox reiterated the words of the Savannah Centers’ Director who recently told him that, even though his responsibilities to the University Campus are great, “Do not forget about us (online center students and faculty)!”
Taking the statement very seriously, Lennox said, “Many persons on the University Campus, have no idea about the center students and likewise many center students are unaware of campus life, or in some instances that we have sports teams!”
His commitment to bridging that gap is evident as he alluded to the pictures in the hallway that seeks to bring the groups together.
Lennox concluded the ceremony by mentioning that this opportunity to work with the Ocala community is wrapped up in the University’s mission while continuing to hold true to the Benedictine values of which the University was founded upon.