All posts by Emily Kochanski

Greetings all, my name is Emily and I am a Dramaturgy major at Saint Leo University. I am also a contributing writer for the Lion's Pride Newspaper on campus.

Saint Leo Supports Dreamers

daca @wikimediacommonsPresident Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy is of great concern to the nation today. On Sept. 6, before Hurricane Irma’s arrival, Saint Leo President William J. Lennox sent out a mass email to the student body that made the University’s stance on DACA crystal clear.

“As a Catholic university, Saint Leo University is disheartened by the move to terminate DACA,” the letter stated. “We are in accord with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

In an interview, Lennox went on to further state that “[Saint Leo University] follows the Bishops and what the Bishops have said. It’s taking care of the people that are in the margins sometimes, and we think that’s a part of our mission and what we do.”

The DACA policy is an executive action carried out by former President Barack Obama in 2012. The policy provides undocumented immigrants with the same opportunities as U.S. citizens.

Having reflected on the subject of DACA as part of the curriculum in his classes, Dr. Daniel Dubois, assistant professor of history, is well versed on the subject.

“DACA provides a two-year respite for children who have been brought to the United States before the age of 16 and who are enrolled in schools or employed,” explained Dubois. “Instead of putting them on a path to legal residency or legal citizenship, what DACA does is provides them a two-year guarantee that they will not be deported.”

These undocumented youths who fall under the DACA policy are referred to as “Dreamers.” These Dreamers arrived in the United States as children and were raised as Americans. Should DACA be terminated and no permanent solution be reached in its place, this could spell trouble for many Dreamers.

“With DACA you have, in our case, students who know no other country,” said Lennox. “They were brought up in this country…you can’t send them back to a country that they don’t know.”

Dubois agreed.

“Many of these kids were brought [to the United States] at two, three, or four years old. They don’t know anything other than growing up in the United States,” he said.

Many have questioned, both recently and in the past, the legality of former President Obama’s executive order to create DACA. By repealing DACA, President Trump is forcing Congress to re-evaluate the immigration policy.

“From my understanding of it, I think people who qualify under DACA are grateful that they are not going to be deported, but I don’t think many of them look at [DACA] as a perfect solution,” said Dubois. “The idea that they continually have to reapply is problematic. I don’t think that President Obama at the time thought it was perfect. There was nothing at the time happening out of Congress, so the President felt that he had to take some sort of action.”

As of now, the DACA policy has been officially slated to end on March 5, 2018. Congress has until then to find a permanent solution for those Dreamers currently protected under the policy.

As stated previously by Lennox, Saint Leo is home to many Dreamers. Both Lennox and the University as a whole are determined to keep supporting their students who benefit from DACA’s assistance.

“I first came to DACA by meeting some of the students here,” said Lennox. “They came up to me and they told me their stories and that they were so thankful that Saint Leo was a part of their lives. And that’s really important. I felt that we had to come out and just say that we firmly believe that we ought to continue educating, from our part, the DACA students.”

The Protect Dreamers Higher Education Coalition has deemed Oct. 16 through 20 a “Protect Dreamers” themed week. During this time, the Coalition will attempt to urge Congress to create a permanent solution, in part by highlighting the accomplishments of Dreamers on university campuses.

Late last year, President Lennox took the first steps in addressing Congress by being one of many higher education leaders to sign a letter in support of DACA youth.

The Heart of a Poet: Gianna Russo Wins Prestigious Award

Emily Kochanski
Russo once preferred writing primarily about her personal experiences, but her horizons were broadened during her time as a college student. “I try to find ways to sync what is happening in the world with what is going on or has gone on in my life,” she said, describing her new works.

On Sep. 28, a member of Saint Leo’s Creative Writing team proved that she was among the “Best of the Bay.” Gianna Russo, the Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing, took home a Reader’s Choice Award for Best Local Poet. The award was presented by Creative Loafing: Tampa Bay.

Russo has been a member of the University’s Creative Writing department for seven years, but writing has been a major part of her life for far longer than that.

“I’ve been a writer since childhood. My parents were great readers and storytellers,” Russo elaborated. “I wrote poems all through middle and high school, but never showed them to anyone.  In college, I finally met my first poet—another student—and began to call myself a poet.”

Russo previously took home the Critic’s Choice award for Best Poetry in Motion in 2011. She describes her more recent win as positively “thrilling.”

“I’m honored because there are a whole lot of terrific poets in the Tampa Bay area,” said Russo. “And because poetry is usually so much on the outskirts of American life, it’s just great to have it recognized at all.”

Russo has had several of her poems published, and many are also available through online literary magazines. One of her latest pieces will be published in a magazine called the “Green Mountains Review” and will be available on their website later this month. Some of her other works, such as her full-length poetry collection titled “Moonflower,” can be found on Amazon.

Though a little recognition is always nice, Russo’s main source of joy comes from the writing experience itself, not the awards.

“I know it’s a cliché’, but writing is a way for me to express myself,” Russo Said. “It’s also my way of contributing to our common humanity. That’s sounds kind of high-flown, I know, but it feels like truth.”

Russo encourages all of her students to follow their passions, whatever they may be. For aspiring writers, she advises them to “keep writing and keep reading.” To read some of Gianna Russo’s work, head to or stop by her office anytime. Be sure to check out her latest poem at when it goes viral later this month.

Saint Leo Gets Artsy

It’s no secret that Saint Leo University possesses a diverse array of artistically talented students and staff. On Oct. 7, the campus decided to share those talents with the community at large by hosting the first annual “Arts in the Park.” The event was held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Agnes Lamb Park in Dade City.

The event was co-created by Marissa McLargin, Instructor of English/Professional Writing, and featured a wide variety of acts from both members of the Saint Leo community and Dade City residents.

McLargin was approached by Wendell Speer, a local author, who had the idea for a poetry festival. The two took Speer’s idea to Dade City mayor Camille Hernandez, who was thrilled by the idea of showcasing the town’s hidden talents.

“Through brainstorming with [Wendell Speer] and mayor Hernandez, we decided to go with wider genres rather than just poetry,” McLargin explained. “There’s just so much talent in Dade City that we wanted to get together outside in the beautiful weather to celebrate the arts and showcase local talent.”

“Arts in the Park” featured a little bit of everything, including singing, dancing, acting, poetry, storytelling, and stand-up comedy. Among the performers were award winning poet Gianna Russo, the Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing, “Just the FACTS,” Saint Leo’s faculty and staff chorus, and more. Dr. Alicia Corts, the Assistant professor of Theatre, and her students performed a scene from the upcoming production of Mary Zimmerman’s play “The Secret in the Wings.”

“The scene was called ‘The Princess Who Couldn’t Laugh,’” explained Corts. “It’s the story of a girl who just is not interested at all in laughing and she lives in a kingdom where laughter is a super important thing. So, they throw a ball in her honor to try to make her laugh.”

Corts couldn’t give all of the plays secrets away. She encourages students and staff to come and see the show this November. The play will star a lot of fresh new faces, including Freshman and clinical counseling psychology major Rachel Flaherty.

“I love how active [The Secret in the Wings] is,” said Flaherty. “It’s always surprising people, and I think that’s amazing.”

History professor jack McTague is a well known and loved member of the Saint Leo community, but it may surprise many to learn that he is quite musically talented. McTague has been jamming with local band “Time Warp” since 1984 and is also the only original band member left.

“I love music. It’s fun listening to music, but it’s more fun playing it,” said McTague. “The thrill of hearing a song on the radio and then actually being able to perform it and make it sound the same way it does on the record is very exciting.”

All who performed and all who attended did so because their shared McTague’s passion for the arts. The event was a roaring success and will return next year. In the meantime, Saint Leo will continue support and show off art in all its forms, including those that create it

“The Orville” Has Launched

Funny man Seth MacFarlane, creator of the hit television series “Family Guy,” engaged quantum drive and made a bold leap from animation to live action with his new series “The Orville,” which premiered on Sept. 10.

MacFarlane stars as Ed Mercer, a down on his luck interstellar fleet officer who catches a much-needed break when he is awarded command of an exploratory vessel, the U.S.S. Orville. But on his first day on the job, Mercer’s high spirits quickly take a nose dive when he learns that his ex-wife, Kelly Grayson (played by Adrianne Palicki), is to be his first officer.                     The two will have to put aside their differences in order to save the day when their first mission takes a disastrous turn. Accompanied by a steadfast crew composed of members from all different walks of extraterrestrial life, Mercer is in for a wild ride.

“The Orville” premiere received a mixed bag of reviews, but garnered stellar ratings. According to Deadline, the new series drew in 8.6 million viewers, matching some of the most successful series premieres of the past year, including NBC’s “This is Us.”

The sci-fi dramedy started off a tad flat, but shows promise. “The Orville’s” premise models that of the popular ‘60s series “Star Trek,” and mirrors elements such as costumes, creatures, and set design. Though on the surface it appears to be a flat-out parody, it lacks a satirical sense of humor. The premiere was not without its chuckle worthy moments, but lacks the raunchy and in-your-face humor that MacFarlane is noted for. It’s quite a refreshing change of pace and proves that there’s more to MacFarlane’s sense of creativity than meets the eye.

MacFarlane and Palicki are backed by a quirky supporting cast, including Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Halston Sage, J. Lee, and Mark Jackson. Macon in particular shines as Lt. Commander Bortus, whose stoic and business-like responses to humorous situations make for some exceptional moments of comic relief. The show also boasts a slew of recognizable guest stars in upcoming episodes, including Charlize Theron (“Atomic Blonde”), Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”), and Holland Taylor (“Two and a Half Men).

“The Orville’s” first season is slated for thirteen one-hour episodes. Be sure to catch upcoming episodes every Sunday at 8 p.m. on Fox. If you missed the series premiere due to complications brought about by hurricane Irma, you can watch the episode on “The Orville” is a refreshing take on the Sci-Fi genre. Like Capt. James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise, Seth MacFarlane is daring to boldly go where he has never gone before.                                                                                                                                                                                T.V. Show Review Score:                   3 out of 5 Paws

Hurricane Irma: A Night Filled with Fear

Emily KochanskiAfter learning that Hurricane Irma would hit us only at a category 1 storm, I wasn’t exactly shaking in my boots. However, I quickly discovered that I was wrong to not be scared. On Sunday, Sept. 10, I learned that although one may be well prepared for the physical damage that may come, you can never be truly ready for the toll that impending chaos can take on your sense of security.

The last major storm that I can vaguely recall experiencing was Hurricane Frances, which struck in 2004. Aside from spending a sweltering 5 days without running water or electricity, Frances didn’t seem to me the frightening phenomenon that the weathermen had foretold. I scoffed at Irma once I saw that she had been reduced to a middling category 1. Like Frances, I figured she was all bark and no bite. But Irma ended up biting pretty hard.

In the days leading up to Irma’s arrival, the folks and I stocked up on all the necessities. Food, water, flashlights, etc. We’d filled the bathtub up to the brim, along with several pitchers and empty jugs so that we’d have a surplus of water to fill the back of the toilet tank with to allow us to continue to use the facilities. While dear old dad and I busied ourselves outside removing objects that could get lifted by the wind, mom worked diligently indoors converting our hall closet into a sort of safe room should we need new shelter. By all accounts, we were ready.

The big day finally arrived and our little family huddled in the living room glued to the television, diligently tracking Irma’s trajectory, speed, and size. After an hour or so of flickering, the power finally went out around 8 p.m. Sitting in total darkness while the wind picked up outside and without the reliable weatherman’s words of reassurance, that’s when one’s courage begins to falter. Everything seems scarier when veiled in darkness. Suddenly, the wind wasn’t just blowing, it was howling, screaming. The rain wasn’t just falling, it was pounding.

With nothing to distract you but the sounds of chaos ensuing just beyond the safety of your 4 walls, reality hits harder than the rain on your rooftop. The full extent of the situation, of the danger, is all at once blindingly visible and before you know it, you’re running from room to room reevaluating the strength of every single window and door. I was in full-on panic mode within half an hour after losing electricity. All my senses were on red alert, which is why I was the first one in the house to hear the dripping.

One of our kitchen ceiling tiles had sprung a leak. I watched, utterly dumbfounded, as in a matter of minutes it evolved from a rhythmic dripping into a steady stream of water, the tile drooping. Barely an hour later, the tile collapsed under the weight of the water and crashed with a wet thud to the floor. Two more tiles had also begun bowing. As I began covering the kitchen floor with towels to catch the falling water, I started doing math in my head, never a good idea for me. If the hurricane is outside, but water is coming inside, then that means…oh, my gosh, the roof is gone!

I didn’t sleep a wink that night. Instead, I laid awake in fear that my entire house would come crashing down around me. A few days before, a family friend had told us that when she was a child, her parents had told her that if she didn’t behave during the storm, the hurricane was going to get her. And thinking back to that, I began to feel that Irma was this ravenous beast and my family and I were its prey. It was outside stalking us, taunting us, before it finally could sink its claws into us. By 3 a.m., I had literally worried myself sick.

When a storm traps you inside, it’s the waiting that does you in. The thinking of those terrible thoughts and not being able to peek outside to confirm those fears. When Monday morning rolled around and the worst had passed, my folks and I went outside to assess the damage. Luckily for us, the house was still standing, roof intact, and the worst of the debris was a couple hundred severed tree branches littering the yard. We’d caught the mother of all lucky breaks.

We spent the following 3 days without electricity. We lugged bucket after bucket of water in from our swimming pool to refill the emptying bathtub. We even resorted to bathing in the pool when that icky, unshowered feeling finally overwhelmed us, an activity I pray that I never have to do again.

Though they’d reduced me to a basket case only days ago, the events of Irma feel like nothing to me now. Still, I will never underestimate the power of a hurricane ever again. The next time a category 1 rolls around, I plan on leaving home to seek better shelter. If a category 5 decides to pay us a visit, I’m leaving the state.


In the End: The Shocking Death of Chester Bennington

Fans of the popular rap metal group Linkin Park were in for a horrific surprise on July 19. The band’s lead singer, Chester Bennington, was found dead in his home from an apparent suicide. He was 41.

Linkin Park was formed in 1996 and quickly rose to fame after their debut album, “Hybrid Theory,” was released in 2000. Since then, the band has produced numerous chart topping singles and six more albums, including their latest entitled “One More Light,” which was released in May.

The band has been numerously praised as one of the greatest of the past decade and Bennington’s voice has been celebrated as one of the most unique set of pipes to ever grace the music industry. His talent will be hard to replace and fans everywhere have been shaken by the loss of this versatile icon. Sam Stokes, a student of Saint Leo University, was deeply impacted by Bennington’s demise.

“I felt dizzy and numb when I first heard about his death,” Stokes said.

For Stokes and many others, Bennington and Linkin Park were more than mere music makers.

“I’ve been a fan for over a decade,” said Stokes. “Their songs always have powerful meanings, which have personally helped me through my own troubling times.”

Crystal Swank, a Dade City resident, expressed similar feelings.

“It’s very sad that [Bennington] felt that he had to do that,” Swank said of his suicide. “He sang about a lot of things that people feel, things that we all think about. Like in the song ‘Numb.’ We think about being what everyone wants us to be, and we don’t want to, but still we worry about what society wants us to be.”

Remaining members of Linkin Park recently released a moving statement for their fallen comrade on the band’s official Facebook page. It can be found in its entirety on their Facebook. The reasons behind Bennington’s tragic death are yet to be known and the fate of Linkin Park remains uncertain.

“I hope the band continues on, since [Mike] Shinoda and the others are still living,” sad Stokes. “Their new songs can honor Chester and help deter others from suicide.”

On this matter, Swank felt differently.

“I don’t think there can be a band without [Bennington],” she said. “They can go on to do other things, but I don’t think they can be Linkin Park without him.”

Bennington is survived by his wife, six children, and countless fans. If you are a fan, share your favorite Linkin Park song on Twitter or on Facebook.

A ‘Welcome Back’ Bash

On July 15, Saint Leo welcomed incoming students and their families to the University with a campus-wide blowout. From 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., guests of all ages partied down at Saint Leo’s annual Summer Fest.

This year, to avoid the brutal Florida heat, Summer Fest consisted of several indoor activities in cooler locations around campus, such as a party at the Marion Bowman pool, kayaking in the lake, and a painting class in the fine arts building. A video game extravaganza took place in the lobby of apartment five and seemed to be the most popular activity among students, including Kira Parisi, a student and summer staff member for First Year Experience.

“All the games were so cool,” Parisi said. “They had different games and systems like Atari to some as new as the Nintendo Switch.”

All of the events culminated with one final bash in the SCC Bowl at 5 p.m. Guests could chow down on complimentary meals from several food trucks, cool down on an inflatable water slide, or try their luck at winning some nifty raffle prizes, such as tickets to the upcoming Rays vs. Yankees game, all while grooving to a live DJ.

After seeing the fun activities and friendly atmosphere the University has to offer, many incoming freshmen are looking forward to the start of their first semester. Steven Grant, who hails from Orlando, was attracted to Saint Leo’s computer science program.

“I’m really looking forward to being able to achieve as much as I can in as little time as possible,” said Grant. “I’m also eager to participate in some intramural volleyball.”

Just like those in the past, this year’s Summer Fest received a spectacular turn out. It proved to be the perfect way for students, both new and returning, to beat the summer and get back into the school spirit.