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Welcoming Flagler’s newest class of Saints

Sep 15, 2023
by Anna Boone

Flagler College’s Class of 2027 has only been here for a month, and they’re already bringing campus to life with enthusiasm for this new step in their journeys.

The College welcomed more than 750 new first-year and transfer students to campus, one of its most academically gifted incoming classes to date. Flagler’s new Saints came from around the world and across 33 states, bringing with them new perspectives, ideas, and excitement.  

These students’ stories as stellar athletes, creative minds, and committed environmentalists are just a glimpse into the incredible talent among the Class of 2027 and why they decided to become a Saint: 

Owen Davey | Lewis Wiley Scholar 
Hometown: Mt. Pleasant – Charleston, S.C.  
Academic interest: Coastal Environmental Science 

Growing up minutes from South Carolina’s historic port city, Charleston, the coast has been an integral part of Owen Davey’s life. Coming to Flagler, he knows it will continue to be.  

“I grew up on the coast my whole life,” Davey said. “I’ve never been anywhere else; I’ve never even been on an airplane before.” 

During high school, Davey juggled responsibilities like a rigorous courseload and working as an assistant manager at a local restaurant while making time for his passions: coastal environmental preservation and surfing. 

Surfing has deep roots in his family, and Davey said since coming to Flagler, “there’s only been two days” that he and his friend hadn’t hit the waves.  

In fact, one of the big reasons he chose Flagler “was because of the waves” and surf culture in the area. But the other thing that drew Davey to Flagler was the Coastal Environmental Science Program.  

During his senior year, Davey volunteered for the Coastal Preservation Team at the S.C. Dept. Of Natural Resources, working to create manmade oyster beds promoting coastal biodiversity and planting the seeds for sea grass marshes.  

“I’m all about nature,” he said. “I did my entire senior project for English four on environmental preservation.” 


Chelsea Paglia | Women’s Cross Country 
Hometown: Melbourne, Fla.  
Academic interest: Criminology & Psychology 

The beginning of Chelsea Paglia’s journey at Flagler has been defined by community-building with her teammates.  

After being reached out to by Flagler’s cross-country coaches, Paglia visited the college and said it instantly “felt like home.” This sense of comfort only grew when she moved to campus, onto a floor with her team. 

It's very new because I’m living with someone that I didn’t expect would be a sister to me, and now I have 15 other sisters, like our own little sorority,” Paglia said about her teammates. “We wake up at the same time, go to dinner together, and it just feels like a big family.” 

Paglia lettered in cross country, track and field, basketball, and lacrosse during high school. When it came to choosing an athletic path for college, she said it was between cross country and lacrosse. Even though she’s played lacrosse for 13 years, she said cross-country felt like the right path. It’s a sport she said teaches you about leadership and honesty. 

“There’s something about waking up early and running; it's a different mental game and you have to have a different discipline to be able to run on your own for all those miles,” she said.  


Elizabeth De Leon | Future screenwriter/ director 
Hometown: Homestead, Fla.  
Academic interest: Media Studies & Cinematic Arts 

In eighth grade, Elizabeth De Leon wrote a play that was chosen for a class production. She said this was a pivotal moment in realizing her dream of becoming a screenwriter/ director, and she’s confident Flagler will be the next step in making that a reality.  

“I think in that moment I knew this is what I wanted to do,” De Leon said. “But later that year, I discovered that beyond playwriting, I want to do screenwriting. I want to see what I write go on the big screen.” 

Throughout high school, theatre was one of her central passions. She was even in a thespian troupe where they competed against other schools, ranking “superior all-around" her senior year.   

“I ended up falling in love with performing and just the arts of it all,” she said. 

She said that during the few weeks she’s been at Flagler, she’s found her closest friends among theatre students. But when it comes to her course of study, De Leon said she is excited to dive into media studies and cinematic arts.  

“I hope to build the career I want to have as a director,” she said. 


Sam Cohen | Second-generation Saint 
Hometown: Beachwood, N.J.  
Academic interest: Coastal Environmental Science & Psychology 

Despite it being her first year as a Saint, Sam Cohen is well acquainted with Flagler and the City of St. Augustine.  

“Almost every summer, we would come to St. Augustine and look at the College,” Cohen said.  

Cohen, whose dad and uncle are alumni of Flagler, has known she wanted to attend since she was a little girl. In fact, she was so set on Flagler that she didn’t apply anywhere else for college. When friends and teachers asked if she was worried, Cohen said her mantra was, “I think it’ll work out.” 

“I just kept saying that, and honestly, I didn’t even want to think about not getting in,” Cohen said. “Because as cliché or cheesy as it sounds, Flagler feels like home. You can’t even explain it.” 

Just like her dad and uncle, who moved to Flagler from New Jersey, Cohen made the trek down south. But growing up just ten minutes from a coastal town, she said that element of St. Augustine feels natural and influenced her interest in Coastal Environmental Science.  

I couldn't pass up living at a place like this,” she said. “My dad would just tell me all these fun stories and great things about Flagler. It just seemed like everything I wanted.” 


Mason Manning | Men’s Basketball 
Hometown: Jackson, Miss. 
Academic interest: Sport Management 

Prior to his sophomore basketball season, Mason Manning transferred from his home school in Mississippi to play as a point guard with First Love Christian Academy in Washington, Pa.  

“My teammates up there, they’re my family now,” Manning said. 

One of those teammates, Boom Reeves, put Flagler College on Manning’s radar. By the end of his senior season, Manning had racked up more than ten offers from college basketball teams, including both of his home state’s biggest public universities, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.  

“When they brought me on my visit, I felt like it was the place for me,” Manning said. “It really made me feel at home, even though I'd only been there one time.” 

Looking ahead, Manning said his goal is to “keep getting better every day and elevate the team.” 

Off the court, Manning is equally interested in athletics, which is why he landed on Sports Management as a perfect fit for his studies at Flagler.  

“Because even when I put the ball down, I still want to be involved with sports in some kind of way,” Manning said.  


Sam Soltis | Future director for social change 
Hometown: Palm Harbor, Fla.  
Academic interest: Theatre Arts & Business 

Being a director in theatrical productions is something Sam Soltis has been passionate about for a long time, but come senior year of high school, the right college for pursuing this was still an unknown.  

“I didn't know where I was going for college for a really long time, and my entire senior year was filled with confusion about where to apply,” Soltis said. “But I actually only applied to Flagler after touring St. Augustine in the spring of 2022.” 

The Theatre Arts program at Flagler is unique in its multi-disciplinary nature, something Soltis was intrigued by right away.  

“So, in order to complete your major from here, you have to take classes from all sides of the theatre,” Soltis said. “So lighting, sound, acting, writing, dance, set design, directing, all of it. And I think that's just a really well-rounded experience that you would need to be a director.” 

Once Soltis got a glimpse of directing in high school, a passion for the craft developed quickly.  

“I have been acting pretty much my whole life, and that was my main focus in high school until I got to my senior year, where we had more opportunities to take charge of different productions and smaller shows,” Soltis said. “I just fell in love with it instantly.” 

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