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Empowering Communities: Dr. Leon Battle’s Human Services Journey 

Picture of Dr. Leon Battle

SEU’s MA in Human Services program, which has recently been named one of Forbes’ top online degrees, has been a driving force behind the success of many of our alumni, including Dr. Leon Battle, who embodies the essence of community service and professional leadership. This is Dr. Battle’s story on his remarkable journey, and why he believes the Human Services degree from SEU is so special.

From Youth Pastor to Working for the Department of Children and Families

Dr. Battle is a distinguished three-time alumnus of Southeastern University.

“I got my bachelor’s degree from SEU in practical theology with a minor in business, and that set a strong foundation for my career,” Dr. Battle explains. “I led a youth group (actually my childhood youth group!) throughout my undergrad years, and then moved to New York after I graduated to work at a church.”

It was at this church in New York where Dr. Battle encountered many teens who were going through some really dark things in their personal lives. This exposed him to a whole new world outside of the church congregation that he wasn’t used to, because at the time, he didn’t know much about the dependency system and social welfare. When the great recession hit, he moved back to Florida, where he ended up interviewing for a job at the Department of Children and Families. 

“I think I was the least qualified out of all 30 people who interviewed – they almost got rid of my resume because I had a bachelor’s degree in theology and had only worked as a youth pastor. It’s not like that translated well, but the program administrator said, ‘Hey, I have a good feeling about him,’ and so they hired me.”

The program administrator’s feeling was right on.

Dr. Battle stepped into the role of family investigator and started to perform institutional investigations at schools, jails, hospitals, daycares, and foster homes. He received multiple cases of girls who were being exploited, and began to explore how to help with those cases more, such as by partnering with local and federal law enforcement. Shortly after the Safe Harbor Act was passed in 2012, Dr. Battle stepped into the role of human trafficking specialist for the Department of Children and Families. He also became the liaison between Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and local law enforcement. 

After working on these human trafficking cases, primarily concerning young women, and seeing how their lives were transformed after they were saved from these terrible situations, he felt called to start working at One More Child.

One More Child’s international headquarters resides in Lakeland and extends its reach through its 60 locations across 23 states and 15 countries. It serves hungry children, foster children, victims of trafficking, and struggling single mothers and families. The organization’s work extends beyond just providing meals; it actively educates, empowers, and uplifts those in need. It is in institutions like these that SEU’s Human Services graduates fulfill their true calling by actively contributing to a better society.

“The big thing was, I still felt very unqualified in this line of work. I had my theology degree to strengthen me, but I really wanted to deepen my specific knowledge of human services and social work.” He considered the differences between a social work degree and a human services degree, ultimately deciding to go with the latter, as it aligned most closely with his goals. Where he would earn this degree was never a question. “I knew from my undergrad experience that there was nowhere else but SEU that I would consider for the next phase of my education.” 

Dr. Battle’s decision to pursue a Human Services degree from SEU was also influenced by the university’s unique approach to community service. “What I noticed about the human services degree was the focus on community organizing and bringing together stakeholders and different organizations and individuals,” he explained.

Through the human services program, and the work he did with One More Child, he learned the importance of community assessments. This means that they ask the people in need to define what would be the most helpful to their situation. This approach allows for tailored solutions rather than imposing preconceived notions. 

Child Welfare and Beyond

One remarkable aspect of Dr. Battle’s journey is how quickly he was able to apply what he learned in his degree specialization, which was child welfare. One of his first projects was introducing a hunger alleviation program, which addressed an immediate need in the Lakeland community. This innovative program not only reflects his commitment to the community but also highlights how SEU’s human services education encourages proactive, tangible change.

“I was able to put what I learned into practice right away. I had the privilege of starting the Family Support Program at One More Child, as well as the Child Hunger Program, which are two out of five programs we offer.”

Just this past year, One More Child has been able to serve 236,492 children and distribute more than 14 million meals through those five programs. 

Supporting Vulnerable Populations

Dr. Battle’s involvement in addressing trafficking issues and supporting struggling families is noteworthy. He emphasizes the significance of serving the community holistically, providing both practical and spiritual assistance to vulnerable populations. This holistic approach, a cornerstone of SEU’s human services program, is instrumental in creating lasting positive change.

“One of the programs I’ve recently been heavily involved in with One More Child is called Every Child, Every City. We take our programs and provide resources and training to local churches. The churches learn how to help single mothers, provide resources to children in foster care, make efforts to alleviate child hunger, and raise awareness of human trafficking.” 

The goal is to stand beside these churches and provide them with the resources and training they need to run these programs right in their own communities. 

The Gospel-Centered Approach

Dr. Battle’s journey highlights the value of providing not only essential practical services, but also spiritual guidance, and reaching people who are often overlooked. It is the marriage of practical and spiritual service that exemplifies the unique strength of pursuing a human services degree at SEU. 

“We want to make sure that we’re providing the best services to these children and families, but not neglect the fact that we believe these families need the Gospel,” Dr. Battle said. “Children need the Gospel, as that is what ultimately brings transformation.” 

Join an Incredible Community

“At SEU, you become part of an incredible group of people dedicated to serving their communities. The sense of belonging and support from professors and fellow students is unparalleled,” Dr. Battle shares. “This network extends beyond graduation, fostering lifelong connections with passionate individuals working towards common goals for their community.”

The Human Services program at SEU is backed by an excellent faculty that not only imparts knowledge but also actively engages with students, helping them integrate theory and practice. Dr. Battle’s experience is a testament to the dedication of SEU’s professors, who are always ready to support students in their academic and professional journey. This is something that Dr. Battle greatly valued, and inspired him to return to SEU to earn his Doctor of Ministry degree. 

“SEU students, faculty, and alumni desire to be servant leaders within the community. To be surrounded by professors who pray for you and love you — and who are going to provide you with the best education you could ask for — those kinds of people are absolutely priceless.” Dr. Battle was so inspired by his professors that he now also serves as an adjunct faculty member for the SEU Human Services program, and has also been on SEU’s social work advisory board for 10 years and the human services advisory board for two years.

Life-Changing Opportunities

A human services degree opens up a world of career opportunities. Graduates are well-equipped with the tools and knowledge necessary to pursue a meaningful and fulfilling career, actively changing the lives of those in need and making a difference in a wide range of areas.

Dr. Leon Battle’s journey from a theology graduate to a community leader exemplifies the transformative power of SEU’s human services program. It also demonstrates our commitment to equipping students to be problem solvers who make a real impact on society. As you consider the next step in your educational journey, remember that SEU offers more than just a degree — it offers an opportunity to be part of something extraordinary — something bigger than yourself.

Thank you, Dr. Battle, for sharing your story, and for everything you do for our community. 

Written by Mia Golding, Student Writer

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