Teresa Drake put herself through law school at the University of Florida as the single mom of a preschooler. She studied until so late at night, she would visit her daughter at Baby Gator at lunchtime and squeeze in a nap. The day care teachers were watching out for her. Her friends were pulling for her. And despite the challenges she faced, Teresa graduated with honors from the Levin College of Law in 1994. Then it was her turn to give back, and she’s never stopped.
Writes Laura Knudson, who nominated Teresa: “May you come to know her as so many in this community have and may you feel the depth of her legacy to the most vulnerable among us.”
Today, Teresa is the founder and director of the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic at UF, the first of its kind in the nation. This unique partnership between the Levin College of Law, College of Medicine, Shands, and Peaceful Paths Domestic Abuse Network forms a multi-disciplinary team, called The Source Program, that assists victims of domestic violence with legal, counseling and educational needs. This is the first clinic to teach law and medical students side by side to be advocates for women suffering intimate partner violence.
“Our students are getting a totally holistic introduction to domestic violence, and when they leave Gainesville, they will take these experiences with them wherever they go, so it’s like we are seeding the country with advocates,” explains Teresa, who is also a nationally recognized speaker and trainer in the domestic violence field.
Previously, Teresa served as assistant state attorney and division chief of the Office of the State Attorney, 8th Judicial Circuit, in the Domestic Violence Unit, and worked in Child Welfare Legal Services. The first case she tried — and won — was on behalf of a group of 25 adopted children who were criminally abused by their foster mother.
“She is an unsung hero. … While we may never know how many victims and children’s lives she affected, we are confident that our community is better and safer because of her hard work,” writes Judge Denise Ferraro and Carole Zegel, retired from the Guardian ad Litem program.
In addition to her advocacy, Teresa is also a certified yoga instructor and teaches Wise Women’s Yoga at Sanctuary Yoga Studio. She is married to attorney Steve Pennypacker – they fell in love working on a child abuse case — and the mother of 22-year-old Aaron, who is a senior at Hampshire College (Amherst, Mass.). Teresa is also the “mom” of one dog, five cats, and four chickens: Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha.