The two recipients sharing the College of Education’s Outstanding Young Alumni award for 2016-17 also share a sense of entrepreneurship that is as keen as their love and skill at teaching.
Jennifer Coxen, (BAE ‘06, MEd ’07), a master’s graduate in elementary education program, teaches talented and gifted fourth- and fifth-graders at Medlock Bridge Elementary School in suburban Atlanta.
Coxen, who also owns a skincare business, attributes much of her success to her experiences at UF and her 10-year teaching career, during which she developed a passion for cultivating the skills of young people.
The first one in her family to graduate from college, Coxen said it was winning scholarships that made it possible to attend the University of Florida.
In April 2016, she found her own way to help others who dream of becoming teachers when she and her husband, Stephen, established the Jennifer L. Coxen Scholarship.
This non-endowed fund supports graduate students in the College of Education’s ProTeach elementary education program, with preference given to first-generation college students. Coxen is the youngest of the college’s alumni ever to establish such a scholarship fund.
In addition to volunteering for nonprofit community organizations, she is an educational consultant to the Kenya Children’s Fund, which works to improve the teaching of students living in some of the worst slums in the world. She also has been chosen to serve on the inaugural EduGator Young Alumni Committee.
Kristin D. Birdsey (BAE ’07) is a Gainesville native, a lifelong Gator fan, and an educational entrepreneur and small-business owner.
After graduating from the College of Education, Birdsey worked at several preschools. She soon decided she could better use her experience, education and love for learning to create a better school of her own.
In 2010, she teamed up with her childhood friend and fellow college alumna, Krista Frey (BAE ’08), to open Education Station & Preschool in northwest Gainesville. Since then, the school has grown from two students to 75, employs 14 teachers and has a yearlong waiting list for new students. The pair are now scouting for a second location.
Birdsey supports a number of organizations that focus on giving a voice to the voiceless. In January, she organized a bus trip to transport hundreds of people to participate in the Women’s March on Washington, where they spoke up for reproductive, civil and human rights.