UF College of Education students forge their own unique paths while earning their degrees. Some join clubs, find their community in Greek life, or participate in sports to get involved in the UF culture. Education Sciences student Kendall Siemienas took a unique path: she joined the Florida Mascot Team, creating magic with her best friend Albert, the University of Florida’s beloved mascot, in front of crowds of up to 90,000 people.
Siemienas applied for the role of Albert on a whim and jokingly filled out the application at 1 a.m. one night during her sophomore year. “The whole idea was nothing more than a joke until I told my mom and sister about it a week later, and they reacted very seriously. They thought I’d be a great mascot.” Due to her family’s encouragement, Siemienas determinedly approached the rest of the process.
Her openness to trying new things led Siemienas to add a second major to her college experience after initially declaring her major in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “After taking my first education class, I fell in love with the subject,” Siemienas stated. She decided to pursue a dual degree so that she could take more classes in Education Sciences.
Passion for education runs in the Siemienas family. The decision to pursue an education degree was also influenced by her UF College of Education alumna mother, Therese A. Siemienas (B.A.E. ‘92, M.A. ‘93). “My mom is a College of Education alum,” Siemienas said, “so I grew up hearing her fond memories of the college and the positive experiences she had in her classes.”
Three long months of interviews and auditions later, Siemienas found out she made the Spirit Team and that she would get to bring Albert to life. Suddenly, she had anywhere from one to six appearances as the mascot a week.
With this added responsibility, Siemienas had to double down and get serious about her priorities. “Being a part of the mascot team really taught me a lot about balancing my time and prioritizing things in my life,” she stated. She learned positive habits, such as completing her schoolwork ahead of time, to allow additional flexibility in her schedule.
Siemienas was even able to blend her mascot role with a project in her Fall 2021 Technology-Enhanced Learning Environments course, taught by Andrea Ramírez-Salgado. “One of the assignments we had to do was create a digital escape game,” she said. “My obvious love of Albert meant I created an escape game where Albert was locked in the football stadium, and the student had to solve addition and subtraction [with] fraction equations to get the key. I designed the game for my mom’s fifth-grade class and the math topic they were on that month, so she actually had a few of her students play the game in her class.” Siemienas felt that even though it was a time-consuming project, it was well worth it to combine two of her favorite things — education and Albert. This, she recalls, was her proudest moment as an EduGator student.
Although her role as Albert kept her extremely busy, Siemienas wouldn’t have changed a thing about her experience. “I am so thankful for my time at UF and in the College of Education,” she stated. “And I am so thankful I had the opportunity to be on the mascot team and help thousands of others create positive memories with Albert. I had the most amazing four years (as a student).” When asked if she had anything else she wanted to share, she concluded in true Albert fashion — “Go Gators!”