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Student Stories

The College of Education and Human Services is made up of an incredible and unique group of individuals who study here. Our students are what make us Uniquely UNF. We are excited to share with you a little more about our students, spotlighting their individuality and how they're partnering to make the world a better place. 

Colleen Carr

Colleen Carr

Colleen chose UNF for all of its many opportunities to get involved outside of the classroom. She made a move from Texas to take complete advantage of all that UNF has to offer. She is an Honors student, a tour guide on campus, A PASS Leader for College Algebra, a member of the UNF Concert Band, and President of the Student Council for Exceptional Children. Within the College, Colleen has seen the great lengths that her faculty provides opportunities for students to grow within their area of study. Even during COVID-19 protocols, she has enjoyed the opportunities to speak with professionals on panels, attend virtual conferences, and observe recorded lessons taught by teachers in the field.

Lily Exantus Graduate Assisstant

Lily Exantus

Motivated to make a positive change in classrooms across the Jacksonville community, UNF graduate student Lily Exantus started her own nonprofit to promote equity and inclusiveness in the classroom.

Under the name Educational Justice for Jacksonville, also known as Ed Justice Jax, Exantus planned to provide personal and professional learning for PK-12 educators who are striving to be more inclusive and culturally responsive. “I started Ed Justice Jax because there was a need for educators to build community and learn how to apply anti-racism beliefs and practices in their lives and classrooms,” she said.

In addition to her nonprofit, Exantus is involved with UNF’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Club, where she has worked with people from the Ukraine and South Korea as an English language partner.

As Exantus prepares to graduate in Spring 2021, soon-to-be a two-time alumna, she is forever grateful for the experiences she has had at UNF. “The people at UNF; the faculty, staff and students are amazing,” Exantus said. “Due to [UNF’s] culture and small classes, I was able to build strong lifelong relationships with faculty, staff and students.” 

 

Exantus was recently announced as one of the 2021 Presidential Diversity Awards Scholarship recipients. 

Shaneka Ferrell

Shaneka Ferrell

Ferrell is a doctoral student in the College of Education and Human Services. She is the creator and facilitator of Cultural Conversations, an affinity group for Duval County Public Schools. Ferrell created Gracious Spaces for students of color to have earnest and honest Cultural Conversations. She was a co-facilitator of UNF’s Bridges Summer Camp program held last July, whose focus was to explore educational spaces from anti-racist, social justice and advocacy lenses. She also co-facilitates Summer Students of Color Safe Space Bi-Weekly Check-ins, which cultivate safe spaces and check-ins to support students of color to discuss the current pandemic and the crisis of social and racial injustices that predate COVID-19.

 

Ferrel was recently announced as one of the 2021 Presidential Diversity Awards Scholarship recipients.

Toni Ford

Toni Ford

When it comes to being involved and giving back to the community, UNF student Toni Ford is a natural.

Ford is involved with multiple departments and organizations on campus including the College of Education (COEHS), the Office Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Orientation Office, to name a few. She first got involved when an opportunity become available in the Area Council in the Osprey Hall student housing complex. Ford then became a resident assistant and joined the executive board of the Residence Hall Association and National Residence Hall Honorary.

“My favorite thing is creating connections with new students,” she said. “I have been able to write personalized letters and physically greet new students.”

She has also served as a COEHS Ambassador and a First Year Experience (FYE) mentor, which has opened up many doors for Ford to help students within the Osprey Community. Though the experience was a little different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she still enjoyed every moment she had.

“I was still able to make great connections with students through Zoom and help students daily by tabling around campus during the first week [of classes],” Ford said. “I have also been able to connect with COEHS staff and faculty on a deeper level.”

As the president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council and the vice president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Ford has had the opportunity to serve a diverse group of people from all different backgrounds. From people in her sorority to UNF students to the deaf community, she continues to take pride in serving all communities.

“UNF has inspired me to grow into myself through various leadership opportunities and constant life lessons,” she said. “Being recognized as a hero of our community inspires me to keep pushing my limits to continue to make a change in the world.”

After graduation, Ford plans to serve as an interpreter and work in group homes with the ultimate goal of building her own group home for those who are deaf with additional disabilities

Desiree Hernandez

Desiree Hernandez

UNF senior Desiree Hernandez wanted to find a way to help promote literacy among young children. She decided to use her creativity and passion for teaching to hand paint and fill literacy goodie bags for young learners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Needing to fulfill her Honors capstone and practicum requirement at the University, Hernandez started working with the Beaches Habitat for Humanity Education Program. “I am tending to children in Jacksonville who live and receive schooling in areas that are perceived as underprivileged communities,” said Hernandez.

While at the program, Hernandez has helped with several other projects including a Facebook read-aloud live for International Dot Day. She also worked with the program's director to create literacy bags for children to provide support to families in the community who have been affected educationally by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did she fill the bags, but she hand-painted a bag for each child to take home. The bags contained literacy elements for young emergent readers such as supplies, books and reading activities to complete at home. The bags also gave parents resources on the importance of reading to their child and ways to promote reading in at home.

The children and parents were thrilled when they received their goodie bag from Hernandez and recognized the hard work she put in to making each bag special. “The families that received these bags were extremely grateful for them. They loved the idea and creativity the bags presented,” said Hernandez.

Her service doesn’t stop there. She is currently the president of the Mu Theta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and a volunteer for UNF’s On-Campus Transition program where she serves as a social mentor for fellow Ospreys.

As Hernandez prepares to graduate this fall and pursue her dreams of becoming a teacher, she is forever grateful for the experiences she has had at the University and with the Beaches Habitat for Humanity. “This has been a pleasant experience so far because I am able to relate my experiences to help children succeed in their emergent years of learning,” Hernandez said. “Being able to make that difference means much to me as a future teacher.”

Jarred Jackson

Jarred Jackson

Jarred is a graduate of Andrew Jackson High School and has an interest in teaching social studies. Jarred Jackson, one of the nine students who received the Urban Initiative Scholarship, stated that "it's exciting to me that I can give back to my community as a positive role model. Jarred's favorite course so far has been Intro to Teaching with Dr. Williams because of their field assignment. Jarred shadowed a teacher at Twin Lakes Elementary School, where he directly worked with students on homework assignments.
Isabella Kitzis writes on her classroom whiteboard

Bella Kitzis

Isabella ‘Bella’ Kitzis, 2020-21 JTR Resident/NSF Noyce Teaching Fellow
Jackson High School, Biology; Residency Mentor: Mr. George Teuber (JTR Cohort 1, 2014-15)

Isabella Kitzis is a native of Jacksonville, Florida where she graduated from Stanton College Preparatory High School in Jacksonville, FL. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Coastal Biology and a minor in Anthropology from UNF in 2019. She was engaged in numerous research projects as an undergraduate where she honed her knowledge of coastal eco-systems through data retrieval and analysis for science-related K-12 educational programs. She also enjoyed tutoring undergraduate students. She is completing her Master of Arts in Teaching from the College of Education and Human Services at UNF with a year-long immersive residency through the Jacksonville Teacher Residency (JTR) program.

When asked why JTR, Bella wrote: “…to many people (JTR schools) come with a myriad of challenges or ‘problems’ that their teachers have to face. I don’t see these statistics or scenarios as problems or challenges, rather, opportunities to put more love and effort into ensuring these students have a quality education.” She is passionate about ensuring that her students learn about STEM professionals who look like them and will explore opportunities to engage the students she teaches in summer STEM programs, such as the Minority Introduction to Science and Engineering program at MIT. During her junior year in high school, Bella first recognized her desire to teach through the passion of her own biology teacher who taught her about the environment and the impact one person could have on a student’s life.

She is currently being mentored by Mr. George Teuber, a JTR Cohort 1 2015 UNF graduate.

Gary Monahan

Gary Monahan

Getting involved on campus and in the community isn’t just something UNF graduate student Gary Monahan enjoys. It’s also a philosophy that he believes is vital to one’s success.

“My on-campus involvement began with the intention to serve and build meaningful relationships with members of the University community,” said Monahan, who found many ways to make that happen. His affiliations included becoming a COEHS Ambassador, Presidential Envoy, a member of the Taylor Leadership Institute, a student Employee at the John A. Delaney Student Union and an intern with the Athletics Development team. Since 2017, Monahan has been serving as a COEHS ambassador ―an experience that has been extremely rewarding. As an ambassador he is given the opportunity to assist prospective students and families in the college selection process by trying to make the process as stress-free as possible.

“No matter what event, or program we are involved in, our mission is to enrich the lives of those we serve through exposing them to the quality education offered at our outstanding institution,” Monahan said.

His service doesn’t stop there. He is also involved with the Taylor Leadership Institute where he has had the opportunity to positively impact the lives of people in the community by practicing positive leadership. His favorite experience was being able to interact with children and families of the Ronald McDonald House of Jacksonville.

Monahan has served with many different organizations during his time as an Osprey. He has been involved with the UNF Sport Management Alliance Club, Duval County Special Olympics, HabiJax and Feeding North East Florida. Getting involved is something Monahan recommends to any student who wants to be successful.

“Do your best to get involved as early in your academic career as you can. Talk to your professors, advisor, or anyone else on campus who`s advice you respect, and trust,” Monahan said. “Ask them to share resources, and contacts they have both on campus and in the community to help you learn more about a particular career, or job you might like to have.”

Upon graduation, Monahan hopes to work in development, or sponsorship for a colligate or professional sport organization. Before he completes that goal, he will graduate in the fall of 2021 with his master’s degree in educational leadership: athletic administration. 


This soon to be two-time Osprey has many things he loves about the University, but he most enjoys the people. “My favorite thing about UNF is the people that comprise the UNF family,” Monahan said. “Everyone on the UNF campus seeks to serve students and is truly invested in our success.”

Caran Mullins

Caran Mullins, MA Educational Leadership

Caran Mullins is a Neptune Beach resident who received a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership from UNF last spring. This year she is in the Elementary iStem Pro Graduate Certificate program to pursue her passion for stem integration in the elementary classroom. Ms. Mullins is a 3rd Grade English Language Arts at Seabreeze Elementary. Ms. Mullins is passionate about developing and integrating culturally responsive, project-based learning experiences within her English Language Arts instruction. In addition to her work at Seabreeze, Ms. Mullins is working in partnership with 5C and UNF to bring coding instruction to students in the beaches area through an after-school program. Ms. Mullins is also working with Project InTERSECT by providing instructional videos of a project-based learning curriculum with an emphasis on stem instruction in action.

Doug Rinier

Doug Rinier, BA Sport Management

Doug chose UNF initially because Jacksonville has a plethora of opportunities for working in sports. He is a UNF alum and recently graduated with his bachelor's degree in Sport Management. During his undergraduate career, he joined the College of Education and Human Services' Ambassadors program and continues with his work as an ambassador while pursuing his master's degree. His favorite part of being an Ambassador is interacting with parents and students and helping them make decisions about college. Doug is a member of the Sport Management Alliance Club and appreciates the unique opportunities the internship and practicum classes have provided him with.

Melanie Sanders

Melanie Sanders

M elanie chose UNF because it provided her with a hybrid model and flexibility to choose topics that are important to her in her work. Melanie has enjoyed the cohort model and is currently working on her dissertation proposal while working full-time as a Clay County ESE Director. Something she says that she has been especially appreciative of is the safe space the program has provided her to have difficult conversations. Although not easy, she believes these sometimes-uncomfortable conversations make her and her peers stronger individuals and more prepared for the future.

Hwan Hee

HwanHee Song

At a young age, UNF student HwanHee Song saw her parents giving back to the community in various ways. Years later, when she saw a chance to do the same, it became a very natural choice for her.

At the age of 17, Song left South Korea and moved to Cameroon where she first started teaching Korean. “I was a teacher’s assistant for a while, and when I turned 19 I got my own classroom with five kindergarteners,” Song said. “That’s when I truly realized how much I love teaching Korean and Korean culture.”
Now in the United States, Song gives back to the community by teaching Korean and English to a variety students and people in the community. From kindergarteners to senior citizens to immigrants, Song has used her skills, training and personal experiences to be an effective teacher.

“Throughout my life, I was both an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) student and an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) student,” Song said. “Therefore, I am equipped to help English language learners in unique ways due to my understanding of the learning process and my personal experience.” In addition to her personal experience, Song feels well equipped to be an effective ESOL teacher due to the academic and field training she has received from UNF.

Song has continued serving her community both on campus and off campus through volunteering with the Ed Justice Jax initiative and creating Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages club, also known as the TESOL club, where she now serves as president.

As Song prepares to graduate this fall with plans to become a teacher, she has enjoyed the opportunities she’s had at UNF and teaching people in the community. To her, it is a good feeling to know that she is helping people in ways that others can’t.

“I absolutely love it! Teaching Korean always empowers me and reminds me of how proud I am to be Korean. Teaching English and seeing the students speaking confidently remind me why I became an ESOL teacher,” Song said. “I am still learning and growing. It hasn’t been an easy learning journey, but I believe it is necessary for me and my future students.”

 

HwanHee recently received the Spring 2021 Outstanding TESOL Graduate Student Award and was the 2020 Vicki Cornett Caring Award Winner. 

Jemimah Tassopoulos

Jemimah Tassopoulos

Jemimah Tassopoulos, 2020-21 JTR Resident/NSF Noyce Teaching Fellow 

Jackson High School, Mathematics 

 

Jemimah is a native of Northeast Florida where she graduated from Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Verde, FL with an IB diploma. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Statistics and a minor in Mathematical Science with Honors from UNF in 2020. She has served as a math and statistics tutor since 2019 and attained real-work and leadership experiences. Before completing her Bachelor’s degree Jemimah decided that she couldn’t ignore her life-long dream of becoming a teacher any longer and decided to continue her educational career. Her love for helping others learn has motivated her to become a licensed 6-12 mathematics teacher.

 

She is now completing her Master of Arts in Teaching from the College of Education and Human Services at UNF with a year-long classroom apprenticeship experience through the Jacksonville Teacher Residency (JTR) program.

 

She chose JTR because she believed that completing the JTR program at UNF “would provide me with both the instructional and hands-on learning that I need to prepare myself to teach in a public school.” Jemimah looks forward to building impactful, lasting relationships with her student while they problem-solve together.

 

She is being mentored by Ms. Ashley Johnson, a JTR Cohort 3 2017 graduate.


 

Contact Us

If you are interested in sharing your student story with us, you can contact Lauren Hodge, Director of Marketing and Communications, by email at l.hodge@unf.edu 

 

If you are a prospective student and would like to talk to a current UNF College of Education and Human Services student about their college experience, please contact Jade Yuen, Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator, by email at jade.yuen@unf.edu and she will connect you with a COEHS Ambassador.