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Beyond the Field: A Student-Athlete's Journey in the School of Education

April 26, 2024

For an average college student, a typical day might include a few classes, time to study and do homework, and an hour or two for social time. For a student athlete in Drexel’s School of Education, however, add on four hours of practice time, an hour or two to review game plays and strategies, and of course completing the field experience hours necessary as an education major.

This busy, strenuous schedule has been taken on by Jenika Cuocco, a student in Drexel’s School of Education and a goalie on Drexel’s Women’s Lacrosse team. Not only does she handle it with grace, but she has had great success both on the field and in the classroom.

Cuocco is in her third year at Drexel studying to become certified to teach PreK-4, hoping to one day teach first graders. While speaking to Cuocco and hearing how passionately she talks about this career choice, it was hard to believe that she started out her career at Drexel as a nursing major. Cuocco has always been passionate about working with children, and after learning more about Drexel’s School of Education she realized that was her calling. She claims, “what we’re doing in the School of Ed is just so rewarding… being able to see young students grow is really rewarding… and I’ve just been a lot happier”.

When discussing her choice to switch to education, a decision she couldn’t have been happier to make, Cuocco raved about David Appleton, her academic adviser. Appleton was just one of the supportive members of Drexel’s School of Education that made her switch to education as an athlete seamless. “He stays on top of things more than the normal academic advisor… he understands as well that [I’m] an athlete, he gives [me] a little bit of grace,” she said.

As a goalie on the women’s lacrosse team, Cuocco has achieved the status of USA Lacrosse Magazine honorable mention All-American (2023), CAA Goalie and Rookie of the Year (2023), Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area Performer of the Year (2023), second in the nation in save percentage (.570), and a 2024 Tewaraton Nominee. She has done all of this while maintaining a high GPA, working at her first co-op with Belmont Academy Charter School, and completing her mandatory 20 hours of field experience.

Surely juggling academic and athletic success is a lot to handle, however Cuocco says that surrounding herself with incredible coaches, teammates, and mentors has helped her reach her goals. She praises her coaches and teammates for always pushing one another to be the best they can be on and off the field, saying that mindset has contributed a lot to her success as a student, athlete, and human being. She is grateful to be part of such a supportive team, as it has been “super empowering seeing other girls and females being able to succeed and be exceptional on and off the field”, and it pushes her to be better.

Cuocco also says that staff members at Drexel, such as Valerie Klein, EdD, associate clinical professor and program director for teacher education programs who “made the transition into being a student-athlete a lot easier” have helped more than they know. She says that “...having professors that will accommodate you and work with you to make sure you know you can succeed on and off the field is super helpful”. 

Speaking on her experience in the classroom, Cuocco says that she is so grateful for having chosen Drexel’s School of Education, as the co-op and field experience have given her a better grasp on her future career by giving her teaching experience while she is in college. This experience has shown her “what it means to be a preschool teacher” and “what goes into being a great teacher.” Cuocco says that the time she has spent shadowing at Belmont Academy Charter School and student teaching has given her a lot of confidence and excitement around having a class of her own one day.

Jenika Cuocco is surely someone who can do it all– from breaking records on the field to maintaining an impressive GPA while also working in the classroom. While her incredible work ethic and determination is responsible for this, her story would be much different if it were not for Drexel’s School of Education and the support from its staff as well as the empowerment from the women’s lacrosse team, which she refers to as family.