Jennifer Cosio was the first in her family to graduate from college and attend graduate school. She earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work, with a Pupil Personnel Services Credential, at San Diego State University (SDSU). Jennifer said that her journey to college was not easy. Jennifer grew up in a military family. Her father immigrated from Mexico to the United States and joined the military shortly before meeting her mother in El Paso, Texas. Jennifer said she lived in Germany with her family for 11 years. Jennifer grew up in a very diverse military community and had friends from all over the world. She was thirteen years-old when her family moved to California.
Upon moving to Palmdale, California, she attended high school where many of her peers did not think about going to college, but Jennifer always knew she would. She said she worked with her parents through long and difficult college applications and was very excited when she was admitted to SDSU. Jennifer said she always knew she wanted to be in a helping profession. She began her journey at SDSU as a nursing major, but soon found that social work was a better fit for her.
Jennifer said she never thought about going to graduate school, but was inspired by her mentors Mike Eichler and Jessica Robinson. During her final year of undergraduate school, Jennifer applied to the Price Community Builder Program and was selected. This competitive program provided the opportunity to gain hands-on administrative social work and community development experience in the City Heights community and a generous scholarship for graduate school at SDSU. Upon her MSW graduation in 2008, Jennifer was hired at the Consensus Organizing Center (COC) to manage the Foster Youth Initiative. A few years later, she was promoted to Senior Program Manager where she managed all the higher education programs, which include Foster Youth Initiative and the Step-Up Program. Jennifer was also the lead organizer and has trained numerous community members in Consensus Organizing. In addition, she has raised almost a million dollars in grant money for the Consensus Organizing Center’s operation and program support. In July 2015, Jennifer became the third Executive Director in the Consensus Organizing Center’s history.
As the Executive Director of the COC, Jennifer is working to replicate the Foster Youth Initiative and the Step-Up Program in Atlanta, Georgia. These programs seek to engage, educate, and empower underserved high school juniors to achieve a post-secondary education and develop the practical skills needed to solve social problems in their neighborhoods. Through this program students enroll in a Social Work introductory course and complete 40 hours of community service in their communities. The programs have proven that students are much more motivated to attend college because they already have one college course under their belt. Jennifer has been collaborating with the Multi-Agency Alliance for Children (MAAC) in Atlanta for many years and is excited to replicate the COC model in another state.
Jennifer is also a lecturer and field faculty in the School of Social Work at SDSU. She teaches mostly macro social work courses to undergraduate and graduate students. Jennifer said she likes to “set the bar high” and has high expectations for her students. She wants students to have a very valuable experience, as they develop their professional identity and become competent professionals. Jennifer said she enjoys it when students connect her lectures to their work in field because it all becomes more relevant to them and she enjoys seeing their growth throughout the semester. Jennifer’s advice as students graduate and become professionals in the field is to “always remember and keep the passion that led them to this field in the first place.”
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written by Claudia Gonzalez, MSW student