Freedom’s New Principal: Dr. Cupid

by Jayda Rodriguez and Bruna Araujo

This school year we have a new principal: Dr. Cupid. She has been working with education for many years now, so we decided to get a better understanding of her journey in education, her thoughts, and plans for this school year.

Dr. Jennifer Cupid-McCoy, Freedom’s new principal. Photo courtesy of Mr. Youtz.

What made you want to work in education?

Dr. Cupid: That’s an interesting question, because my original field of study had nothing to do with education. My original field of study was in the area of Mass Communication, because I wanted to reach a much larger audience, and I remember when I graduated with my undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh and I wasn’t able to get into that field, you know, I remember getting my rejection letter from ABC in New York and CBS and they talked about having to work in a small market before you can get on the big stage.

My dad had been an educator for several years before that and he shared this comment with me, he said, “I know how you can have your own audience everyday”. I lit up like a Christmas Tree, I had no idea of what he was going to say and he said, “become a teacher and you’ll have your own audience everyday”. It was an interesting analogy, but he was right and so I changed my focus from wanting to be on the stage in that sense and commanded my audience in a classroom setting where everyday was a performance, it’s like a theatrical performance that my students and I engaged in. That’s how I got into education and have loved every minute of it and I’ve remained in it.

What do you like the most about your job?

Dr. Cupid: The excitement that I see in a student when he or she masters something they think they couldn’t before and it spreads across not just academics, but it’s the whole child. So, for some children they are brilliant academically but socially they don’t quite know where they fit in, and so when that child takes that further step to initiate a conversation and work on hers or his social skills and master that, that gives me a sense of “that’s what this is about”. When a student attempts to join a sports team or be a part of a club that they never thought they would be able  to do, that gives me joy. When a student is in a class that he or she never anticipated they would be in and they committed to doing the work and the adults provide the support and they are successful. That makes me happy.

What college did you attend? What did you study?

Dr. Cupid: I actually have four degrees. So, my undergraduate degree was in Mass Communication and that was at the University of Pittsburgh, my masters is in Elementary Education and that I received at Cheyney University in Pennsylvania, my specialist I received in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University and my doctorate I received from UCF here in Educational Leadership.

What did you do before becoming a school principal?

Dr. Cupid: Immediately before becoming a principal here at Freedom High School, I worked at the District Office for four years where I supervised principals, four of which were high school principals, including Freedom High School,  Boone High School, Dr. Phillips High School and Jones High School.

Do you have any hobbies outside school?

Dr. Cupid: Yes, I do. I’m not sure I can call it a hobby because it’s not something I get to do daily, but I do love traveling internationally, particularly. I enjoy experiencing different cultures, because I think that really helps to shape an individual, it either helps you appreciate what you have or it helps you to recognize the need that may exist in different countries or in different cultures and I think it also helps in a sense that you change your focus and sometimes you become less wasteful and more conscious of those who are less fortunate. So, I do enjoy travelling.

What are your thoughts and plans for this school year?

Dr. Cupid: Interestingly enough, my thoughts are that I need to take an observer role, and what that means is that Freedom High School has been functioning at a high level prior to my arrival. So, I need to sort of take a step back and watch how our students interact, watch how our teachers interact, see how things function, right? And support what we are currently doing because I’m a firm believer in if something is working fine, then you leave it alone and you allow it to continue to work. So, that’s not to say that down the road, you know, after having observed for a period of time that collectively we may see things that can use some adjustment, but for this immediate year it’s to get to know my students, it’s to get to know my teachers, it’s to get to know the parents that I get an opportunity to interact with and just help Freedom maintain its level of not just academic, but across the board performance and in some cases elevate that performance.

What can we do to keep improving our school grade?

Dr. Cupid: Well, there are several things. I think the very first piece comes from intrinsic motivation from students, right? You have to want to and believe that you can and then actually invest the time in becoming better at what we do academically. So, each student has to play a role. The other side of that coin is, as educators, as teachers, as adults, we have to provide challenging opportunities for our students, but in a supportive manner. So, for instance I know that this can be a sore topic for some people where, you know, there is a perception while a certain student can’t take an AP course and I disagree with that, right? Because to do that, to me is to sell a student short and to say “you do not have the aptitude to do this.” Well, maybe I haven’t demonstrated that aptitude because until this point no one has believed in me and no one has provided that support to help me demonstrate the aptitude that I have to do the work. So, it is also great to have parental support, but that’s a third leg outside of school and that’s not an area in which I have any access. But I do have access here to our students and to our teachers. So, making sure that our students are given those opportunities, but while we give them those opportunities we actually provide the support.

I like to use this analogy in which three students were attempting to look over a fence to view a baseball game. One student was really tall and that student didn’t need any support, he stood and he could look over the fence and see the game. The other two students couldn’t see, even on their tippy toes. So, the other two needed support, but they needed a different level of support. One kid stood on two blocks and then that gave him the ability to see over the fence. The other student needed three blocks. And then the playing field became leveled. And all three boys were able to view that baseball game, you know, across the fence. That’s what it’s about. It’s about giving each child what he or she needs to be successful.

This was our interview with Dr. Cupid. We could see how passionate Dr. Cupid is about her job and how much she cares for all of her students, faculty, and the overall success of the school. Dr. Cupid is a great example of how passion and determination will lead you down the path of success.

A very important thing we as students can take from Dr. Cupid’s words, is to challenge ourselves and show that we have the aptitude to accomplish anything we put our minds to. Because, like Dr. Cupid said, when we master something we thought we couldn’t, the excitement “spreads across not just academics, but […] the whole child.”