Jessica Coffie earns national recognition

In the realm of early childhood education, there are leaders who go above and beyond, embodying the spirit and vision of programs like Head Start. Jessica Coffie, the Director of the Office of Child Development and Head Start Director at the Council, is one such remarkable leader. Her dedication to children and families earned her the 2023 Vanessa Rich Leadership Award from the National Head Start Association.

The Vanessa Rich Leadership Award celebrates the memory of Vanessa Rich, a former Head Start director, parent, and leader known for her dedication to the idea that “Head Start doesn’t stop at the front porch; it comes all the way into the house.” This award is designed for a new Head Start or Early Head Start director who embodies Vanessa’s legacy and vision. Jessica’s whole-family approach to education and well-being transforms families into the best version of themselves.

Jessica has been with the agency for more than a decade, beginning her career as the Health and Nutrition Specialist, then swiftly moving up to become the Health and Nutrition Manager, and was the first-ever licensed certified nutritionist hired by the Council. In December 2019, Jessica earned her position as the Head Start Director, overseeing four Head Start programs that serve 15 counties and more than 2,200 children and families each year.

Jessica’s leadership skills were almost immediately put to the test as the world faced the unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jessica’s determination, resourcefulness, and commitment to the well-being of children and families shone brightly during this crisis. She led her team in providing vital support to vulnerable communities, ensuring that children remained safe, fed, and educated even during the most trying times.

One of Jessica’s strengths lies in her holistic, family-centered approach. She recognizes that improving a child’s life means addressing the family’s needs as a whole. Under her guidance, family engagement became a key focus, combating learning loss and providing parents with opportunities for personal and professional growth to build a brighter future for their families.

Jessica’s impact extends beyond the classroom and into the community. She played a pivotal role in establishing a health clinic at one of the Council’s facilities, underscoring her commitment to the well-being of families. Additionally, she initiated the Safe Kids transportation campaign, emphasizing safety and security in children’s transportation. She serves on several local, state, and national boards, including the National Community Action Partnership Head Start Task Force and the Kentucky Head Start Association Board of Directors. This year, she was elected to be Vice President of Programming for the Kentucky Head Start Association. Her commitment to uplifting her community and propelling students to higher education through the Lexington Partners for Youth board demonstrates her far-reaching influence and dedication.

The Vanessa Rich Leadership Award is recognition of a career dedicated to improving the lives of countless children and families. We are so proud of Jessica and all the work she does to be a champion of early childhood education and a tireless advocate for families in Kentucky and beyond.

Hear more from our award-winning Head Start Director on our Look Who’s Talking podcast or watch our Head Start at Home video lessons.

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