CCI alumni a force in Teach for America movement

Several Florida State University College of Communication & Information (CCI) alumni have recently found themselves taking a detour from their original career paths immediately after graduation.  Instead, they are making two-year commitments to teach in low-income public schools across the nation as a part of the Teach for America (TFA) movement.

Countless children throughout the nation face the challenges of poverty every day.  Very often, low-income children do not have the same access to a great education as their peers in more affluent communities.  TFA, a non-profit organization founded in 1990, is focused on eliminating educational inequity by placing committed leaders in the classrooms of underserved children.

TFA scours the nation for professionals and recent graduates from over 400 colleges and universities, and in recent years, some of CCI’s best and brightest have dedicated themselves to the frontlines of closing the gap in education.

For the past several years, CCI alumni have found the skills they learned at Florida State translate in the classroom despite the fact their background is not in education. First and foremost, TFA is looking for individuals who demonstrate leadership potential and are effective communicators.

Ricardo Horna
Ricardo Horna

“Probably one of the most important elements of being an effective teacher in the classroom is being able to communicate,” Ricardo Horna (’11) said.  “You have to stand up in front of kids every single day to clearly communicate your objectives, but also communicate with parents and family members, co-workers, and policy leaders.  Teach for America has been a perfect opportunity to practice my communication skills.”

Horna worked as a part of the TFA recruitment team as a campus campaign coordinator before signing on for a two-year commitment in Baltimore, Md., following graduation.  He is currently in his third year of teaching and plans to attend graduate school next year before pursuing a career in communications.

“These kids are stuck in an unfair cycle and are not given the resources and opportunities to flourish as much kids from more affluent communities that have the resources to give students opportunities,” Horna said.

Jessica Nemer Shultz
Jessica Nemer Shultz

Jessica Nemer Shultz (’07) joined the corps right out of college and relocated to the Bronx, N.Y., to teach first and second grade.

“The ability to communicate clearly really helped me because of how I was able to relay information to my students, especially since more than half of them did not speak any English,” Nemer Shultz said.  “Also, being able to think critically about how the information I presented would be received was something I took away from my major and from FSU.”

While she no longer teaches in the classroom, Nemer Shultz continues to work for TFA as the Director of Recruitment in the New York City region.  She also worked in the TFA Atlanta office as the manager for Corporate and Foundation Relations.

“(Teaching) was probably one of the most challenging experiences of my life and one of the most fulfilling experiences,” Nemer Shultz said.  “It’s why I continue to do the work I do today.”

James Walter Doyle
James Walter Doyle makes a classroom visit.

James Walter Doyle (’06) turned his two-year commitment in Harlem, N.Y., into a seven-year stint, which led to a position with a non-profit organization.

“After I served my two-year commitment, I felt there was a still a really strong need (for teachers),” Doyle said.  “I didn’t feel like I was done with teaching and I moved to high school and taught for another five years.”

To enhance opportunities for his students, Doyle raised funds through, an online charity that makes it easy to help students in need.  Last fall, created a position for Doyle as the National Director of Teacher Engagement.

Angelina Collazo, who graduated with a degree in Information, Communication and Technology from Florida State in 2012, is currently serving as a Special Education Teacher at the Waianae Intermediate School in O’ahu as a part of the TFA program.

“I am a huge proponent for educational equity,” Collazo said.

As a student, Collazo was involved in several community outreach projects as a member of the FSU STARS Alliance and WISE.

“My technology degree has been useful over and over again helping me to be a more engaging and successful teacher through my ability to implement technology in the classroom,” Collazo said.

Nicole Brisbane with former student at his high school graduation.

After graduating from the School of Communication in 2005, Nicole Brisbane returned to her hometown and taught middle school reading and language arts in the Miami Dade School District.

“It’s really hard, but also super rewarding,” Brisbane said.  “To date, it’s the best professional experience I’ve ever had. Teaching is the ultimate public speaking job.  Having a degree in communication really prepared me to be ‘on.’”

Following her two-year commitment, Brisbane obtained a law degree from Emory University and rejoined TFA in a different role.  She is now the Managing Director of New Site Development at TFA and is based in Miami, where she works to open new regional offices for the organization.

“At FSU, there was an emphasis on advocacy and activism with students standing up with what they felt was right,” Brisbane said.  “I took that with me into the classroom and advocated for my students in a way that really felt like it embodied that activist spirit I got from FSU.”

According to, 11,000 corps members will reach more than 750,000 students during the 2013-14 school year.  In addition, 32,000 TFA alumni will continue to deepen their impact as educational leaders and advocates.

“It’s not just for educators,” Horna said.  “If you have the desire to help others and develop your leadership, communication and organizational skills, and have a long-lasting impact on a community then Teach for America is an amazing program. It is the most amazing professional development I’ve ever gotten.  I’m using the tools I got from Florida State to make an impact.”

“It can prepare you for everything,” Nemer Shultz said.  “I don’t think there is anything I’ll ever do that will be any harder than my time in the corps.   The ability to think on your feet, build relationships, think critically about presenting information and how to influence others – those are all things people take away from the program.  It teaches you perseverance, persistence, grit and gives you the ability to face any challenge that come your way.”

If you are a student or alum interested in joining the educational equality movement, visit