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Coming Full Circle

A corps member shares how her K-12 teachers—including two corps members—inspired her to dream big.

Teach For America corps member Chassidi Jenkins travels with her students to Washington D.C. and meets with Senator Bill Nelson

By Amanda Cagan

August 20, 2020

Jacksonville native Chassidi Jenkins remembers her years at Matthew Gilbert Middle School fondly. “When I think about my experiences in K-12, I immediately reflect on my middle and high school years. I had the pleasure of having teachers who actually cared about my development as a student,” Chassidi says. “My teachers gave me much more than just an education. They gave me hope, confidence and an extended support system. They pushed me to go beyond my expectations of myself and required me to think big.”

Two such teachers who consistently went above and beyond for Chassidi and her classmates were TFA corps members Ms. Tiana Tyeskey and Ms. Emmanuel Fortune.

“I learned about a $20,000 grant from Fidelity Investments through TFA, and applied with two other corps members,” Tiana says. “Through the grant we started a program called the Presidential Campaign, which culminated in a trip to Washington, D.C.”

During the trip students were able to speak to Senator Bill Nelson (pictured above), tour the Capitol, and visit Georgetown and Howard universities. “Some of our students hadn’t traveled outside Jacksonville,” Tiana recalls. “We wanted them to see themselves represented in government and the’s great to see this impact after a decade.”

Teach For America corps members Tiana Tyeskey and Chassidi Jenkins

Following eighth grade, Chassidi went on to attend Andrew Jackson High School where her dreams and goals were further shaped by a TFA Jacksonville alumna, assistant principal Chelsea Matthews. “She helped by always letting me know to believe in myself and know that I could go somewhere,” Chassidi says. “She helped with recommendation letters and applications for college.”

Chelsea's support eventually helped Chassidi continue her journey at Florida State University as a sociology major. As her college career wrapped up and she considered her next steps, Teach For America stood out as a way to impact the community in which she grew up.

“My decision to join Teach For America was ignited by the quote, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,’” Chassidi says. “I will never forget how those teachers made me feel. They inspired me to join TFA and make an impact in my community.”

In the fall of 2019, Chassidi once again entered the halls of Matthew Gilbert Middle School. Only this time she arrived not as a student, but as a sixth grade math teacher. “It means the world to have the opportunity to work with students in the community that I grew up in! I am able to be a representation of hope,” Chassidi says.“I make it a point to let my students know I grew up around this area, so I understand the issues that many are up against.”

Remembering the role Ms. Tyeskey, Ms. Fortune, and Mrs. Matthews served in her life, Chassidi goes above and beyond to build relationships with students and parents. “For many of my students, I am much more than their teacher,” she states. “I am a person that they can confide in, a person that they can trust, a person who they know cares.”