Meet the 2025 Communications Fellows
The School of Communications welcomes its 2025 class of Communications Fellows. Fellows wrote their own mini biographies, which you can read below.
Anthony Bamford is from Royersford, Pennsylvania, where he graduated from Spring-Ford Area High School. While at Spring-Ford, he participated in the school’s three-year broadcasting program. His film “Hide” placed in the top 30 in the 10-Day Film Challenge. Additionally, Anthony was a member of the school’s television network, RCTV, where he offered analysis on 40 different sporting events. Anthony also won 11 varsity letters for running and swimming. He will be running cross country for the Phoenix and pursuing his dream of being a sports broadcaster.
Taylor Beach grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she graduated from North Raleigh Christian Academy with honors. She found her love for writing when she joined her school’s journalism class sophomore year. Taylor became an editor for her school’s magazine, The Shield, her junior year, and continued her editorship throughout senior year. Taylor was a member of the National Honor Society and the National Society of High School Scholars. She was the dance director for her school’s choreography and performance class and captain of her school’s dance team her junior and senior years. Outside of school, Taylor danced competitively for 10 years and cheered both competitively and on the sidelines at her school for two years. While holding titles for four years in the Miss America Organization, Taylor created her social impact initiative, Drive Alive, to help teens practicing defensive driving. She spoke in multiple drivers’ education classes across North Carolina and was the guest speaker at the Johnston County Teen Drivers Luncheon. Taylor has ambitions to become an editor of a fashion magazine and looks forward to taking advantage of the opportunities she will be given as a Communications Fellow at Elon.
Lily Billingsley grew up in Fairway, Kansas, where she graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School. For three-quarters of her high school career she was a part of the school newspaper, The Harbinger, as a copy editor, section editor, writer and designer. It was here that she found an interest in communications – whether that be designing a page in the most visually interesting way or convincing a local business to advertise in the paper. With interests in both journalism and marketing, Elon’s School of Communications is her best of both worlds. Lily was also the captain of the varsity swim team in high school, as well as a part of DECA, Student Council, Link Crew and National Honor Society. In her free time, she can be found searching for color palettes for her next design and keeping way too up-to-date with pop culture news. Always ready to travel, Lily also hopes to study abroad during her time at Elon. She is so excited to study Strategic Communications and learn everything she can through the Communications Fellows program.
Brynja Burton was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, where she graduated from Fairview High School. There, she was a well-rounded student who participated in National Honor Society, the leadership team to guide underclassmen, community service and multiple clubs. She also participated in club hockey all four years, serving as the assistant captain twice. She loves sports and has been immersed in that culture since she was born. In particular, Brynja has attended many different sporting events, participated in multiple sports, and coached hockey. She is also extremely passionate about women’s equality in sports, especially because of current events, her own research and her participation in a male-dominated sport. Outside of school, Brynja loves photography, hiking, interior designing, watching sports and traveling. She is beyond excited and honored to be a Communications Fellow and to study Sport Management.
Claire Cohen was born and raised in Winnetka, Illinois. There, she graduated from New Trier High School, where she made honor roll all four years. She participated in various extracurricular activities during her high school career and held many leadership roles. She was an executive director of her high school’s student Council and an outreach coordinator for Erika’s Lighthouse. Claire also was part of an after-school program called Special Gifts Theatre, where she worked with special needs kids once a week for the last eight years. She did this while holding a steady job since sophomore year as a manager at Graeters, a local ice cream shop. Claire’s interest in movies began when she was invited to work on a feature film her sophomore year. Soon after, she became first assistant director and co-producer of the film and fell in love with the art. She later co-founded a production company called Little Lake Productions and made dozens of short films, all of which got accepted into various festivals, including the All-American High School Film Festival. As of today, she has officially completed her second feature film as a producer and has worked half a dozen gigs, ranging from photographer to wedding videographer. Claire is excited to be a part of Elon’s Communications Fellows program, and she is honored to have the opportunity to meet like-minded people and gain valuable experience to help her pursue a career in communications.
Carter Craig grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he graduated from Providence Day School as a member of the National Honor Society. He began playing music at a young age, taking piano lessons from the age of 5 and competing in a variety of regional, national and international competitions. In high school, he joined the Providence Day Sports Network, his school’s student-run game management and broadcasting organization, where he developed an interest in broadcast production and became co-leader of the organization in his junior and senior years. As co-leader, he helped run daily and weekly broadcasts of sporting events for his school. Through his continued musical education, he also gained an appreciation for how music can shape the pacing of a production, which led him to experiment with filmmaking in his free time. He also enjoys mountain biking, gaming, drone piloting and watching motorsport. Carter is looking forward to furthering his exploration of the field of communications through the Communications Fellows program and the next phase of his life at Elon.
Rachael Curington was born and raised in Chicago, where she graduated from De La Salle Institute. During her high school career, Rachael participated in cross country, journalism, choir, drama and Ambassador Club, in which she held an executive role. Rachael has a passion for writing and getting stories across to wide audiences. You can always see Rachael with a piece of notebook paper somewhere in sight that’s scattered story ideas from a stricken epiphany. Rachael was also responsible for organizing events for the school year, as the Ambassador Club heavily relied on participation and dedication to making the school a place that served all students’ needs. Rachael is ecstatic to start this school year as a Communications Fellow and to study Cinema & Television Arts.
Kacy Figueroa grew up in a military household, where he was fortunate enough to live across the United States and the islands of Palau and Saipan. He graduated with honors from Prince George High School in Prince George, Virginia, where he was a part of the Prince George Chamber Singers, National Beta Association, Deca Association and Student Government Association. He was also on the school’s varsity track and field team and player volleyball and baseball. Outside of school, he hung out with friends and family, participated in community theatre and enjoyed Dodgers baseball games. He is also an Odyssey Scholar and is looking forward to spending the next few years at Elon as a Communications Fellow.
Tess Hawthorne is from Brookfield, Connecticut, but has lived in Germany since 2016. A 2021 graduate of the Frankfurt International School and winner of the Athletic Director Award, Tess has traveled and played sports extensively throughout Europe. She started playing softball at age 5 and competed on her school’s varsity team, where was awarded MVP and named captain multiple times. As the Student Athletic Council president and co-founder of the Sports Event Team, she planned events that ignited school spirit and formed new communities. As an expat, Tess has been able to expand her travel experience. Highlights include paragliding in Chamonix, France, and hiking from Fira to Oia in Santorini. Tess is proud to be a Communications Fellow majoring in Sport Management and Marketing and is thrilled to be a Phoenix.
Abigail Hobbs grew up in Boca Raton, Florida, where she graduated from American Heritage School. She has been passionate about writing and reading from an early age, inspiring her leadership in the Live Poets Society club and newspaper, The Stallion Sentinel. As editor-in-chief, Abby won multiple state and nationwide awards based on her writing and designing. She was an active member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society and Model United Nations. Outside of school, she is passionate about volunteering for organizations, including the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Good Karma Pet Rescue. As a member of her school’s Young Politicians’ Club, she became an avid advocate, pushing her toward her passion for journalism. She enjoys travel and being outdoors. Abby is eager to start her journey at Elon University, and she plans on majoring in Journalism.
Ashley Josey is a Thales Academy graduate from Cary, North Carolina, with a fierce passion for devising meaningful multimedia content. Throughout her time in high school, Ashley fused her spark for design and visual storytelling with a drive to serve her community. What began as a simple T-shirt design for her school’s Key Club later progressed into a longstanding position heading all public relations for the club, from managing social media accounts to regularly producing event flyers. Ashley also found a home for her creative curiosity as a National Honor Society executive, leading a school-wide public service announcement project to uplift and unite her peers amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Off campus, Ashley furthered her aspiration to design for good by producing marketing materials for Key Leader, an international non-profit, to reach thousands of students across North and South Carolina. Aside from designing, Ashley has also developed a strong appreciation for the power of the lens through her experience editing and directing mini-documentaries in high school, in addition to pursuing recreational photography. Beyond the communications field, Ashley enjoys getting outdoors, enriching her understanding of other cultures through travel and leading a sustainability-oriented lifestyle. She is eager to build upon these interests and discover unique ways to make a powerful impact at Elon and beyond as a Communications Fellow.
Leslie Aviles Mendoza was born and raised in Burlington, North Carolina. She graduated from Hugh M. Cummings High School in the top five of her graduating class. She was on the Honor Roll throughout her high school career. During the pandemic, she maintained leadership roles in the Multicultural Club and the College Ambassadors. Both organizations were important to her because of her desire to help students throughout the college application process and to create a diverse environment where students felt comfortable being themselves. She is resilient and is determined to make a positive influence on the community that has helped build her. Growing up, she spoke two languages and quickly realized the importance of communication. to bring people closer together. She became interested in studying communications when she saw it correlated with her interests in music and film. Leslie is excited and grateful to be a Communications Fellow and is ready to branch out in this new chapter of her life.
Alexa Morrissey grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where she graduated from NSU University School. Throughout high school, she was involved in student government, and she served as the Student Council President during her junior and senior years. In addition to public policy and leadership, Alexa has an immense passion for the performing arts. She was involved in dance and theater throughout her high school career, and she choreographed her own vibrant and lively piece entitled “Last Dance” for her senior project. Alexa is excited to be a Communications Fellow primarily to further her research regarding the mental health of news journalists and reporters. During her junior year, she created “Newsroom Mayhem,” a mass media podcast miniseries that exposed the harsh and raw realities of what it takes to be a successful journalist working today. Alexa’s podcast miniseries secured her nomination for a Miami Herald Silver Knight Award, an honor that recognizes high achievements both in the classroom and in the community. Alexa enjoys going to the beach, going out with friends and family, and playing with her dog, Rocky, in her spare time. She is truly thrilled to be joining the Phoenix family, and she is equally honored to be a Communications Fellow. She is yearning to continue to challenge herself and to collaborate with her peers on innovative and impactful projects.
Benjamin Ohlmeyer was born and raised in Austin, Texas, where he attended Westlake High School. As a member of his school’s football broadcast crew, Ben worked as a camera operator for 36 live football games, which aired on the NBC affiliate KBVO. During his junior year, Ben created new graphical elements to complement the addition of a professional-grade scorebar. Senior year, Ben was tasked with learning and teaching other students how to operate the program’s new high-powered lens. Ben also co-edited the end-of-season highlight videos for the back-to-back state champion Westlake football team and was awarded a state championship medal for outstanding editing work. As a member of his school’s technical entertainment crew, Ben worked on eight Broadway-level theater productions as a camera operator, director and head of lighting. Also during his senior year, Ben spent 60 hours over two weeks programming an advanced moving light show for the finale of Westlake Hyline’s Zenith. In addition to his high school experience, Ben has worked over 500 hours on professional productions for ESPN, the SEC Network, the Longhorn Network and the Tennis Channel. He has covered football, tennis, basketball, volleyball, track and field, golf and competitive eating. Ben is excited to continue in the communications field and explore new opportunities at Elon.
Emanuel Parada Peralta grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was raised in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he attended Wilmington Early College High School. Emanuel graduated cum laude with CFCC distinction, and graduated from the CFCC Honors program. Outside of academics, he was an active member of the ambassador’s team at WECHS and received an award for his volunteering service while at Wilmington Early College. He has a love for sports that started at the early age of 6, watching soccer and basketball. He is eager to explore other cultures and their relationship with sports.
Madison Powers graduated from St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, South Carolina, with high honors. As part of a military family, she grew up moving around and living in places like Texas, Louisiana and Tanzania, all of which inspired her love of travel. Madison was an active member of her school’s Student Council for three years, serving as both a class representative and a publicity chair. She ran cross country and track throughout high school and was a captain her last two years. Madison took an interest in writing from a young age and, as an intended Journalism major, is excited to explore all of the reporting opportunities at Elon. She has always loved visual media, especially photography, and is looking forward to combining her passion for photography and writing as she pursues her degree. Madison loves to read and paint, spend time with family and friends, and travel with a camera in hand. She is grateful and excited to be a Communications Fellow and is ready to learn more about the field of journalism at Elon.
Caroline Putman grew up in Decatur, Georgia, where she graduated from Decatur High School as a part of the IB career program with a focus in media. She has had a love for journalism and communications ever since she was a child. While in high school, she was an avid member of her high school’s journalism program, serving as the host of their news show, “The DEC,” and an editor and author for their website and magazine 3ten.org and Carpe Diem. After witnessing a decline in membership for the program, she co-founded a journalism club at her local middle school dedicated to fostering an interest in journalism among youth and promoting diversity. Caroline also dedicated much of her time to her school’s theater program, serving as a stage manager and president of her International Thespian Society troupe. During her senior year, she served as the communications intern for a local non-profit called the Decatur Education Foundation. Her free time consists of working as a camp counselor and photographer at YMCA Camp Cosby in Alabama. Caroline is looking forward to studying Strategic Communications at Elon and is honored to have been named a Communications Fellow.
Abby Reed spent the first half of her life in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and the past nine years in State College, Pennsylvania. She graduated with honors from State College Area High School. During high school, Abby was part of her school’s publications team and served as editor-in-chief of the yearbook her senior year. Abby was also an inaugural member of the EmpowHer club, which is a group focused on serving and growing as leaders in the community. Sports have always been a part of Abby’s life. All four years of high school she played on her school’s tennis team. One of her bucket list items is to watch the Wimbledon tennis tournament in England. In her free time, Abby enjoys playing piano, sewing and hanging out with her twin sister. On the weekends, she volunteers at a local fabric shop called Scraps and Skeins, an organization that sells donated fabrics with all proceeds going to the Strawberry Fields Foundation. Abby is looking forward to being a Communications Fellow and exploring the field of communications at Elon.
Callie Reing grew up in McLean, Virgina, and graduated from Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School. In addition to receiving an AP Scholar Award and being a member of the French Honor Society throughout high school, Callie was involved in a variety of extracurriculars, including robotics, yearbook, Think Pink and Best Buddies. Living so close to Washington, D.C., she capitalized on the opportunities to show support for things that matter to her, such as attending Cure Fest and friendship walks. While in high school, Callie played basketball, track and varsity soccer for three years. Outside of school, Callie also played and captained club soccer for McLean. Through playing, managing and watching sports, Callie realized her interest in sport management and a fascination with how the media and advertisements can implement different strategies to effectively promote a company or brand. Callie hopes to learn more about these topics over the next four years as a Strategic Communications major and is excited to be part of the Communications Fellows program.
Jose Alex Reyes was born and raised in Burlington, North Carolina, and graduated from Hugh M. Cummings High School. A first-generation Mexican-American student, Jose Alex was co-president of the Multicultural Club and the College Ambassadors at his school. He was also involved in programs outside of school. In the first grade, he became a part of the Village Project, a program dedicated to helping students in Alamance County that also later directed him to the Elon Academy, which helps first-generation students get to college. Everything he’s participated in has made him aware of the environment he’s lived in, made him resilient and inspired him to create change. During the pandemic, Jose Alex was recognized as a 2020 LatinxEd 20 Under 20 Listmaker, a distinction for students based on their scholarships, community service and leadership. At a young age, he creatively conveyed his emotion and visually showcased his way of thinking. In high school, he used media to illustrate how he was feeling, which sparked his interest in something relating to communications and the music/entertainment industry. Jose Alex is honored to be a Communications Fellows and plans to give back to the community he grew up in. He is excited to start the new chapter in his life.
Sebastian Schroeter graduated from the Lovett School in Atlanta. He lived in Montreal for four years. He has always been an avid sports fan and athlete, playing basketball, soccer and football from a young age. In high school, he dedicated more of his time to basketball and picked up track and field in his sophomore year, becoming a high jumper. Sebastian was active in his school community: He joined Black affinity groups and leadership and diversity councils at his respective schools in the United States and Canada. He embraced the arts through music and was chosen to be a part of his high school’s prolific jazz program, playing trumpet and the French horn before that. Sebastian competed on basketball teams that were highly successful in the postseason, most memorably making the Final Four in 2021. Sebastian hopes to pursue sports on the court on the club basketball team and in the classroom as a Sport Management major. He also hopes to study film and videography. Sebastian is excited to see what the future holds as a Communications Fellow and hopes to take advantage of everything available to him from the first day on campus.
Taylor Scott is from Raleigh, North Carolina, where she graduated from Leesville Road High School. While in school, Taylor was a student ambassador, a member of the Spanish Honor Society and a member of the Journalism Honor Society. Taylor joined her school’s yearbook her sophomore year and served as the student life section editor her junior year. Taylor later showcased her writing skills as academics editor-in-chief of the yearbook during the final semester of her senior year. Taylor graduated a semester early and spent what would have been the second half of her senior year taking a writing class at Wake Technical Community College. Outside of school, Taylor spends her free time playing the violin, reading and miming. Taylor began taking violin lessons in her freshman year of high school. Her love for reading began in elementary school, and it has since been a constant in her life. Taylor began miming, which is a liturgical dance, at the age of 8. As she began to grow into her gift, she performed at a nationally broadcasted conference, which gave her a firsthand glimpse of televised productions and afforded her the opportunity to learn about advertising strategies. Taylor is planning to major in Journalism and hopes to pursue endeavors where she can further develop her writing skills. Taylor is honored to be a Communications Fellow and looks forward to continuing to grow and learn.
Abby Shamblin is from Knoxville, Tennessee. Her passion for communication formed throughout high school as she explored her creativity through theater and film. Abby participated in several plays with a local theatre group and studied theatre in her junior year class, “Studies of Shakespeare.” Abby also developed a love of filmmaking as she helped write, direct, film and edit several short videos in her English classes. She was elected vice president of her school’s chapter of the National Beta Club. Abby plans to study Media Analytics, a passion she was excited to begin exploring through her volunteer work at her local Habitat for Humanity’s corporate office. In her free time, Abby loves baking, reading and spending time with her family. She also loves to travel and has visited Israel and many places throughout Europe. Abby is thrilled to continue her education at Elon and is honored to be a part of the Communications Fellows.
Gianna Smurro grew up in Manalapan, New Jersey, and graduated from the selective Law and Public Service Magnet Program at Colts Neck High School, which fostered her passion for digital media and communications. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society and Italian Honor Society, and she has received a Seal of Biliteracy in Italian. She has been dancing since she was 3 years old and began competing competitively at the age of 7. She was a member of her school’s varsity dance team for four years and was the captain her junior and senior years. Gianna is also an active member of service organizations, as she served as the vice president and advertising chair of her school’s chapter of Free The Children. She is a certified catechist and taught and prepared second and eighth-grade students for their sacraments at her church. In her senior year, she co-founded a service-learning project called Tokens of Community Kindness, which focused on bringing her community together through holiday-centered activities, events and community service opportunities. Gianna is excited to continue her education at Elon University as a Communications Fellow studying Cinema & Television Arts and Political Science.
Samantha Sussman grew up in Overland Park, Kansas, but completed high school at Castle View High School in Castle Rock, Colorado. She graduated as an AP Scholar with highest honors and as a member of Quill and Scroll International Honor Society, National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society. Additionally, Samantha became a leader for the Sources of Strength branch at Castle View, spreading mental health and suicide awareness. She furthered her leadership skills as both a new student ambassador and Link Leader supporting incoming first-year students. Samantha plans on majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish. Her passion for storytelling was discovered when she joined the school newspaper her junior year at Castle View, and her dedication earned her the position of copy editor in only her second year on staff. After countless years studying the Spanish language, Samantha had the opportunity to become immersed in the culture while staying with a host family on her trip to Spain. This furthered her desire to continue learning the language and culture. Samantha is excited to be a Communications Fellow and to see what the future will hold at Elon.
Devon Sweeney grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and lived walking distance from her high school, Gwynedd Mercy Academy High School. After four years in a small all-girls school, Devon is more than excited to attend a university with a greater variety of students. In high school, Devon loved playing and managing soccer. Devon was vice president of the National Honor Society and committee member of the LEAD (Learn, Educate, Achieve, Develop) program. Her favorite class was the Broadcasting and Communications. She has a strong passion for all types of entertainment but a special affinity for television and film. After taking Acting for the Camera classes at her local theater, Devon was inspired to found a film club at her high school. Devon hasn’t yet decided on which area of communications to study, so she is looking forward to exploring and finding her niche in any of the amazing concentrations the School of Communications offers. Another of Devon’s loves is traveling and experiencing other cities around the world, and so she is eager to partake in study abroad programs.
Charlotte Turner is from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she graduated from Ronald W. Reagan High School. While at Reagan, she was involved in student government and was class vice president for three years and student body president her senior year. She created and organized student events, led student forums, represented her school in a statewide student leadership involvement convention and managed the student government social media pages. Charlotte was also involved in National Honor Society, Crosby Scholars and Latin Club. She was a cheerleader all four years at Reagan and loved encouraging her classmates. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering with special-needs teens through Young Life Capernaum. She created a company to make and sell LEGO jewelry that raised funds for Sally’s Angels, a non-profit that supports families with special-needs children. Her love for communications and journalism began her sophomore year when she joined the staff of her school newspaper, The Rooster. She developed, wrote, designed and edited content for her school’s online and print newspaper and her articles won Best News awards from a national high school newspaper organization. During her senior year, Charlotte became the editor-in-chief for The Rooster. She is extremely honored to be a Communications Fellow and plans to pursue her interest in social media management and advertising through the Strategic Communications major.