2012-13 AmeriCorps VISTA Abstracts

American University

Bio: Andalisa Lopez is a recent graduate of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania with a double major in Psychology and Media Communications. During her undergraduate years she began engaging with several nonprofits working with Allentown youth through a mentoring and tutoring program as well as with area refugees. While Andalisa enjoys directly engaging with community members, she is also interested in social justice more broadly. In collaboration with several like-minded students she helped form the Social Justice Collaborative, a student organization dedicated to reflecting on social issues both domestically and internationally. She is excited to join the DC Reads team at American University and to engage with her new home, Washington DC.

Project Description: The MDCCC-VISTA will assist with coordinating the DC Reads (DCR) tutoring program at American University (AU) and the DC Reads university-wide at various D.C. institutions. Each university, throughout the District of Columbia, has a program that recruits university tutors and supports youth in underserved schools. The MDCCC-VISTA will work to increase the capacity of the American University DC Reads program in the areas of community partnership, best practices, program efficiency and impact, leadership and sustainability, along with the implementation of a large scale assessment of community partners and the impact of the program. They will create a resource web page to inform the community of services available and to provide an online process for learning between universities. Other specific duties of the MDCCC-VISTA include coordinating educational events designed to raise campus and community awareness regarding academic achievement and inequalities in education and acting as a DC Reads team member in the CCES.

Carroll Community College

Bio: Kim McShane, a NJ native, primarily grew up in Pittsburgh and now resides in Westminster, MD. She graduated in 2009 with an Associate’s Degree in Arts and Sciences from Carroll Community College. She then transferred to McDaniel College and graduate in 2011 with a Bacheolor’s in Sociology. At CCC and McDaniel, Kim became very passionate about service-learning. She participated in many service projects and trips such as working with Catholic Charities and spending several spring breaks building houses with Habitat for Humanity in West Virginia. This is Kim’s second year as a VISTA at CCC. After completing this term of service, she looks forward to earning her M.S. in School Counseling.

Project Description: The MDCCC-VISTA will assist in providing grocery assistance to the faculty, staff, and students of Carroll Community College through the Carroll Food Locker Program. With donations from the college community and a partnership with a local food pantry housed in one of the public schools, the goal is to provide basic groceries (both perishable and non-perishable) to those in need. Once a member of the Food Locker Program, the faculty, staff, or student will be introduced to all of the programs and services offered by the Human Services Program (HSP) of Carroll County. The MDCCC-VISTA will work on developing workshops, policies, procedures, and partnerships as well as partnerships with Robert Moton Elementary School and the Gateway School.

Chesapeake College

Bio: Sara Jones is from Marydel on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She graduated from Chesapeake College in 2010 with her AA in Liberal Arts and Sciences and will soon graduate from University of Maryland, University College with her BS in Emergency Management and minor in Homeland Security. While at Chesapeake she became involved with Habitat for Humanity and went on trips to New Orleans, Louisiana and Nashville, Tennessee as well as volunteered at her local Habitat branch. After working alongside AmeriCorps volunteers and Habitat she discovered her passion for volunteering and giving back to the community. Sara is looking forward to returning to Chesapeake College as a MDCCC-VISTA.

Project Description: The MDCCC-VISTA at Chesapeake College will work with the Habitat for Humanity project to continue the multi-year partnership serving Dorchester and Talbot Counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The Habitat Choptank organization is currently in a large-scale building program focused on putting up 25 houses in the next five years. By working with the organization both on site and in their efforts to work with potential homeowners, the MDCCC-VISTA will build the capacity of this locally respected organization. Additionally, the MDCCC-VISTA will continue to research, develop, and recruit facilitators for a workshop series on financial literacy to help our students better understand poverty, coordinate local service projects to meet community needs, recruit volunteers for service projects thru Chesapeake College resources, and finally, research and coordinate recognition (including scholarships) for volunteers.

Hood College

Bio: Monique Sledd earned her BA in Psychology with minors in Biology and Sociology from Hood College in May 2011 and is currently studying in the Hood College Master of Arts in Human Sciences program. As an undergraduate, Monique discovered her passion for helping others and giving back to her college and community through organizational leadership and service opportunities. Monique also took time to volunteer at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Frederick County with underprivileged children in the community.

Project Description: The MDCCC-VISTA at Hood College will assist in the development and coordination of partnering Hood College students with the Frederick Community Action Agency, an organization which administers programs and services to assist disadvantaged and low-income people, thereby ameliorating the effects of poverty. The major programs and services operated by the Frederick Community Action Agency can be categorized into six (6) broad program areas: Food and Nutrition Programs; Outreach and Transportation Programs; Health Care Programs; Homeless Service Programs; Case Management and Housing Counseling Programs; and Weatherization and Housing Assistance Programs.

Johns Hopkins University

Bio: Leanne Demery grew up in Evanston, IL a suburb bordering Chicago. In Fall 2011 she Graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BS double major in French and History of Science (Medicine focus) and a certificate in Global Health. She spent her last semester at University of Paris 7-Diderot in France focusing on critical studies and theories. In Madison, Leanne served the community as science club leader at a local elementary school and as an AIDS Network volunteer. She also serves the global community as a research intern for a non-profit organization called Physicians for Haiti. After graduation Leanne moved to Chicago where she worked as an EMT before coming to Baltimore.

Project Description: The MDCCC VISTA at Johns Hopkins University will work with the Food as Medicine program, a complimentary daytime service-learning program for Waverly Elementary/Middle School sixth graders. Food as Medicine works within the school day on empowering youth leadership in promoting healthy lifestyles within the student population. The MDCCC VISTA will develop and mentor JHU student leadership to implement the program, along with conducting outreach to Waverly teachers to help identify a faculty adviser for a year two school club for program graduates.

Loyola University Maryland

Bio: Marie McSweeney graduated in 2011 from Loyola with a BA in Global Studies and Writing. This will be her second year as an AmeriCorps member. Prior to her position at Loyola she worked as a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator at Digital Harbor High School in South Baltimore, recruiting volunteers and encouraging parent involvement. She is excited to be back in the Loyola community, her second home, and the place that nurtured her desire to serve as an undergrad. She feels grateful to be able to serve the community neighboring Loyola and hopes to encourage positive change in the York Road Corridor this service year.

Project Description: The MDCCC VISTA at Loyola University Maryland will continue to identify, coordinate, evaluate, and implement a variety of projects and efforts that support the York Road/Govans community, including strengthening existing York Road businesses and organizations, and attracting new businesses to operate along the corridor. The MDCCC VISTA will develop sustainable models for their projects, including the Govanstowne Farmers Market, and establish long-term links between Loyola resources and the community.

Maryland Institute College of Art

Bio: Jennifer McKenzie is a Louisville, Kentucky native. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 2010 with degrees in Voice Performance, Linguistics, and a minor in Spanish, and went on to complete an MA in Ethnomusicology at the Eastman School of Music this past May. She spent a semester at the University of Granada, focusing on Spanish Linguistics and Musicology. This time abroad was a foundation of her thesis work at Eastman, which dealt with the concept of “authenticity” as it is expressed in flamenco performance in the United States. She is a strong supporter of arts education for all students as a way to build creativity, create new avenues of expression and communication, and open up new opportunities. She hopes to continue her education at the doctoral level, and leverage this background to continue work in community engagement through the arts.

Project Description: The MDCCC VISTA at Maryland Institute College of Art will establish relationships with the local middle and high schools to develop educational and service opportunities for their students on the MICA campus. Currently, MICA’s Community Arts Partnerships office facilitates an on-campus art club for high school students from Carver High School, a school that does not offer fine arts and design coursework. The MDCCC VISTA will develop similar relationships with other Baltimore City schools local to the MICA campus in an effort to introduce students to a college campus and the possibility of a collegiate education, teach specific skills related to future careers in fine arts and design, and integrate community engagement into the arts education experience.

McDaniel College

Bio: Samantha Lopez graduated from McDaniel College. During her undergraduate career she was a part of the national service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, McDaniel productions of the Vagina Monologues, and GLSEN of Carroll County steering committee and executive board. She is excited to be working with AmeriCorps because she believes poverty is a global concern that breaks the barriers of race, gender, sexuality etc.

Project Description: The MDCCC VISTA at McDaniel College will work to strengthen the relationship between McDaniel and the Westminster community, particularly through the local nonprofit, Higher Learning, Inc. (HL). Founded in Westminster by former McDaniel faculty member, Dr. Roxanna Harlow, HL is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization offering educational enrichment, beyond standard school curriculum, for underserved youth (ages 11-17). The MDCCC VISTA will recruit volunteers for HL from McDaniel, focusing on the first generation population, will help maintain and expand programming to serve a greater number of students, and will research grants and other fundraising avenues, interview and orient volunteers, and create a volunteer handbook. They will also increase HL’s ties to the nonprofit community by attending the Westminster Community Services Council.

Morgan State University

Bio: Carolyn Ingram is a native of North Carolina and has more than ten years of experience working in the public sector, focusing on higher education, college access, and grant administration. She is a graduate of Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she studied American Government. She is currently serving as coordinator for the Financial Literacy Program at Morgan State University.

Project Description: The MDCCC-VISTA at Morgan State University will continue development and implementation of the financial literacy program for at-risk freshmen and their families participating in the Access Orientation Program. The MDCCC-VISTA will research, develop and facilitate the financial literacy aspects of the program based on existing, successful financial literacy model programs, and coordinate the service project for the students in partnership with PNC Bank. They will also recruit and coordinate peer mentors for the program, and investigate possible sources of funding for scholarships for program graduates.

Notre Dame University Maryland

Bio: Erica Sickelbaugh, a High Point, NC native, received her dual BS in Microbiology and Biological Sciences and a minor in Spanish from North Carolina State University and her MPH from University of North Carolina at Greensboro. During her time at NC State, Erica had opportunities to serve in public health facets in El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. During her graduate studies, Erica served as a research assistant with Young Mom’s Connect, a statewide initiative to reduce teen pregnancies and provide support for pregnant and parenting teens and young women. She has also spent time in Zambia working on a public health initiative involving HIV/AIDS and home health care.

Project Description: The MDCCC-VISTA at Notre Dame of Maryland University will be responsible for creating, implementing and supporting programs geared toward healthy futures for students at both Mother Seton Academy and Notre Dame of Maryland University. They will develop a comprehensive wellness program for our community members including, but not limited to, healthy living and exercise for middle school students, and provide multiple community service opportunities per month with agencies that are committed to ending childhood obesity, in addition to Mother Seton outreach programs. The MDCCC-VISTA will also create specific workshops on health and train NDMU students to present said workshops to other community partners, along with an electronic monthly newsletter detailing healthy habits, exercise tips, cooking alternatives, etc. aimed at college students.

Prince George’s Community College

Bio: Victoria Saunders is from Oxon Hill, MD. She recently graduated from Prince Georges Community College and majored in Accounting.This is her first year as an AmeriCorps Vista. She is excited for all the possibilities this service year will bring and is ready to positively impact her community.

Project Description: The MDCCC VISTA at Prince George’s Community College will create a coalition of community organizations to support the development of free tax preparation sites within Prince George’s County. The MDCCC VISTA will identify and develop partnerships with community organizations that are interested in hosting sustained free tax programs at their locations and will develop an outreach program of student and community volunteers that will staff the sites, after being trained and certified through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program of the Internal Revenue Service. Ultimately, the MDCCC VISTA will work to expand the number of free VITA tax preparation sites from one primary site at to at least six sites hosted by community organizations throughout Prince George’s County.

Stevenson University

Bio: Hope Marshall is from Baltimore County Maryland. Right after high school, she enlisted in the US Navy and served 7 years. Hope then returned to Maryland and later graduated from Towson University with a BS in Sociology/Anthropology. She began her career in Human Services in 2006, specializing in challenging populations. Passionate about empowerment through literacy and true vocation, Hope later attained her Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages(TESOL) Certificate from University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and currently volunteers as an ESL tutor at the Esperanza Center in Baltimore. She intends to continue to serve the Baltimore community, and pursue her passion of adult literacy and vocational support.

Project Description: The MDCCC VISTA at Stevenson University will create a system of communication among community organizations, assist in sharing resources to serve the target population in an effort to maximize state and federal resources, and support efforts to reach Veterans living in the Baltimore area. The MDCCC VISTA will coordinate programming to provide career and life skills advice, addressing root causes of veteran homelessness by supporting veterans before they find it difficult to maintain a home or employment. Finally, the MDCCC-VISTA will connect veterans to educational resources needed to achieve career ambitions through information sessions on higher education and support workshops for student veterans.

Towson University

Bio: Mesha Byrd is from Atlanta, GA. She graduated from Georgia Southern University in May 2012 with a BBA in Regional Economic Development with an emphasis in development and policy. During her undergraduate career she expressed her passion for service by leading and participating in different service opportunities. She was a participant and trip leader for three Alternative break trips to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Freeport, Bahamas, and Pensacola, FL. Additionally, she served as a Community Liaison for the Performance learning Program at Statesboro High school where she recruited Georgia Southern students to serve as tutors and mentors for students in the Performance Learning Program. Mesha is really excited about her year as a MDCCC VISTA at Towson University.

Project Description: The MDCCC VISTA at Towson University will continue working to leverage resources to support individual and community success and to address needs including low student performance levels in reading and math, low student interest in science and math, poor nutrition due to lack of access to healthy food and lack of information, child obesity, teen pregnancy, and a lack of after-school programming to provide positive experiences for students. This will occur through support of the Cherry Hill Learning Zone Initiative (CHLZI) which began in 2005 as a partnership between Towson University, Baltimore City government, the Baltimore City Public School System, and neighborhood organizations with the goal to build upon the strengths of the Cherry Hill community and to meet its needs and nurture its potential in the areas of economic, community, and educational development.

University of Baltimore

Bio: Erica Symonds is from Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012 with a BA in International Studies and Political Science. As an undergraduate, she was involved in a variety of student organizations including WISPIRG and the Madison Student Vote Coalition and studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which was an eye-opening experience. Erica developed a strong interest in advocacy and hopes to continue to do work that promotes equality.

Project Description: The MDCCC VISTA at The University of Baltimore will increase the scope and reach of Money Matters, a Financial Education program designed to address issues of poverty and financial stability for persons living in the four Central Baltimore neighborhoods – Barclay, Old Goucher, Charles North and Greenmount West. They will be responsible for coordinating five financial education sessions per semester at a variety of locations within Central Baltimore. The MDCCC VISTA will work with a customized curriculum provided by the Maryland CASH (Creating Assets, Sustainability, and Hope) Campaign and will continue to strengthen the relationship with Central Baltimore Partnership to expand the reach and effectiveness of the program.

University of Maryland, Baltimore

Bio: Alexis McClellan is from Baltimore County, Maryland. She graduated from Salem College in 2012 with a BS degree in Biology. Her passion has always been to help people, which is consistent with her goal of becoming a physician in the near future. Her increasing interest in eradicating health disparities began with an internship at the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, where she studied the effect of illnesses on cognitive decline. Alexis looks forward to creating service learning health initiatives through her current VISTA position at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. After her VISTA year, Alexis hopes to take some additional classes before applying to medical school.

Project Description: The MDCCC VISTA at the University of Maryland, Baltimore will work to increase and coordinate health services-focused service opportunities with an emphasis on combating health inequalities in impoverished communities, coordinate advocacy programs linked to the needs of the community, and assist the schools with navigating the extensive network of UM outreach resources available enrich the children’s experiences. They will assist the schools with navigating the extensive network of UM outreach resources available, explore partnerships with other community schools, and serve as the primary point of contact to support each community school’s “action plan.” Additionally, the MDCCC VISTA will also advise campus student leaders on service project execution and act as a liaison between the University and its surrounding community.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Bio: Faiza Haq is a Maryland resident and recently graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) with a BS in Psychology. Faiza was involved in many service projects during her time at UMBC due to her involvement with Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity dedicated to serving the community and nation as a whole. Faiza was also involved with SGA and hopes to tie in her work with the MDCCC to these two organizations that have significant impact on the UMBC campus.

Project Description: The MDCCC-VISTA at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County will work with the Arbutus school to develop a strong infrastructure that can support the academic success of students who will benefit the most from the Homework Club tutoring efforts. They will work with the principal, teachers, and AMS students to increase retention and continuity of student attendance, and they will work within the UMBC campus community to recruit service-learning students who can provide after-school support in the Homework Club. The MDCCC-VISTA will also work to develop educational opportunities aimed at parents to address issues currently facing AMS students, from awareness and prevention of bullying to appropriate use/monitoring of Facebook.

University of Maryland, College Park

Bio: Shane Bryan graduated from the University of South Dakota with a BS in Political Science and Communication Studies in 2011 and became a MDCCC VISTA in August 2011 at the University of Maryland, College Park. He enjoys being an active member of his community and started getting involved at a young age. While working with at-risk youth at a local community center, Shane realized that his passion was to provide outlets for youth to be able to succeed. As an undergraduate, he became involved with Alternative Week of Off-Campus Learning (AWOL), holding various roles within the organization, from participant to Board President, and realized the importance of hands-on service-learning and local community engagement. He enjoys getting involved with his local community, playing sports, being in the outdoors, or simply grilling out with friends. Shane is looking forward to his second year as a MDCCC VISTA at the University of Maryland, College Park and working closely with Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, MD. 

Project Description: The MDCCC VISTA at the University of Maryland, College Park will continue to build the Northwestern Connections network, and create a manual to be used by others to lead this group. They will also continue to connect resources from UMD with needs identified by Northwestern High School. The MDCCC VISTA will build a website of the partnership between NHS and the University that will be hosted on both the UMD and NHS web pages, so it can be accessed by both communities.

Washington Adventist University

Bio: Kassie May Edwards graduated from the Florida State University in 2010 with a BA in African American Studies. During her undergraduate tenure, she developed a desire to give back to the community by involving herself in student organizations that encouraged mentorship and informal education through museum studies. Her eagerness to help young people became a focus after noticing the lack of a culturally diverse curriculum in public school systems. That lead her to being a an AmeriCorps Museum Educator at Providence Children’s Museum. She loved the positive effects her diversity curriculum and teacher workshops had on children and educators that she decided to come to WAU and pursue another year as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

Project Description: The MDCCC VISTA at Washington Adventist University will be the program coordinator for the First-Generation Ambassadors Program and will select the Ambassadors and facilitate workshops for the Ambassadors aimed at supporting their adjustment to college life. They will also facilitate interactions with parents by preparing a student newsletter, coordinate service projects in collaboration with Adventist Community Service of Greater Washington and identify funding sources for the Ambassadors so they can focus on their academic achievement while in college.