2014-15 VISTA Project Abstracts

MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA Leader

Bio: Katlin Meissinger previously served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina with the Center for Career and Civic Engagement. Katlin holds a BA in English Language and Literature with a minor in Human Development from University of Maryland, College Park. Born and raised in Baltimore, Katlin enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and spending time with family. 

Project Description: The Maryland-DC Campus Compact (MDCCC) AmeriCorps VISTA Leader will work directly with the 20 MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTAs placed at higher education institutions across the Maryland-DC region to encourage and promote the expansion of service and quality campus-community partnerships. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA Leader will support and coordinate 20 MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTAs as they address poverty in their local communities through creating and deepening partnerships between institutions of higher education and the surrounding communities throughout the Maryland-DC region. The role of the MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA Leader is divided in two areas: 1) supporting the 20 MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTAs and their host-campuses in program development and sustainability, and 2) supporting the development of Maryland-DC Campus Compact. As an administrative position, the MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA Leader will work with the 20 MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTAs and their supervisors, not directly with college students or community members. Applicants must have previous experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA member.

Carroll Community College

Bio: Amanda Gardiner resides in Taneytown, MD. In 2011, she graduated from Carroll Community College with an AA in Arts and Sciences. Then she transferred to Mount St. Mary’s University and graduated in 2013 with a BA in English and minor in Creative Writing. Her passion for helping other students and previous leadership activities will drive her to excel in this program. After service, she will receive her MA in School Counseling. 

Project Description: The Carroll Food Locker Program is a grocery assistance program for all faculty, staff, and students at Carroll Community College. The program also includes a financial literacy and wellness workshop series for all clients. The goal is to offer grocery assistance to all members of the college community so that they may perform their jobs, duties, and studies to the best of their ability.

Catholic University of America

Bio: Jessica Smith was born and raised in Daytona Beach, Florida. She then moved to Washington, DC to attend the Catholic University of America, where she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and then her master’s degree in Business Analysis. While at CUA, Jessica discovered her passion for social justice & community engagement, which led her to be highly involved in student leadership development, service learning opportunities, and service-orientated projects during her academic career. She is now excited to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA in order to dig deeper roots in this community and empower young leaders. 

Project Description: The project will focus on healthy-living through education and activity- athletics for socioeconomically disadvantaged girls, ages 7-18, in partnership with Beacon House, a nonsectarian, non-profit tutoring, mentoring, athletic and cultural program for low-income children and youth based in Washington, D.C. Currently, the children and youth Beacon House serves have little or no information about the components of and need for healthy eating and physical exercise. Positive athletic female role models are scarce. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA will educate at risk females regarding the possibilities for higher education, personal development, athletic accomplishment, enhanced nutrition and general well-being. Through athletics and mentorship from college athletes, the goal is to engage young girls ages 7-18 in healthy living models.

Georgetown University

Bio: Maggie Ferrato joined the Center for Social Justice in June 2014 as its first MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA. In this role, she works to build the capacity of the CSJ to meet STEM tutoring needs as identified by current and future school partners. Maggie graduated from Georgetown University in 2014 with a major in History and a double minor in Justice and Peace Studies and Environmental Studies. During the past four years at Georgetown, she spent much of her time running with Back on My Feet and working for the Justice and Peace Studies Program. Originally from Rhode Island, she has spent summers in Palestine as an English teacher and in Kenya as a 100 Projects for Peace grant recipient. 

Project Description: Georgetown University’s Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service (CSJ) proposes a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) engagement project at DC Public Schools (DCPS). This program is in response to multiple requests from current DCPS partners, school principals that have interest in becoming partners, and a review of the low proficiency of DC Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) math scores at these schools.

Johns Hopkins University

Bio: Marie Ferguson was born and raised in Lakeville, MN; however, she has referred to Baltimore as her second home for the past five years. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University she began a Master’s program at the Bloomberg School of Public Health focused on Health Education and Health Communication. She also worked at Apples and Oranges, a grocery store that opened in a food desert last year, where she was continually inspired to stay involved in community based nutrition education, making her especially excited for this upcoming year! 

Project Description: Food as Medicine is a daytime nutrition education and service-learning program for middle school youth. Food as Medicine works within the school day and in afterschool to empower youth leadership in promoting healthy lifestyles within the student population.

Loyola University Maryland

Bio: Jordan Dorsey is originally from Virginia and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Leadership from Christopher Newport University in 2013. After graduating Jordan became a Team Leader with AmeriCorps NCCC-FEMA Corps for the North Central Region located in Vinton, Iowa. During her year with AmeriCorps NCCC, Jordan traveled with her team to Missouri and Illinois where they wrote federal grants to reimburse counties and townships throughout the two states for flood and snow damage. As a VISTA Jordan hopes to take her trainings and experiences from AmeriCorps NCCC and use them to develop a program aimed at helping youth expand upon their leadership, communication, and self-reflection skills. 

Project Description: The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA will create “The Learning Academy,” a new educational after school program for the Dewees Community Recreation Center. The Learning Academy will allow area youth to participate in a unique after school program where they develop a mastery of at least one program skill, knowledge, or competency in both an academic and non-academic activity.

Maryland Institute College of Art

Bio: Robert Fronta is a native of Lansing, MI. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Norfolk State University in 2009. With his mutual interest in community service and communications, he’s had a mixture of experience in both fields for over five years. During this tenure, he has worked with the American Red Cross, Loaves & Fishes and various organizations. He looks forward to serving the community at MICA. 

Project Description: Through the course of working with the College Access Art Clubs for the past year and a half, staff at both Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and our overarching partner, the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPS), have identified a clear direction for our proposed year three project. It is obvious that there is a need for both college access resources and arts education among high school students, but classroom time is also a precious commodity as BCPS places a greater emphasis on standardized testing and core curriculum. Now more than ever, high school students need direct access to college resources as well as the creative and career-driven fields of art and design.

Montgomery College

Bio: Fawaz Ajiboye is a recent graduate from the University of Baltimore in Maryland. He majored in international studies and has always embraced and been fascinated by other cultures. Volunteering has always been a part of his life, so it only made sense to further his volunteer service on a national scale. AmeriCorps gives him the opportunity to continue doing so. In the future, Fawaz hopes to secure a job with the State Department or Homeland Security, so that he can work with people of all cultures and backgrounds. He looks forward to making an impact in the lives of the people at Montgomery College. 

Project Description: The first generation student completion and college readiness program comprehensively addresses needs and requests from community members and partners. This project will expand existing research-proven programs in one region of Montgomery County to two new areas of Montgomery County — using methods developed and tested in previous work developed with the help of former MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA members and expanded in one region of the County over the past several years by an investment by Montgomery College.

Morgan State University

Bio: Katina P. Burley is a native Baltimorean and attended Baltimore City public schools. Katina’s educational experience includes counseling low-income, first-generation college-bound students in Upward Bound and working with elementary and middle school students in the classroom in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Prior to attending college, Katina was a fellow in the Baltimore City Office of the Mayor where she worked with the city’s fire department in creating new recruitment and training programs that targeted high school students. Katina earned her Bachelor of Art in Political Science from St. Mary’s College of Maryland where she was also a DeSousa Brent Scholar. 

Project Description: The project will involve the MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA engaging with various schools in the Morgan Community Mile catchment area as they begin their work with the Baltimore City Public Schools District’s 21st Century Buildings Initiative. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA will work with the schools, the School District, the communities, and Morgan’s faculty, staff and students to help each community school achieve the best design possible for their new/renovated building.

Prince George’s Community College

Bio: Victoria Saunders is from Oxon Hill, Maryland. She graduated with her AS in Accounting from Prince George’s Community College in May 2012. She is currently pursuing her BS in Accounting at University of Maryland University College. This year will be Victoria’s third year serving as a MDCCC-AmeriCorps VISTA at Prince George’s Community College. She will be continuing work to expand free tax preparation in Prince George’s County as well as working with the office of service-learning at Prince George’s Community College. 

Project Description: The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA member will continue to develop and expand a coalition of community organizations to support developing free tax preparation sites within Prince George’s County, Maryland. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA member will identify and develop partnerships with community organizations that are interested in hosting sustained free tax programs at their locations. Due to the progress made during the first and second years of the project, the tax coalition will be integrated into a broader asset building coalition of community organizations. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA member will develop an outreach program of student and community volunteers that will staff the free tax preparation sites, after being trained and certified through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program of the Internal Revenue Service. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA member will develop procedures and document practices to support and sustain free tax preparation site development by community organizations. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA member will develop a directory of partners and financial services offered.

St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Bio: Emily Pearson attended Boise State University and received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Visual Art with an emphasis in Printmaking. She lived and worked in Austria for 6 months as an Au Pair following graduation. She’s spent the last ten months, August-June, serving in AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps as a member of a logistics team working in warehouses, preparing disaster supplies and equipment, doing maintenance on generators and fuel containers, and gaining forklift licenses. 

Project Description: This project provides an intensive and innovative high school outreach project to (1) promote liberal arts education to high capacity low income and first generation students and their parents, (2) prepare low income and first generation St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) students to engage constructively in projects pertaining to educational equity, education policy, and the future of the liberal arts. The goal of this project is to enhance college preparation, financial literacy, and awareness of the values of a high quality liberal arts education for long term career success. By the end of three years, the MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA project at SMCM will have (1) formalized relationships with three area school districts, (2) created a series of modules to ensure continued workshops at area schools without the VISTA resource, and (3) developed an online toolkit providing low income and first generation students and their parents resources around college access and success.

Towson University

Bio: Helen Tracey is a native New Yorker currently residing in Baltimore, Maryland. Helen recently graduated from Towson University where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology. Helen has a strong desire to assist students in reaching their academic potential. She has previously worked for Baltimore City Public Schools. Helen hopes to begin a Master’s degree program in school counseling after her term of service is complete. 

Project Description: In responding to the needs expressed by guidance counselors at various Baltimore City public schools, Towson University will identify high schools in the greater Baltimore metropolitan area with a high percentage of First Generation, Low Income (FGLI) students and will develop and nurture relationships with teachers, counselors and administrators at these schools. Our goal is to better identify high school students with FGLI profiles to participate in a new initiative of the SAGE Program (Students Achieving Graduation through Education). The SAGE Program will use current Towson FGLI college students to work with FGLI high school students on college access issues. The objectives for this initiative include raising their awareness about how to (1) identify schools that align with their interests, (2) becoming more effective applying for and managing financial aid, and (3) becoming more familiar with the matriculation process. These teachable set of skills will help students to manage the process related to college attendance, regardless of which college or university they select.

University of Baltimore

Bio: Mariel Rubin grew up in Frederick, MD and then moved to Ohio to attend Oberlin College, where she graduated with a BA in Latin American History and Gender/Sexuality/Feminist Studies in 2012. While at Oberlin, she became dedicated to youth social justice and volunteered her time with several community based mentoring and tutoring organizations, primarily focusing on foreign language acquisition. For the past 1.5 years, she has lived and worked abroad as an English teacher, but is so excited to move home and become part of the Baltimore City community. 

Project Description: The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA member will research, develop, and implement a community based initiative to reduce the effects of poverty in Southwest Baltimore, in partnership with CUPs (Creating Unlimited Possibilities), a non-profit that seeks to employ at-risk youth and serve at-risk communities. Through targeted research, interviews, discussions, and meetings with community stakeholders, the MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA will develop a sustainable program that aims to help at-risk youth transition out of poverty by facilitating mentoring relationships between the youth and volunteer mentors, offering substantial college readiness resources, providing career readiness programming such as resume assistance and interviewing tips, and offering financial education workshops.

University of the District of Columbia

Bio: Lucita Diaz is from Los Angeles, CA, graduated from the University of California, Davis (UDC) with a Bachelor in Political Science in 2011. Upon graduating she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for two years as a community liaison to strengthening public schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District. She is currently attending the University of the District of Columbia as a graduate student and pursuing a Master in Public Administration. Lucita is looking forward to a great year with MDCCC. 

Project Description: The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA member will continue to work with faculty to refine and incorporate a community-based learning component for the Freshman Orientation courses as well as continue the standalone workshop series for students not enrolled in the course. Program objectives include developing the financial literacy of First Year college students. These students will present to college bound secondary students around the DC metropolitan area on the subject of financial aid for college and complete a series of reflection exercises regarding the project and the importance of community-based learning. Requirements for the program will be fulfilled on assigned class dates as well as designated presentation dates. The responsibilities of the MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA member will include 1) continued researching and refining of the financial literacy learning sessions for the program faculty to use in the classes, 2) connecting with DCPS high schools and coordinating student sponsored presentations, 3) developing and administering reflection exercises/sessions, 4) following up with partner institutions. The program will involve students enrolled in Freshman Orientation courses and students recruited for the workshop series.

University of Maryland, Baltimore

Bio: Demi DeLoach is a Colorado native, primarily growing up in a military home and living on military installations in CO, TX, CA and Germany. She graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a Bachelors’ degree in Political Science. She will begin her graduate studies in the fall of 2014 at the University of Baltimore to obtain a Masters’ degree in Public Administration. This is her second year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA, first serving in eastern Pennsylvania working as an Outreach Coordinator with the United Way to help alleviate poverty through education at Title 1 Community Schools. Demi looks forward to contributing to the military community in the Baltimore and D.C. area and hopes to significantly assist veterans as they transition from military service to civilian life. 

Project Description: To create partnerships and infrastructure to promote the increase in efficacy of veterans as they transition from military service to civilian life. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA will develop networks within University of Maryland’s system, Baltimore City, local non-profits, and Veterans to build capacity for future transition support. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA will be effective in researching and developing programs in the following areas: a) military transitions, b) benefits available to Veterans after discharge, c) education counseling, d) resume writing and career counseling.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Bio: Nicholas Ramundo is originally from Rockland County, New York. He has recently graduated from Siena College in Albany, New York with a BA in Sociology and a Certificate in Community Development. As a undergraduate student, Nicholas was very involved in the community through service as a Bonner Service Leader. Nicholas is very excited to continue to serve in the community as an AmeriCoprs VISTA. 

Project Description: The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA project will meet the needs, as identified by our community partner, Arbutus Middle School (AMS), through continued and innovative support for a Homework Club, now titled Arbutus Achievers, further implementation of Information Workshops for AMS parents and the implementation of service projects for AMS students in the Arbutus Achievers program. Arbutus Achievers, a much needed program at the school as recognized by teachers and administration of AMS, is necessary to engage students – specifically those who have higher needs and who are enrolled in FARMS – in regular, sustained tutoring. Utilizing the MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA to support this program, UMBC students will be recruited to participate in a sustained service-learning course with AMS students who have been identified as “at-risk” by AMS faculty and administration.

University of Maryland, College Park

Bio: Salimatu Jalloh hails from Gaithersburg, MD, and graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in May 2013 with a degree in government and politics. In her post-grad career, Salimatu worked with an afterschool program that specializes in literacy development in Ward 7 with DCPS. Through this program, she found that her passion for education was sustained through helping different students learn through narrative – whether they were reading “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie,” or employing the emcee stylings of Biggie Smalls. 

Project Description: The goal of the Prince George’s County Virtual Community Center Project is to provide a one-stop community center that consists of all critical human resource nonprofit organizations in Prince George’s County. With this virtual community center in place, people in need will be able to find and access resources such as local food banks, domestic violence shelters, and tutoring and college prep programs. In addition, it will help local service providers (such as social workers and school administrators) assist their clients in finding such services. In creating a virtual community center we will; 1. Create a database of all active human resource focused nonprofits in Prince George’s County, 2. Map these nonprofits onto a map of the county for local service providers, county leaders (such as those working on the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative), and people in need, 3. Create a web based tool so that community members can find, or help others find, the services they require, all of which will advance the work that the Human Services Coalition (HSC) is doing.

University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Bio: Ria Arnold was born and raised in Virginia. She graduated from Norfolk State University with a Bachelor’s in Social Work in 2011. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Public Administration with an emphasis in Non Profit Management from Keller Graduate School of Management. One day, she wants to start her own non-profit organization that will either foster the positive self-esteem in young girls or provide a place for youth to redirect negative behaviors. Her passion to help the youth of today become leaders and role models for our future generations is what led her to the AmeriCorps Program. 

Project Description: University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) – Garland Hayward Youth Center (GHYC) Community Empowerment project will break the cycle of generational poverty primarily by improving the scholastic achievements and civic engagement of (K-12) youth who attend the Garland Hayward Youth Center in Princess Anne, Maryland. This improvement will be achieved not only by working directly with students to enhance academic performance, but also by building and strengthening critical support systems that have a direct impact on student success; and through coordinating and leveraging resources for capability and capacity building at the Center to ensure its ability to continue providing valuable services to the community.

Wesley Theological Seminary

Bio: Lesli Vaughan was born and raised in North Carolina. She recently graduated from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY with a BA degree in Science, Technology, and Society, which studies the intersection between science and people. While a student at Vassar, she realized her passion for addressing health inequalities through community health initiatives, which culminated in her senior thesis about the community health worker movement in the Mississippi Delta region. She looks forward to continuing her work in community health and immersing herself in the Baltimore community as an AmeriCorps VISTA with MDCCC and Wesley Theological Seminary. 

Project Description: The MDCCC-AmeriCorps VISTA member will serve as the key leader to assist with updating the resources in the Heal the Sick Community Health Resource tool kit and outreach to congregations and community organizations in Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD on behalf of the Heal the Sick program. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA member will help strengthen the community-based health network by increasing Wesley’s capacity to serve congregations and community organizations that seek to play an active role in improving the health of the community, especially the poor, by promoting the healthier choices necessary to achieve their dreams for themselves, their families and communities.