2016-17 VISTA Project Abstracts

AmeriCorps VISTA Leader

Bio: Nick Seitler received a BS in environmental science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. After graduating he completed a year of AmeriCorps service in Knoxville, TN focusing on recycling education and community outreach. During his time in Knoxville he also volunteered as a tutor and mentor at the Community Action Committee East Neighborhood Center and helped coordinate events focused on environmental issues for several organizations. He is currently pursuing his MS in nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship at the University of Baltimore.

Project: The Maryland-DC Campus Compact (MDCCC) AmeriCorps VISTA Leader works directly with the 22 members placed at higher education institutions across the Maryland-DC region to encourage and promote the expansion of service and quality campus-community partnerships.

American University

Bio: Yun Simpson was raised in West Chester, PA then moved to Washington, DC, where she received a BA in International Relations at American University. She has particular interest identity politics which drives her commitment to service. She is excited to partner with SOUL and serve within the DC community. 

Project: The American University/SOUL (Student-Athletes Organized to Understand Leadership) project expands the capacity of SOUL to positively impact the lives of at least 100 DC youth by developing and implementing best practices for volunteer recruitment and management of corporate, college, and high school volunteers.

Baltimore City Community College

Bio: Brooke Savage was born and raised in Ellicott City, Maryland. She went to University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she majored in Global Studies and minored in Entrepreneurship. During her time at UMBC, Brooke was very active in service-learning through the Shriver Center, including service sites like The Choice Program, Great Kids Farm, and College Jump. She is passionate about social entrepreneurship, where serving others and innovated ideas meet.

Project: The BCCC/Refugee Youth project promotes economic growth and post-secondary education for refugee teens through the ArtWorks program, an arts-based social enterprise. The project focuses on increasing employment opportunities, increasing understanding of financial literacy, and providing a safe and structured environment for youth to reconnect to cultural traditions.

Bowie State University

Bio: Robert Fronta is a native of Lansing, MI. He graduated with a BA 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.

Project: The Bowie Mentoring Empowerment Network (MEN) project creates a pipeline of mentoring support services for elementary through college aged African-American boys, teens, and men in the Baltimore/Washington community. This project will create a “support success” pipeline for black, male students starting in grade school through beginning a career, post graduate studies, or the military.

Catholic University of America

Bio: Isabella Kaser is a San Francisco Bay Area native, but spent the last four years completing her Bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in sociology at Regis University in Denver, CO. Her undergraduate education allowed her to explore all aspects of biology and sociology and also allowed her to synthesize the two. After her service with AmeriCorps VISTA, she wants to get an MPH and work in developing countries on disease prevention and education and then one day work in health care policy. Isabella is excited to begin her work as a volunteer to combine her knowledge and passion to better the DC community. 

Project: The CUA/Beacon House and Healthy Futures project seeks to engage at-risk girls in Washington, DC in personal development, athletic accomplishment, enhanced nutrition, higher education opportunities and access, and enhanced well-being. Through athletics and mentoring from college athletes, the project engages over 50 young girls ages 7-13 in healthy living curriculum and taking charge of their future.

Chesapeake College

Bio: Heather Shoemaker is a recent graduate of Marylhurst University, where she earned her BA in Interdisciplinary Studies. Her degree synthesized anthropology, education, and media and technology, and during her time at MU, she co-founded the university’s first Student Leadership Council, creating her role of Online Student Advocate. As an online, distance student herself, she addressed the need for greater engagement and communication between online students and the on-campus community through forums for online students to interact with one another and the university as a whole. Heather is excited to apply the skills and experiences she gained at MU to her position at Chesapeake College as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. 

Project: The CHESAPEAKE/REACH OUT REACH UP project provides resources and support for adult learners within the five-county (shore) region who live at or below the poverty level to help them pursue post-secondary education. Reach Out Reach Up partners with the Upper Shore Workforce Investment Board to target, engage, and support un-and under-employed community members.

Frostburg State University

Bio: Victoria Trimble is originally from the Washington, DC area but grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. While starting her degree at West Virginia University, she was a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed national service fraternity. Victoria graduated from La Roche College with a BA in Political Science and a minor in History. She was a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success while studying there- with both this organization and Alpha Phi Omega, she enjoyed being involved with community service in the local areas. 

Project: The EHC Capacity Expansion Project will expand staffing and income resources for the EHC Foundation, which in collaboration with community partners, provides hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to enable the underserved youth of Allegany County to break from a cycle of poverty that currently yields the lowest median household income in the State.

Garrett College

Bio: Eugena Ferguson was born and raised in Baltimore, MD. This spring she graduated from Mount St. Mary’s University with a BS in both Biology and Health Sciences. In the future, her hope is to go to nursing school and later become a Nurse Practitioner specializing in Women’s Health. She is excited to be serving with AmeriCorps because of the unique perspective it will give her. With this new outlook, she will have a better idea of the needs of a community she could one day live to serve. 

Project: The Garrett College/Students In Need Group (SING) project expands grocery and clothing assistance, wellness education, financial literacy and educational workshops to benefit over 600 first-generation students and Garrett County community beneficiaries. By partnering with Garrett County social service agencies, the SING project will directly impact individuals living at or below poverty level. 

Georgetown University

Bio: Alexis Banks is originally from New Jersey, and attended Howard University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Economics. She now plans to pursue a Graduate Degree with Georgetown University in Data Analytics. She desires to pursue Corporate Financial Analytics, Predictive Analytics and Corporate Law. She was the President of the Net Impact Howard University Chapter and one of the co-founders of the LadyDiva Howard University Chapter. As she interned in finance as an undergraduate at Howard University, she helped host, developed handbooks and presented information on financial literacy for the incoming freshman students. Dedicating her time to help others have a clear and concise understanding of finance and education is one of her many passions. 

Project: The Georgetown/Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) engagement project provides STEM tutoring, field trips, college and career programming, and connections with GU STEM faculty and programs to address the needs of underserved students in Wards 1 and 7. This STEM project focuses on the urgent need to address low proficiency DC math scores of targeted schools.

Hood College

Bio: James Baker was born and raised in Washington, DC. He graduated from Hood College with a BA in business management concentrating in international finance and economics. He previously interned with Interfaith Housing Alliance, where he gained experience in helping people who have low to very low income gain housing and structure their finances. He is excited to be working with United Way with the Prosperity Accounts Match Savings Program. 

Project: The Hood/Prosperity Center project partners with the United Way of Frederick County to elevate the financial literacy of low to moderate income families in Frederick County by mobilizing students, faculty, community members, business volunteers, and community organizations to provide free tax preparation, financial literacy workshops, and financial mentoring/coaching.

Johns Hopkins University

Bio: Erika Brown is a native of Baltimore, MD. She received a double BS in Accounting and Marketing from Salisbury University in 2010 and is an experienced finance professional. She is passionate about financial literacy and community development as well as providing a voice for the impoverished citizens who are underrepresented and often forgotten.

Project: The Waverly Main Street Community Resource Connections project will serve in response to community requests for financial literacy trainings, workforce development trainings, and small business development. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA will serve as a program manager, creating a resource center for the community, and putting into place sustainable partnerships with nonprofit organizations and local government agencies.

Loyola University Maryland

Bio: Magdalena Tsiongas graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Justice Studies from Rhode Island College. During her college career, she interned for Miriam Hospital in Providence, RI, helping plan a transitions clinic to provide for medical needs of newly released inmates. Some of her most rewarding work has been volunteering in public schools in Los Angeles and Providence, RI tutoring students. She has also previously served with the National Wildlife Refuge System working in Washington, DC on youth and tribal outreach. 

Project: The Loyola MDCCC VISTA project will serve to prepare two low-income African American and historically divided communities’ youth to learn safely together in a newly merged and rebuilt public school. With an Educational focus, this project will develop and implement mediation resources and practices for long-term youth and family success. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA member will build relationships between leaders of the divided neighborhood and school families and research best practice anti-violence and community building programming.

Morgan State University

Bio: Brittany Laws is a Philadelphia native. She graduated from Morgan State University with a BA in Fine Arts. With the passion of creativity and artistic expression, she has instilled these components as the base of several programs and projects organized to get the youth engaged and approach situations with a unique flare. Brittany believes that creativity is the key to our youth being able to see that light even in rough situations. With six years of experience in coordinating youth programs and community art projects, she has developed great expertise in maintaining a productive learning environment for engaging youth. 

Project: Office of Community Service program participants come from all over Baltimore City and are primarily African American and low-income. Through the Enhancing Opportunities for Educational Success (EOES) project, the Office of Community Service will be able to bring on-site tutoring to the K-8 students at Monarch Academy Public Charter School in Northeast Baltimore City and host the schools’ students in a mentoring program on the Morgan State University campus.

Prince George’s Community College

Bio: Catherine Clark is originally from eastern North Carolina. She started her undergraduate career at UNC-Chapel Hill and began pursuing a BA in Public Policy. While in pursuit, she has filled various employment positions. She has determined that working for the sake of earning income is not fulfilling enough—she has a strong desire to serve underrepresented communities and facilitate positive change towards empowering them. Catherine is a 2016 graduate of Prince George’s Community College and will be the Financial Coaching Program Developer within the Financial Empowerment Center at PGCC. 

Project: The PGCC/Financial Coaching project expands the financial capability of residents of Prince George’s County through financial services, which include financial coaching, tax preparation, and financial workshops. The project creates, develops and expands a comprehensive Financial Coaching program by developing community partnerships, creating a structured program model, and recruiting and training volunteers.

St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Bio: Rebecca Kates was born and raised in Baltimore, MD. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in May 2016 with a BA in English Language and Literature and two minors in Public Leadership and Women’s Studies. After finishing her service with AmeriCorps VISTA, she hopes to attend graduate school to receive her MA in Higher Education and Student Affairs. 

Project: The SMCM/College Ambassadors Connection is an education equity program which involves low-income and first-generation St. Mary’s County Public School students and their parents in an intensive, innovative high school outreach program promoting liberal arts education. SMCM students engage in projects to increase educational equity, education policy, and enhance their own futures as well as the liberal arts. 

The Universities at Shady Grove

Bio: Melissa Herrera was born and raised in Silver Spring, MD. She is a recent graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park with a degree in Community Health and two minors in Global Poverty and US Latino/a Studies. As the daughter of immigrants from Thailand and Guatemala, Melissa is passionate about children’s health and education among minority communities. While studying at UMD, she dedicated her time to serving America Reads America Counts as well as the Latino Student Union. Since 2010, Melissa has also worked with Smiles on Wings, a non-profit dedicated to serving rural communities in Thailand by providing dental care and educational scholarships. In the future, she hopes to lead her own non-profit organization. 

Project: Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) is a partnership with Universities at Shady Grove, Montgomery County Public Schools, and Montgomery College to address poverty by increasing baccalaureate degree attainment among underrepresented students, especially African American and Hispanic youth. Out of this, USG created the Career Experiences Opportunity program to give students work experience. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA will design intervention pathways for both programs.

University of Baltimore

Bio: Simone Champagnie is tackling a second year as a VISTA. She graduated with degrees in Psychology and Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Counseling. Throughout the years she has worked at various not-for-profit organizations developing an enthusiasm for social justice and human rights. Simone is originally from New York but has lived in various other states including Connecticut, Colorado, and now Maryland, where she hopes to empower inner-city youth to thrive.

Project: The University of Baltimore Campus Pantry aims to provide timely, healthy, and nutritious food to University of Baltimore students, faculty, and staff who are experiencing food insecurity as a result of economic hardship. In addition to providing food that meets an immediate need, this project will also provide educational resources to alleviate long-term hunger and poverty.

University of the District of Columbia

Bio: Ornella Hegbe is a native of Silver Spring, Maryland. She graduated from the University of Maryland College Park with a BS in Public Health Science in 2015. Soon after completing her degree, she enrolled into Perscholas, a technical training school and obtained an IT certification to advance her skills towards technology and its possible contributions towards public health. She has worked with tutoring organizations such as Passion for Learning and tutored in various elementary schools to help children improve in reading and math. 

Project: With the UDC Pipeline to Success project, the MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA member will facilitate a cascading service-learning model between the University and K-12 schools where university students will support high school mathematics education and high school students will in turn support mathematics education within middle schools. 

Bio: Christopher Hill was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He holds a Bachelor’s from Jackson State University in Psychology with a minor in Juvenile Justice. Since then, Christopher has relocated to Washington, DC where he earned a Master’s degree from Howard University in Developmental Psychology and this year he completed his doctoral studies at Howard. Christopher has worked as a graduate teaching assistant at the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At-Risk at Howard University where he conducted independent research and taught courses with the Department of Psychology. As a VISTA, Christopher is very excited to serve his community by utilizing his skills and training to create positive change. 

Project: The UDC/Financial Literacy project serves low-income UDC freshmen students and high school youth to engage, educate, and empower students in personal financial management. The project coordinates Financial Aid/Literacy modules through the presentation of financial aid workshops to increase high school and college student enrollment and retention.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Bio: Christina Smith, a native of Towson, MD, has lived in the greater Baltimore area for her entire life. She graduated in 2015 with a BA in global studies from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. During this time, she was very involved in public service and developed a particular interest in education for immigrants and refugees, serving and working with BCCC’s Refugee Youth Project, Esperanza Center, International Rescue Committee, and Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools, among others. This past year, she served as an MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA with UMBC, developing and coordinating BCCC Refugee Youth Project’s college access mentoring program, College JUMP. She looks forward to continuing with the program for a second year. In the future, Christina hopes to explore ways to increase educational programming for foreign-born students and speakers of other languages in the United States. 

Project: The UMBC/Refugee Youth Project College Access Mentoring Program will create and implement a near-peer college access mentoring program between high school refugee students and UMBC volunteers. By engaging students and parents in college readiness workshops and activities, the project will increase the number of refugee youth that successfully enroll in four-year institutions.

University of Maryland, College Park

Bio: Delmis Umanzor was born and raised in Washington DC and currently resides in Silver Spring, MD. She recently received a BA in Anthropology with a minor in US Latina/o Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Delmis aspires to help and support the Latina/o community within Prince George’s County and the broader DMV metropolitan area. She hopes to attend graduate school after VISTA service. In her free time, Delmis enjoys hiking, camping, and playing with her lovely black cat, Revan. She’ll be serving at the Leadership & Community Service-Learning (LCSL) at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she has worked for the past two years as an undergraduate student and federal work-study employee, so she knows the office will welcome her for an exciting VISTA term. 

Project: This project is a partnership between the University of Maryland and CASA which will work to bring low-income members of the immigrant community out of poverty. The MDCCC AmeriCorps VISTA will create and implement engagement workshops for parents and students as well as create a sustainable volunteer pipeline for these programs to continue.

University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Bio: McCoy Curtis is a native of Salisbury, MD, where he has served as a community leader, mentor, and youth program/activities coordinator for more than 20 years. Professionally, he has worked in the public school system of Wicomico County, MD, and also in Mental Health Rehab, serving youth with mental/emotional illnesses and at-risk teens. McCoy’s passion is faith-based service. He currently serves as Pastor of ROCK Community Church, with a strong focus on Community Outreach, Youth & Family Services, and Eliminating Poverty. 

Project: The UMES/ Garland Hayward Youth Center Community Empowerment project improves the scholastic achievements and civic engagement of Eastern Shore youth by building critical community support systems which increase K-12 students’ access and success in their high school, college, career, and civic engagement trajectory.