2017-18 VISTA Project Bios


Cora Stern
Cora is a recent graduate from the College of William and Mary, where she earned her BA in international relations. As a student, she spent a semester in Morocco studying Arabic and participating in undergraduate research focused on youth radicalization and international aid flows. Cora has also interned for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Karamah-Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. Cora is excited to work as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Refugee Youth Project’s ArtWorks initiative in order to learn about the refugee process as well as gain experience working in a social enterprise.

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.

Catholic University of America

Laura Armstrong, CCMA VISTA at CUALaura Armstrong
Laura was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. She graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. Her undergraduate education and experiences allowed her to explore her interests in helping vulnerable youth. In the future, her hope is to work with victims and survivors of human trafficking. Laura is excited to be serving with AmeriCorps because of the opportunity to make a lasting difference in youth’s lives.
Project: The Justice for Juniors @ The Catholic University of America program will create a mentoring program on the campus of The Catholic University of America with the youth currently in transition from the Washington, DC Youth Services Centers (YSC). The mentorship program will be focused on ethical and critical dialogue, community building as well as life, workforce, and college preparedness skills.

Community College of Baltimore County

Laura Taylor
Laura is a native of Catonsville, MD and is excited to be returning to the Baltimore area to serve as a VISTA member. She recently graduated from College of Charleston with a BA in Communication and minors in Spanish and Theatre. Laura discovered her passion for service while participating in the Alternative Break program throughout college. During a fellowship at College of Charleston’s Center for Civic Engagement her senior year, she worked as a Program Coordinator for Alternative Break. During her time at the Center for Civic Engagement, Laura developed a strong interest in social justice education, and in the future she would like to continue working with college students in the areas of civic engagement and service learning.
Project: The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) Pathways to College, Career & Civic Readiness (PC3R) program assuages the adverse impact of poverty by providing college students and low-income youth learning resources and civic engagement opportunities in support of their academic success and future career success.

Frederick Community College

Samantha Rodgers
Samantha is intimately aware of the power that language exerts on one’s everyday life. She has experienced linguistic discrimination first hand and is frequently underestimated for her rural Kentucky accent. After finishing her Master of Arts degree in Rhetoric and Composition at Eastern Kentucky University, Samantha decided to take a gap year before continuing with her post-graduate education. Samantha’s graduate work elucidated the link between the power of language and the powerlessness that comes with poverty. She is applying her knowledge to work at Frederick Community College by partnering with communities of English language learners to help construct the English as a Second Language to best fit the needs of the ELL community. Samantha’s goal is to design a program and outreach method that will empower ELLs rather than strip them of the culture and history which their voices carry.
Project: The English Learner Transition and Completion Initiative (ELLTCI) is the result of a commitment to ensure that outreach and programming meet the needs of English Language Learners by developing messaging and support systems that engage the interests of immigrants, their families, and their communities.

Frostburg State University

Amber Ketterman, CCMA VISTA at Frostburg State UniversityAmber Ketterman
Amber is originally from Cumberland, Maryland, but she currently resides in Frostburg, Maryland. Amber received a BS in Early Childhood/Elementary Education from Frostburg State University. During her first year at Frostburg State, she was active in volunteer work through Echostars. While attending FSU, she had the opportunity to complete several internships and field placements at various locations in the local area including Bel Air Elementary School, Beall Elementary School, and HRDC Cumberland Street Head Start. During these placements, she had the opportunity to work with schools, students, and families from different socioeconomic backgrounds while planning and incorporating lessons for the students. She has future goals to get her Master’s Degree in Special Education.
Project: The After-School Connections program connects middle school students and college students to engage in academic enrichment activities focused around college, career, and civic readiness.

Garrett College

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.

Hood College

Connie Ray
Connie has spent most of her life in various states along the East Coast. She completed her BA in English at Brigham Young University and worked as a writer for several years before pursuing a Master’s in Nutrition Science and Policy from Tufts University, which she recently completed. Connie is interested in community nutrition and in improving nutrition policy and programming to positively impact people’s health on a broad scale.
Project: The CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA position will develop a comprehensive program centered in Frederick City’s faith-based community to provide fresh, healthy food, increase the knowledge and ability of local community members to garden their own culturally-appropriate produce in order to reduce the effects of food insecurity for city residents.

Johns Hopkins University

Donte Wylie
Donte grew up in East Baltimore and was raised by grandparents. He graduated from Baltimore City College and went on to attend Coppin State College, which is Coppin State University today. After acquiring a Master of Science in Criminal Justice from Coppin, Donte took the Praxis exam. He then worked in education until he decided to enroll at Loyola University, where he completed a Master of Education in Special Education. Donte had written two books, Legal Tender(2010) and The Sable Quill (2014), and is currently working on And Money Answereth All Things (2017).
Project: The Community Resource Connections Program is an economic development program to connect youth who are low-income residents and job-seekers with resources to develop greater financial stability through workforce and financial literacy opportunities.

Loyola University Maryland

Tyra Hinton
Tyra was born and raised in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area. Starting in high school, Tyra developed the desire to work with youth. She hoped to be able to use her personal battles to empower and encourage. With this in mind, she pursued Psychology and received her BA from UMBC in 2014. After graduating, Tyra pursued several opportunities in youth development. Some of which include her work with Diamonds on the Rise (DOTR), where she served in several roles including being a Mentor, her role as a Child Health & Wellness Intern with the American Federation of Teachers in DC, and her role as an Outreach Coordinator VISTA at the Maya Angelou Public Charter School in DC. In August 2017, Tyra will begin the pursuit of her Masters in Social Work degree with a concentration on School Social Work. She looks forward to using this opportunity to expand on the skills she has already gained through past opportunities.
Project: The Loyola CCMA 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 CCMA 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.

CCMA P20 CONNECTS Coordinator

Eleanor Blaser
Eleanor is a recent graduate of Hood College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts. Born in Frederick, MD, Eleanor grew up near the Annapolis area before moving back to Frederick to attend college. While at Hood, she succeeded academically and made her mark on the campus. Eleanor was even featured on the Best of Hood webpage. She also continued to develop a passion for feminism and social justice. Her main love in life is writing, and she is especially excited to get to use that skill as an AmeriCorps VISTA for Campus Compact Mid-Atlantic.
Project: The P20 CONNECTS program will build local K12, higher education, and community-based organization coalitions to improve college, career, and civic readiness among students – particularly those in poverty – by engaging students in multi-grade level service-learning activities that address local needs.

Morgan State University

Brittany Laws
Brittany is a Philadelphia native. She graduated from Morgan State University with a B.A 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

Catherine Clark, CCMA VISTA member at PGCCCatherine Clark
Catherine 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. She further aspires to extend her acquired knowledge and experience back to her hometown as the opportunity arises in the future (before, during, or after completing her BA and MA in Public Policy). 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.

Towson University

Sylvia Otieno
Sylvia is a recent graduate of Towson University with a BA in International Studies. She is passionate about using education as a tool for poverty alleviation. A 2016 Walter Sondheim Jr. Nonprofit Leadership Fellow, Sylvia has experience serving in the Baltimore Community through programs like Summer READS. Sylvia is excited for the opportunity to continue serving Baltimore communities through Towson University’s America Reads/Counts program.
Project: The America Reads/America Counts Projects at Towson University will address the needs of Baltimore City elementary and middle school students to achieve grade level learning in mathematics and language arts. The CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA member will restructure TU’s America Counts program and the “TUTORS” (America Reads) program into an integrated and larger America Reads/America Counts program by transitioning the existing programs, strengthening both programs, and expanding to new middle and elementary schools.

Universities at Shady Grove

Melissa Herrera, CCMA VISTA at USGMelissa Herrera
Melissa was born and raised in Silver Spring, MD. She is a 2016 graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park with a degree in Community Health and minors in Global Poverty and US Latino/a Studies. As a first-generation college student with Thai and Guatemalan heritage, Melissa is passionate about access to health services and quality education in minority communities. Her first year as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Universities at Shady Grove has expanded her knowledge and passion for higher education. She hopes to pursue a career in higher education with the goal of supporting underrepresented students as they navigate through barriers.
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 CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA will design intervention pathways for both programs.

University of Baltimore

Jordan Borkorski, CCMA VISTA at UBJordan Borkoski
Jordan Borkoski is a recent graduate at the University of Baltimore where she earned her B.A. in Environmental Sustainability and Human Ecology. During at her time at UB, she co-founded the Urban Farming Association, working to educate the UB and Baltimore community on Urban Farming and to reduce the impact of food deserts. She also worked in UB’s Office of Transitions and Community Engagement where she helped organize community outreach events and coordinate with local non-profits.
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.


Project: The Office of Military and Veterans Student Services (OMVSS) is dedicated to serving the University of the District of Columbia’s veteran students and the community. OMVSS seeks to address the broad range of educational, economic, social and mental healthcare needs of the University of the District of Columbia’s veteran community by building strategic partnerships with other public and private organizations, creating veteran-centered policy initiatives, and developing strong relationships with the veteran community.


Philip Lin
Philip is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, but moved to Baltimore to attend Johns Hopkins University. He recently graduated with a BA in Cognitive Science and a minor in Psychology. He is particularly interested in working to connect resources to those most in need of them, via the UMB Community Engagement Center.
Project: UMB’s Community Engagement Center aims to provide a central location where residents in UMB’s surrounding communities can access services and programs of the campus and its partners that will improve outcomes for local residents. UMB has and will continue to seek input from community stakeholders through a variety of methods to obtain community input regarding appropriate programming to be offered by the Center


Alexis Logan-Brown, CCMA VISTA at UMBCAlexis Logan-Brown
Alexis was born and raised in Frederick, Maryland. She is a recent graduate of the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina where she majored in International Studies with minors in Political Science and Psychology. While at school she studied various languages and was able to travel to the Middle East, which increased her interest in international and refugee politics. She was able to become the President of the Arabic Club and head a program for international students studying at her university. Through various organizations, Alexis has striven to increase the number of ethnic minorities on college campus’ and increase the information and networks available to minority students looking into higher education. In the future, Alexis hopes to be an advocate for refugee rights and international relationships with conflict-ridden countries.
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.


Delmis Umanzor, CCMA VISTA at UMD College ParkDelmis Umanzor
Delmis 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.


Ellie Lewis, CCMA VISTA at UMD College Park SAFE CenterElizabeth Lewis
Elizabeth Lewis was born and raised in Severna Park, Maryland and recently graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English language and literature. During her academic career, she developed a strong passion for justice-related issues while serving at an anti-human trafficking non-profit organization in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and later working as a teaching assistant for the university’s course on human trafficking. Having dedicated her professional career to pursuing restoration for individuals who have been victimized by the atrocities of human trafficking within the United States, she is now thrilled to serve as an MDCCC – VISTA and thereby further the University of Maryland SAFE Center’s endeavors to supply survivors of trafficking with the services necessary for sustainable economic empowerment.
Project: The program will help build the capacity of the University of Maryland SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors (SAFE Center) to provide economic empowerment opportunities for its clients, and its capacity to recruit and organize volunteers.


Diamond Nwaeze, CCMA VISTA at UMESDiamond Nwaeze
Diamond is a native of Silver Spring, Maryland. She went to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), where she received her B.S. in Biology. During her undergraduate term at UMES, she was able to explore all aspects of science while mainly dabbling in biology and horticulture. Diamond has worked as a general research assistant at her university, studying the various applications and the phytochemical content of Aronia mischurnni, a unique berry native to Maryland (in the US). Her passions ultimately lay in horticulture, nutrition, and public health, and leading others to enrich their own knowledge in such.
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 K12 students’ access and success in their high school, college, career, and civic engagement trajectory.