2018-19 VISTA Project Bios


Bio: Charles Forbus hails from a golfing community in Huntsville, Texas but the access to the golf courses hasn’t improved his skill. He has six children and 18 grandchildren. Christmas is very expensive. Charles graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas with a double major in history and geography. He is retired from AT&T where he was a National Accounts Manager. His main customers were international corporations and Hospitals in the Houston Medical Center. After he retired he accepted several assignments with the US Peace Corps. The countries on his resume include Nepal, Ukraine, Honduras, Madagascar, Georgia and Armenia.

Bio: Olakemi Teru, who goes by Kemi, grew up in all parts Baltimore. Since she could remember, Kemi always wanted Baltimore to flourish with success. After the riots in 2015, she became determined to, by all means necessary, help improve the lives of others especially those living in Baltimore.  She recently served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for Strong City Baltimore as a Community Mobilizer for the 29th Street Community Center. Her goal was to have available resources for the community at the center. Kemi is an alum of  Morgan State University and the Baltimore School of the Arts.  In college, she majored in communications and hopes to use her craft and skills to one day tell the stories of others through film.

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


Bio: Leilani M. Fryauff is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins School of Education, where she is studying to be a clinical counselor. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a BA in communications and from UMBC with a BA in Psychology. She has participated in volunteer activities with Women Who Care, MANNA, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Leilani is honored to serve with AmeriCorps VISTA and P20 CONNECTS assisting in the growth of opportunity for students in K12 and college to become better members in society. Education is the key to better living, better people, and better communities.

Bio: Jim Walters is the President of The Walters Group providing experiential learning pedagogy and strategies to address competency-based student learning outcomes. He served as the Director of Student Life at Montgomery College from 1972 to 2014. Walters earned his bachelor’s degree in English from The George Washington University and his master’s in theatre from The Catholic University of America. He served as the chair of the National Society for Experiential Education for many years and has presented at numerous conferences. Jim leads professional development workshops domestically and internationally for the National Society of Experiential Education and has studied community organizing through the Harvard Kennedy School.

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.


Bio: Amanda Campbell is a native of Owings Mills, MD. She graduated from Towson University with a BS in Psychology in 2017. During her first-year post grad, Amanda served with The Literacy Lab, an AmeriCorps/ Reading Corps project, as a Literacy Tutor in a Title 1 DC Public School. She began her master’s at Liberty University in the summer of 2018 to obtain her degree in Human Services Counseling. Amanda is tremendously passionate about today’s youth and ensuring that they have the confidence to reach their full potential.

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.


Bio: Gabrielle Ariana Wilson is a born-and-raised New Englander. She is a recent graduate of Johnson & Wales University, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship with a minor in Environmental Sustainability and a concentration in Marketing Communications. Gabrielle first learned of the wonders of Baltimore City while participating in Alternative Spring Break during her junior year of college. Since then, she has served as a site coordinator in Houston for Alternative Spring Break. Gabrielle is interested in community development and food systems, and has future goals to assist local nonprofits in increasing their organizational efficiency.

Project: The Oasis Project at Coppin State University is an outreach effort in response to the increasing national crisis of the college completion gap between low income students and middle-income students. The CSU-Oasis Project mission seeks to supports individuals who are in dire need of immediate assistance, resources and outreach services. The CSU-Oasis Project will integrate the Food Pantry development an effort to provide a broad range of information and referral services to students encountering the direct negative impacts of poverty on their current university matriculation. 


Bio: Samantha Gault is a current graduate student at Delaware State University obtaining a master’s in social work. She holds a BSW from Delaware State University and an AA in human services from Delaware Technical Community College. Sam has previously served with AmeriCorps VISTA, completing 900 hours of service in 2009-2010 developing educational programs for adults, children, and families with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, Sam has more than five years of experience working in human services providing underrepresented individuals with social services.

Project:  Delaware Tech Zero Hunger Program, will expand the College’s efforts to alleviate food insecurity and hunger for students by establishing a comprehensive program designed to support student retention and success by ensuring basic food and hunger needs are met. 


Bio: Marissa Krall is from Southwestern Pennsylvania. She recently graduated from Waynesburg University with a BA in public relations. Marissa is a caring person with a passion for helping others in all that she does. She has volunteered with various organizations throughout her life, including The Salvation Army, Corner Cupboard Food Bank, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Greene County Human Services Helping to Overcome Program, Community Foundation of Greene County and Young Life.

Project: The Frostburg State University P20 CONNECTS project will work with after school programs that serve students in 6th through 8th grade, specifically targeting students that are low-income and eligible for free and reduced meals.  This project will focus on expanding existing math, science, and language arts programming, with skill/character development components to enhance children’s leadership, communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, coping, and other skills highly desired by future employers.


Bio: Connie Ray 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.


Bio: Nadiyah Edwards is a Chicago native who attended Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama before relocating to Baltimore in 2017. She is a skilled non-profit professional having experience with social science research, elementary education, community engagement and mentoring. Nadiyah has a deep passion for interpersonal relationships and personal development. It is her belief that through personal empowerment people will have the strength and endurance to facilitate progressive change in their communities.

Project: The CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA will serve as the Program Coordinator of the future Waverly Youth Center for the Waverly Improvement Association. The CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA project will center on the creation of a comprehensive wrap-around youth and young adult center located within Waverly and targeting the specific youth needs of the community for ages 13-26-year old’s.


Bio: Tyra Hinton 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.

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.


Bio: Arnetra Burnett is a native from Baltimore who joined the BDS family because she is committed to ensuring that all students, regardless of zip code, have the opportunity to succeed in school and in life; for its support of college and career readiness as well as its dedication to promoting a lifelong joy of reading. She loves reading. In the fourth grade, she won a watch for reading the most books. 

Project: The Baltimore Design School (BDS)/MICA CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA member will develop and coordinate the BDS/MICA partnership within the framework established by the collaborative planning document. The focus is on the development of literacy resources for students and parents, programming for students, and outreach to the BDS community around these resources


Bio: Mercedes Hence was born and raised in Memphis, TN. She recently received her master’s in criminal justice from Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, which is complimented with a BA in psychology from University of Memphis in Memphis, TN. During her academic career, she studied abroad in London and has interned for the Shelby County Veteran’s Court and the US federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For the past eight years, she worked in higher education is various students and professional capacities, and values being able to help students’ development and success.

Project:  The Advancing Student Achievement and Performance (ASAP) program is housed within the School of Community Health and Policy (SCHP). The CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA member would serve as coordinator assisting with building the capacity of the mentorship program, putting in place the systems it needs to be sustainable on a long-term basis.


Bio: Crystal Radford received her MA in educational policy and leadership after serving as an advisor at McDaniel College on the First Year Experience Team for the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, and the Office of Academic and Student Support Services. Besides her involvement with community engagement, Crystal is a classically trained flutist who went semi-professional at a young age.  She has recently learned jazz flute.

Project: Morgan State University’s Center for Academic Success and Achievement (CASA) is responsible for coordinating the implementation of a Second Year Experience (SYE) program for all returning first-year students in the fall of 2018. The SYE program’s outcome is to increase the second to third year retention rate, thereby increasing the number of students who ultimately graduate from the university and, in turn, significantly increasing these students’ career and economic opportunities.


Bio: June Mugo was born and raised in Jersey City, NJ. She recently graduated from Mount St. Mary’s University with a BA in sociology and psychology. Throughout her life, she discovered it was her duty to serve those in need. As an undergraduate she realized her passion for helping people in poverty. June is excited to be a part of AmeriCorps because of the impact will create in people’s lives.

Project: The Mount Community Advancement Resources in Teaching, Advocacy, and Service (CARiTAS) Program will make the resources of the university available to the local organizations already engaged in the fight against poverty. Over the next three years, Mount CARiTAS will develop and deliver community workshops, credit-based internships, and an area needs assessment to further support our community partners at the Thurmont Ministerium and the Elizabeth Seton Center.


Bio: Hannah Cook was born and raised in Maryland, but she chose Cottey College in Missouri to get her degree in English. Through volunteering, tutoring, and campus promotion projects, Hannah realized a passion for nurturing success in herself and others. Her time as Cottey College Chairwoman for the White House Healthy Campus Challenge and as Board Member for Alpha Chi’s first year on campus increased diversity dialogue and earned her the Honorable Service Award upon graduation.

Project: Establishing and expanding relationships among NDMU, City stakeholders and Anchor institutions in support of the first year of the York Road Education and Service (YES) Program is the primary goal for Notre Dame of Maryland University CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA. Currently the YES Program focuses on developing learning and general support for both Govans Elementary School and Tunbridge Charter School, working to establish tutoring support, college preparation, and community involvement.


Project: The mission of Central Kenilworth Avenue Revitalization (CKAR) Community Development Corporation is to strengthen the greater Riverdale community as a whole through intertwined projects in the areas of workforce development, economy-building, and environmental stewardship.


Bio: Johann Umali is a recent graduate of Stevenson University with a BS in Biology. In the future, he wants to work in medically underserved communities. During his undergraduate years, Johann worked as a peer tutor at the Academic Link at Stevenson University and spent his summers volunteering at Mercy Health Clinic in Gaithersburg, MD. He believes that an individual should not be limited in the type of healthcare or education they receive simply because of their financial standings or current living situation.

Project: The America Reads/America Counts (ARAC) 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 ARAC program by transitioning the existing programs, strengthening both programs, and expanding to new middle and elementary schools.


Project: This program gives students the opportunity to practice and advance their writing, research, and oral presentation skills. Through their role-playing with others, they advance their problem-solving capabilities as they seek to resolve conflicting priorities, backgrounds, and world views in a peaceful way. Their experiences and the skills that they use in this program help to prepare them for the intellectual challenges of higher education and their future as citizens of the United States and members of the global community.


Bio: Dana Kobrin is from Silver Spring, MD, and loves hiking and photography. Dana recently just graduated from UMBC with a BA in psychology. She loves to  work with college students at UMBC’s tutoring center and diversity center, and is happy to be a VISTA there helping CEO and ACES. Dana wants to combine my research/data analysis skills with her education background to help achieve equity for every student receiving a college degree. Her long-term goals are to attend graduate school and pursue a career in higher education.

Project: Achieving Collegiate Excellence & 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 designs intervention pathways for both programs.


Bio: David Brown is a native of Baltimore, MD. He became an AmeriCorps VISTA to help better his community and make a difference one person at a time. This is his second tour with AmeriCorps. David’s first tour made a huge impact upon his life. David is a Chef by trade and enjoys art and writing.

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.


Bio: Proma Chowdhury has lived in various parts of Maryland throughout her life, including Baltimore, Montgomery, Howard, and Prince George’s Counties. She is a recent graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park where she received a BA in public policy and minors in Spanish business and sustainability. Service has always been a part of her life and more recently she has volunteered in the UMD community through UMD Alternative Breaks, UMD Help Center, Partners in Print, Rawlings Undergraduate Leadership Fellows, and Images. Proma is excited to serve at a program that is a part of her alma mater and that supports a vulnerable community close to her home.

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.


Bio: Maidot Michael is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park with a BS in psychology and English literature, with a minor in Spanish. She was born in Ethiopia and grew up in Washington DC, surrounded by a thriving immigrant community. As a mentor with Partners in Print, a bilingual literacy mentoring program that serves PG County schools, Madi worked to connect families to local community resources. She’s excited to further develop that experience with the Latinx community in her VISTA service with CASA.

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 CCMA 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.


Bio: Samuel Perry is a current graduate student at the University of Maryland Eastern shore where is pursuing his doctorate in educational leadership.  His service project is Shore for Four where he will be influential in igniting college readiness among elementary, middle and high school students on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Outside of his role as VISTA, Samuel enjoys writing and painting, he is also a huge fan of all aspects of nature.

Project: Shore to Four is a partnership with University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) and the local elementary, middle and high schools in Somerset County, designed to increase college and career readiness by increasing baccalaureate degree attainment among underrepresented students, especially African American and Hispanic youth.


Bio: Diamond Nwaeze is a native of Silver Spring, Maryland. She went to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), where she received her BS 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.


Bio: Rajeniece Thompson has recently received her BS at Central Michigan University. As a student she spent a summer studying abroad in Thailand, where she volunteered and took several courses. She also served as a peer advisor, Multicultural Advisor and vice president of the university’s NAACP chapter. She is excited to have the opportunity to work with the Community Engagement Center at the University of Maryland Baltimore so that she can obtain valuable experience in helping communities obtain resources.

Project: The UMB Community Engagement Center gives West Baltimore a place to access an abundance of services that promote neighborhood and economic development. It is also a place that brings the University and community together in scholarship aimed at solving complex and persistent problems which diminish residents’ quality of life.


Bio: Lauren Kataja was raised outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, in a family that treasured meal time together more than anything. Growing up, her dad was adamant about volunteering in the community, and when she was 9 he signed them up to deliver Thanksgiving meals to hungry neighbors in their area. This was the first time she became aware of the vast hunger and food access issue not only in her community, but throughout America. She arrived at the University of Tennessee Knoxville ready to make a difference by studying to earn a BA in honors environmental sociology. Lauren conducted honors thesis research on the political-economic history of food access welfare programs in the US to examine the gaps left between government promises of support and the realities of hungry Americans.

Project: The Retriever Essentials program hopes to eliminate food insecurity on the campus of UMBC through a variety of interventions and programs which will support students experiencing homelessness, those working towards financial stability, and individuals experiencing chronic food insecurity.  Over the course of three years, the CCMA Americorps VISTA will develop partnerships across campus to support food security initiatives already developing and will create a sustainable food pantry to serve the community at UMBC.


Bio: Asha Fuad was born in Congo but raised in South Burlington, VT.  She graduated from the University of Vermont, with a BS in Human Development and family studies. Her education and work experience have allowed her to provide social services and support for the youth in the Vermont community. As a past AmeriCorps member, Asha has served in the NYC area, where she volunteered as a patient coordinator, working with NYC youth to promote education and access to better education within the homeless community. In the future Asha plans to work as an educator/ mentor in high schools where she prepares high schoolers for higher education and or the workforce.

Project: The Change Makers Project is a youth development program for 9th-12th graders in District of Columbia Alternative Schools created by the Institute for Community Engagement (ICE) at Wesley Theological Seminary Downtown and Raising A Village Foundation (RAV). The main goal for Raising a Village Project is to provide academic, social and emotional support for high school who live the DC area. By providing the right tools and school curriculum need for academic successes and future life goals.