Meet MOST's 2017-2018 VISTAs
Briana Bell is from Long Island, NY. She graduated from Syracuse University in May of 2017. Briana decided to become a VISTA because she believes we are a nation with critical issues that need to be addressed, such as poverty, economic immobility, and racial inequalities and AmeriCorps allows her to use her skills and talents to take part in finding the solutions to these problems. After her year is up, she wants to attend graduate school in Washington DC and hopefully work for the government or in the non-profit industry.
Briana’s VISTA project is at the Greater Baltimore Urban League. She is the College and Career Readiness Coordinator. The Greater Baltimore Urban League (GBUL) seeks to make quality of life improvements for African Americans and other under-served minorities through its programs and services. GBUL is committed to including students of all abilities in its programs and Briana will help assist these students by developing ways to obtain goal setting and decision-making skills and by developing paths to career exploration and self-awareness. GBUL wants to help its students succeed in school, career, college and community life.
Patrice Bryan was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She is an alumna of Stony Brook University with a degree in Africana Studies. During her time there, she was invested in university initiatives that reached out to youth of the surrounding communities, introducing them to college life and encouraging them to pursue higher education. She is currently a PhD student at Morgan State University in Higher Education Administration where her research interests include Black women undergraduates’ access to mentoring and the graduate educational experience at HBCUs.
Patrice will be working with the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network as the Maryland MENTOR Affiliate VISTA. The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) has selected MOST to host and operate the Maryland affiliate of this national initiative to increase the quality and quantity of Mentoring relationships, support programs to improve quality, effectiveness, and scale, and coalesce stakeholders to expand engagement and investment locally. Patrice will work to build infrastructure of the Maryland MENTOR affiliate focusing on communications, convening, and development of an individual giving strategy.
Geordan Carroll was born and raised in West Baltimore in the neighborhood known as Park Heights. He attended Carver Vocational-Technical High School and took up a trade of CAD and carpentry. He also attended Job Corps, Woodland to further his skills in carpentry and worked as a carpenter for a year. Though he has never worked in the nonprofit field, Geordan has always had a passion for giving back to the community and making an impact. He joins AmeriCorps VISTA as an opportunity to give back and influence the youth of Baltimore. He hopes to build partnerships within the Baltimore community and change lives.
Geordan currently serves as the Resource Coordinator for Leveling the Playing Field, which is expanding to Baltimore City. His role is to establish a collection, donation, and volunteer programs in Baltimore. He will build a network of volunteers and collectors by reaching out to local schools; He will also facilitate collection drives around the area and help generate lists of programs serving low-income programs via athletics.
Liza Effinger is a New York City native (Jamaica, NY) who recently relocated to Baltimore in 2017. Liza began her career as a Marketing Associate for The McGraw-Hill Companies where she worked for over 13 years. A career change led her to become a NYC Special Education Teacher through the New York City Teaching Fellows program where she worked for 8 years in both elementary and middle schools. Liza holds a BBA in Marketing from Baruch College, CUNY, an MS in Publishing from Pace University and an MS in Special Education from Brooklyn College, CUNY. Her desire to serve lead her to work as the NYC School Service-Learning Coordinator through NYC Service with AmeriCorps State and National, as an AmeriCorps VISTA with NYC Community Schools, launching the NYC Community Schoolsinitiative in the NYC School System and now a second term as an AmeriCorps VISTA in her new home of Baltimore. She is passionate about youth, music, books, and connecting with family and friends. After her VISTA service, Liza plans to become a college professor impacting the next generation of leaders and teachers.
Liza currently serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the STEAM Center at Lakeland Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore. Her role there is to develop and coordinate STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) curriculum, handle volunteer recruitment, coordinate teacher professional development and increase student engagement in STEAM.
Shannon Ehlert recently moved to Baltimore from Des Plaines, IL. She has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago Honors College. She has 2 years’ experience in case management with adults with mental illness and 2 years’ experience in event planning that she plans to use during her year of service. She was drawn to her VISTA project because she has a passion for helping connect people to opportunities that can change their lives. After her year in AmeriCorps, she plans to get a Master’s degree in Social Work.
Shannon’s AmeriCorps VISTA project consists of working with Global Resource for Academic and Career Excellence (GRACE), an initiative of Stand for Youth based in Baltimore. Shannon will help develop the current pre-apprenticeship programs which include Electrical and Telecommunications, as well as working on developing a Plumbing/HVACR and Carpentry pre-apprenticeship. Shannon's primary role is capacity building, as such she has already started working on the infrastructure of the current program, grant writing, creating program policies, refining the application paperwork as well as the intake process and course schedule. She is very excited for this year of service and all that she will be able to learn about creating services in the non-profit world!
Aster Haileyesus is an AmeriCorps VISTA with Clifton Park Christian Academy in Silver Spring, MD. She graduated from the George Washington University in 2017 with two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Economics and International Affairs. Aster became an AmeriCorps VISTA because of her passion for the fields of international development and community development. In the future, she hopes to get a master’s degree in International Development and start her own social enterprise.
Aster’s AmeriCorps VISTA project is with Clifton Park Christian Academy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to offering dynamic and inspiring academic and leadership development programs to assist 3rd through 12th grade students in reaching their full spiritual, academic and leadership potential. Its courses focus on providing extra curriculum for students in STEAM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). Its main goal is to cultivate students’ interests in these fields and give them an outlet for expanding their interests beyond what classes are provided at school.
Valerie Kiley received a B.S. from Eastern Michigan University in 1995 and is an Educational Psychology graduate student at Wayne State University. Her professional experience includes 22 years of clinical work and management in rehab, working with adults with disabilities. In 2014, she took her focus on the aging brain and turned to investigating the emerging OT practice area of “chronic stress in education”. Valerie founded daVinci’s Brain in SE Michigan, where she serves as principal and fieldwork educator to occupational therapy and social work interns. She joined AmeriCorps as a VISTA in Baltimore, as an immersion strategy to develop new professional skills in nonprofit management. Joining Maryland Out of School Time Network surrounded her with like-minded people, making strategic planning and collaboration part of her daily routine. Over the summer, Valerie was trained as a reliable external evaluator for youth program quality. Gaining so many insights from being a part of this community, she decided to commit for an additional 12 months of VISTA service.
Valerie now serves as the STEM coordinator for the Downtown Sailing Center in Baltimore, MD supporting schools with STEM curriculum for their afterschool program. She is excited to learn to sail, and share the US Sailing curriculum and experiences with teachers and their students. She even plans to incorporate her own personal style by adding a 3D printing module to the program and an OT lens for skill building and inclusion.
Jessica Libowitz grew up in Baltimore. She received her BA in Sociology and Women & Gender Studies from Dickinson College, in Carlisle, PA where she concentrated in Race, Gender, and Health and minored in Anthropology. In her first experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA member she served as a Community School Coordinator in Tucson, AZ. Her experience as an educator led to her current VISTA position as the Program Coordinator for MERIT STEM Academy.
The MERIT STEM Academy helps to ensure college success for low-income, first generation college students pursuing careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and health fields. Jessica will strengthen the STEM pipeline in Baltimore by serving 7th and 8th grade students at three schools: Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle School (EMS), Arlington EMS and Highlandtown EMS. The STEM Academy takes place twice a week and includes academic instruction, STEM enrichment, and homework help with a snack. The program will continue over the summer, with six weeks of STEM enrichment and math support programming.
Zachary Parker was born in Middletown, CT and raised in both Connecticut and Maryland. He began modeling at the early age of five due to his kindergarten teacher scouting him. From there on, he developed a love for the Fashion industry and Arts. He went to LIM in New York City to study fashion and pursue modeling. After working with charities and traveling to various places all over the country, he looked for opportunities to give back and hopefully spark interest in others. In 2014, Zachary began his first AmeriCorps term in Connecticut, right in his hometown. In Connecticut, he was the Program Coordinator for the Community Health Center, Inc. where he developed and managed new health programs.
Zachary now has the wonderful opportunity to get back to his artistic roots by serving his second VISTA term with ClancyWorks Dance Company, a non-profit organization based in Silver Spring, MD committed to enhancing the quality of life for individuals in various communities using the arts as a vehicle to develop understanding and to advance positive social action. He has volunteered over 3,500 hours to inspiring others through philanthropy and artistic expression and now adds the genre of dance. As an Arts & Media Coordinator he will be assisting in deepening students’ academic understanding and enabling them to make connections to the world around them through dance and arts. Zachary is beyond excited to start this new journey and inspire countless individuals here at CWDC. Fashion and Philanthropy is his motto.
Elizabeth Fernanda Rodriguez is a DMV-based painter who specializes in portraiture and figurative drawing. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Corcoran School of Art + Design of George Washington University. Her passion for the arts and serving her local communities brought her to AmeriCorps VISTA. Her past experiences as a volunteer at multiple other nonprofits such as the Arlington Arts Center and Friends of the National Zoo helped in her decision to pursue working in the nonprofit sector.
Elizabeth is currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Hyattsville, MD. During her year of service, Elizabeth will be working as a Program Development Associate and will assist with ad campaigns and communications as well as community outreach. After her year of service, she hopes to continue her work with a focus on the arts and bringing the arts to underserved communities.
Veronica Weyhrauch is from the Bronx, NY. She is a recent graduate from The Pennsylvania State University with Bachelor's degrees in International Politics and Economics and a minor in History. While attending college , Veronica was a campus fellow for the non-profit organization GenFKD, working to educate young people in financial literacy. In addition, she was also a fellow with the organization NextGen Climate working to mobilize young people politically around the issue of climate change. Veronica became an AmeriCorps VISTA member because she believes that people living in poverty should be given the resources they deserve to reach their full potential. In the future she would like to obtain a graduate degree in International Development and work researching international trade and development.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA she is working as the Healthy Food Access Coordinator for St. Vincent De Paul of Baltimore at KidzTable. KidzTable works to provide low-income children in the greater Baltimore area with healthy after school and Summer meals. Veronica’s project is to help increase the number of after-school program sites serving KidzTable meals and help more low-income children gain access to meals they are entitled to through the federal After-School Meals program.
Roxanna Zamarripa is from Bryan/College Station, Texas. She is a first-generation college graduate from The University of Texas at San Antonio, where she graduated in May of 2017 with a dual degree in Public Administration & Criminal Justice with a minor in Nonprofit Management. Born to immigrant parents, Roxanna has experienced firsthand the challenges many families of low socioeconomic status face in order to live the American Dream. She is dedicated to breaking cycles of poverty and helping others to foster a strong sense of community which is why she joined AmeriCorps. Roxanna hopes to continue her education to earn a Master’s degree in Public Policy; with her degree she is committed to creating equitable policies that provide efficient assistance and empower underprivileged communities.
Roxanna joined Community Bridges as a Program Coordinator from AmeriCorps VISTA in August 2017. Community Bridges, based in Silver Spring, MD, is non-profit organization that empowers young girls from diverse background to become exceptional students, positive leaders, and healthy young women. Roxanna’s role as a program coordinator focuses on the family institute program where she finds resources and services that are currently needed for the families to thrive. Another program she helps maintain is the after-school volunteer program, which served over 200 girls last fiscal year. The after-school program encourages girls in 4th through 12th grades to explore their identity, self-esteem, and build their character in a safe space and to develop personal responsibility and leadership using a tested, grade-integrated curriculum.
Antonia Sweet is a wanderer who has lived in 9 different states (and India), but she calls Chicago home. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with dual Bachelor degrees in Anthropology and Political Science. Antonia has worked in youth development and education for 8+ years in residential treatment, public school and after-school settings. After moving to Baltimore, she sought to become a part of her new community through service and found Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network through AmeriCorps VISTA. She served as the first-year VISTA at the Lakeland STEAM Center in Baltimore as a program and volunteer coordinator. She believed so strongly in MOST’s mission of more and better out-of-school-time programming that she has returned to MOST for a second AmeriCorps term as a VISTA Leader. She is passionate about social justice, community development and fulfilling our duty to care for each other. After service, Antonia plans to fulfill her life-long dream of joining the Peace Corps. Later she plans to earn her Master's in international development with an emphasis on aligning policy with grassroots development.
As a VISTA Leader, Antonia provides strategic support to forward the impact of MOST's VISTA projects and build systems to track and coordinate VISTA projects across sites and focus areas. Antonia serves as a recruiter, coordinator, trainer, mentor and resource provider who strengthens the capacity of VISTA members, VISTA projects, and community members.