Meet the 2018-2019 MOST VISTAs!
Anna Kearns, Identity Inc. Padres Latinos Conectados/Latino Parents Connected Program, Gaithersburg, MD
Anna Kearns was born and raised in Ellicott City, MD. After graduating from UMBC in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies and Asian Studies, Anna relocated to Viña del Mar, Chile, where she worked for the past three years in the Financial Services industry. Now back in Maryland, she is excited to have the opportunity to delve into the nonprofit world and give back to the local Latino community through AmeriCorps VISTA. After her VISTA service, Anna hopes to further her education in law school to be able to continue to assist the local immigrant community as a practicing immigration lawyer.
As an Americorps VISTA, Anna is working as a Community Engagement Specialist with Identity, Inc., a non-profit organization committed to helping in-school and out-of-school Latino youth and their families in Montgomery County. She will assist in curriculum development for Identity's Padres Latinos Conectados/Latino Parents Connected program, a leadership academy that aims to mold Latino parents into community leaders capable of advocating on behalf of their children's education.
Ayanna Woodberry, Girl Scouts of Central Maryland- Healthy Choices Program, Baltimore, MD
Ayanna N. Woodberry grew up in Florence, SC. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Virginia Union University and received her Master of Public Health in May 2018. She has a strong interest in maternal and child health, as well as disease prevention. She wanted to complete another year of service where she could incorporate her public health education, before attending medical school. Ayanna previously served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Lutheran Services Carolinas in Columbia, SC, where she developed programs and tools to better equip low-income communities for substantial disruptions that contribute to risks and vulnerabilities. In addition, she worked with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control through her program’s practicum project, to contribute to the fight against one of the biggest public health crises of our time: the opioid epidemic. During this time, she helped create a comprehensive document to examine opioid misuse, abuse and vulnerability in South Carolina.
Ayanna currently serves as the Healthy Choices Coordinator for Girl Scouts of Central Maryland. Her role includes collaborating with the Johns Hopkins Global Obesity Prevention Center to assess and increase access to healthy food choices and physical activity opportunities for economically disadvantaged girls and young women. She is also working to develop a pilot program, which she will be evaluating for publication in a scientific journal.
Heather May, Coalition for Community Schools, Baltimore, MD
Heather May is a South Carolina native who recently moved to Montgomery County. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Southern Literature from Emory University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She spent two years practicing law with a focus on indigent representation in criminal and domestic cases. After moving to Maryland, she transitioned into freelance writing and content creation.
Heather is serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA for the Maryland Coalition for Community Schools. The Coalition aims to expand the community school strategy and ensure dedicated funding is provided by the Legislature to implement these programs statewide. Heather believes that every child in Maryland is capable of academic success with the help of well-funded schools and community-based services.
Jack Morton, Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington, Silver Spring, MD
Jack Morton, a native Delawarean, resides in Bethesda, MD with his wife Cynthia, son Jake and new kitten Leo. In his VISTA year of service as the Youth Development Program Analyst with Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington Jack will be collaborating with community partners in Montgomery County Maryland to strengthen and grow youth development and education programs. ACSGW’s mission is to help the disadvantaged and disenfranchised in the Silver Spring/ Takoma Park community attain self-sufficiency and independence. ACSGW provides food,clothing, holiday meals, workforce training, education and youth development programs and other services. Jack previously consulted for A-Team Solutions, LLC. , a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, was employed with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served Congressman Michael N. Castle of Delaware, and the State Senate of Virginia. Jack received his B.A degree in Political Science and Spanish from Hampden-Sydney College. Jack currently serves with his neighborhood association, is a parishioner at St. Columbas in Washington, DC and volunteers with the American Councils For International Education, Jack enjoys travel, cooking, golf and helping others. Jack joined VISTA to connect with the greater community and be a resource to underserved residents.
Jennifer Sheckels, Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center, Hyattsville, MD
Jennifer Sheckels is a mixed media illustrator and graphic designer living in Deale, MD. She holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Messiah College in Grantham, PA and an M.F.A in illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. Jen is particularly interested in the narrative nature of imagery and how that can engage and educate with—and without—words. She is passionate about youth education and encouraging students from all backgrounds to foster a life-long love of learning.
Jen is currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Hyattsville, MD. Over the next year she will be assisting Pyramid in developing customer relationship management tools and processes while continuing the development of youth educational programming and outreach. After her year of service, Jen hopes to continue serving her community through volunteer activities while promoting youth education and engagement through the arts using her design and illustration work.
Kendall Casas, Code in the Schools, Baltimore, MD
"Hi! I'm Kendall Casas from San Antonio, Texas. I have been teaching dance and musical theater after school for 8 years, as well as performing with a dance company. I am passionate about education and plan on becoming a full time teacher once my service year with AmeriCorps is up. I am serving in Baltimore, Maryland at Code in the Schools, and organization that works on building and providing STEM curriculum to schools that otherwise wouldn't have access to it. I was drawn to serving as a VISTA because I believe every child has the right to a quality education and want to do my part in fighting education inequality. I can't wait to see what my service year has in store for me!"
Kendra Woodfolk, KID Museum, Bethesda, MD
“Greetings, My name is Kendra and I am working at KID Museum in Bethesda. Our mission is to provide equitable access to STEM education outside of the traditional classroom. Since I have been here I’ve been able to do a deep dive into how museums operate and put on large scale events. I’m looking forward to learning more about how they are able to work with public sources like schools to build equity.
I’m from a very small town in Eastern, North Carolina called Havelock. It was one of the cities heavily effected by hurricane Florence. I am hoping to coordinate some sort of project to help my wonderful city recover. Too many small towns are forgotten about when the cameras leave, but it will be years before my hometown is completely restored. I moved to Maryland from Brooklyn NY where I was finished my Masters at NYU. A highlight of my time as a VISTA would definitely be helping out KID Museum with its largest annual event KID Fest. It was such an interesting collection of STEM educators. I got to see some of everything from 3D holographic temporary tattoos to a teenaged black smith. I’m so glad I have had the opportunity to serve in this capacity.”
Kevin Pan, MERIT, Baltimore, MD
Kevin Pan is from Cincinnati, Ohio. Prior to becoming a Vista, Kevin taught high school biology and AP biology as a Teach for America educator in St. Louis. During his time in the classroom, he increased the AP Biology passing rate at his placement school by 400%, while taking exemplary students to pre-medical programs at the Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Missouri. His non-AP biology students scored 20% higher on average than the state average. He received his Masters in Secondary Education from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and his bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology from Kenyon College.
Kevin is participating as an Americorps Vista concurrently with the Community Organizing Fellowship through Leadership for Educational Equity in partnership with MERIT, which allows him to pursue his interest in working at the intersection of community healthcare and education. He'll be managing the community health fellowship, which gives students opportunities to pursue their own projects within the communities they live in. In the future, he hopes to use his experiences continue serving underrepresented populations as a Family Medicine physician.
Maria Ortiz Gonzalez, Centro SOL, Baltimore, MD
My name is Maria Ortiz Gonzalez and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA originally from Houston, Texas. I am serving as an assistant coordinator at the community organization, Centro SOL. I chose to serve in Baltimore because I have already been living here while attending the Johns Hopkins University. However, during my time as an undergrad, I did not have much time to explore Baltimore or volunteer as much as I would have liked to. Right before graduating, I decided that I would like to spend the next year using the skills I have gained and experiences to be able to serve others here in the community. As a first generation student to go to a university, I know I am equipped to help students with similar backgrounds navigate this process. In fact, the SOL in Centro SOL stands for salud y oportunidades para Latinos (health and opportunities for Latinos). I am excited to be working on the student pipeline program at Centro SOL, which strives to provide Latinx youth with the tools to decide if they would like to pursue higher education.
Nya Seaward, Beacon House, Hagerstown, MD.
"Hello, my name is Nyeema Seaward, but most people call me Nya. I am an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving at BEACON House in Hagerstown, Md.
I have lived in Hagerstown for about 6 years and have participated in many volunteer opportunities. I mostly connected with the schools and sports teams in which my children attend or participate. I have also served as an election judge for the past few years. I was excited to see the need for an AmeriCorps member while searching for a “Girls Who Code” program for my daughter. I remembered the days of serving as an AmeriCorps member about 20 years ago and was excited to put my hands to work again.
BEACON House is a nonprofit organization that specializes in STEAM learning for the whole family and seeks to increase the equity to access STEAM learning. I am working at the Family Learning Center to create and monitor a sustainable after school and weekend program for the greater Hagerstown area. Indirect service is so new to me, yet I have been able to successfully recruit a few volunteers who are able to offer first time activities, such as piano lessons. I assisted with a few large fundraisers and have set up few small ones such as a Chipotle fundraiser and a STEAM night at Greene Turtle (both in Hagerstown). We will also be holding a “Family Paint Nite”. I plan to continue working to increase enrollment, volunteers and funding and watch BEACON House, Inc. expand into its greatest potential right before my very eyes."
Sarah Bluestein, Community Bridges, Silver Spring, MD
Sarah Bluestein was born in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area and grew up in Germantown, MD. She is a graduate of University of Florida where she received a B.S. in Public Relations and a B.A. in Dance. Sarah has held internships with both Free the Slaves in Washington D.C. and EveryMind. in Rockville, MD, providing her with experience and insight into the importance and passion behind nonprofit work. Growing up in Montgomery County, MD, Sarah is very grateful to be able to serve with Community Bridges and make positive changes for girls in her community. This is Sarah’s first year involved with Community Bridges and she is excited to spend her Americorps VISTA year helping to empower young women. In her free time, she loves dancing, eating avocados, going to the movies to see romantic comedies, and listening to music.
Sierra Underdue, Maryland MENTOR, Baltimore, MD
Sierra Underdue, is from New Jersey and moved to Maryland to attend Towson University, where she is a recent alumna. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Communication Studies, and has had extensive involvement in academic debate, where she coached and mentored youth in the areas of public speaking and research. Sierra is currently serving as the Communications and Development VISTA for Maryland MENTOR, the statewide affiliate of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. The goal of her assignment, is to help ensure Maryland’s young people under the age of 18 have access to a highly trained, highly engaged and highly competent mentor. She will do this by supporting Maryland MENTOR through communicating available resources to the mentoring field throughout the state and researching and proactively exploring resource development opportunities for Maryland MENTOR’s future sustainability. This will aid in capacity building for Maryland MENTOR to create communications and resource development systems.
Alison Love, KidzTable at St. Vincent de Paul, Baltimore, MD
"Hi Everyone, My name is Alison and I am working at Saint Vincent de Paul's social enterprise, KidzTable. The organization's mission is to serve healthy meals to children and families in the Baltimore area as a foundation for healthy lives. In this first month of work, I have gotten a view into business, non-profit, and governmental work to increase access to food for students in school districts experiencing food insecurity. I hope to continue working toward equality and stewardship in food systems long-term.
I grew up in Philadelphia and moved to Baltimore this summer after graduating from Haverford College. I have family here and have been enjoying spending time with them and in Baltimore. I had the chance to learn more about non-profit and small business work in Baltimore when I volunteered at the Baltimore Book Festival and the Maryland Nonprofits' Annual Conference with a few other MOST VISTAs! Another highlight of this past month was going to Baltimore City's Food Policy Action Coalition with KidzTable. I am looking forward to getting more settled over the next few months and learning more about the city."
Brittany Wood, Downtown Sailing Center, Baltimore, MD
"Hello, my name is Brittany. I am proud to say that I was an AmeriCorps Vista Summer Associate at Maryland Out of School Time Network also known as MOST Network; and now, I am a full year VISTA at Downtown Sailing Center (DSC). As a summer VISTA, I had the pleasure of setting up youth development happy hours and administering surveys to partners of the BSFC while creating a concluding report on survey information. For the next year, I will be assisting DSC with setting-up trainings for youth development along with supporting sailing events and after-school STEM Programs. Serving as a summer VISTA instilled a new found confidence in my ability to work in a professional environment, and I will bring this confidence into helping DSC with building stronger organizational partnerships and STEM programs."
Janay Kemp, Beat the Streets, Baltimore, MD
Janay's goal at Beat the Streets is to help more Baltimore City youth develop the resiliency and life and academic skills necessary to succeed in college and other positive postsecondary pursuits. Her work will strengthen the organization’s infrastructure and capacity for supporting participating youth. This project will develop the systems and processes for effective and efficient operations, including participant enrollment and volunteer management.
Avery Cooper, KidSTREAM, Waldorf, MD
Every child deserves to attend after school or summer program regardless of their circumstances. Avery's project will be to help ensure every low-income and minority child receive the necessary support to attend after school or summer program. The Year-Round STEM Project will build the capacity of KidsSTREAM by developing volunteer and fundraising support for its programs.
Rubén Flores, Higher Achievement, Baltimore, MD
The goal of Rubén's VISTA project is to increase Higher Achievement’s capacity to recruit, train, and support our volunteers and mentors. A VISTA member will be leveraged build relationships with external partners established in the community in order to build our capacity and support in strengthening our roots in the community. Specifically, members will bring community stakeholders together to focus on volunteer recruitment efforts, university partnerships, and community-based resource development to provide infrastructure required to bring new programming.
Kate Ericksen, Girl Scouts of Central Maryland- Think Like a Scientist Program, Baltimore, MD
Kate's project is to help assure access to and success in STEM opportunities for under-served and hard-to-reach populations of girls in K-9 in economically disadvantaged communities who may otherwise not consider pursuit of STEM education or careers. Her AmeriCorps VISTA project will (1) build organizational infrastructure and capacity for new community partnerships for STEM program delivery/enhancement, (2) best practices research to make STEM program more effective, (3) design, build pilot and evaluate new programs, (4) develop and pilot focused STEM volunteer mentor recruitment campaigns, (5) create evidence-based how-to-guides for parents and volunteers.
Deborah Aiyegbusi, Maryland 4-H- Outreach and Expansion Program, College Park, MD
This year, Deborah will work with the Maryland 4-H program to establish and/or enhance programmatic outreach strategies to increase diversity and inclusivity of Maryland’s youth and volunteer participant base. As a result, all 23 counties and Baltimore city will have additional resources, programmatic partners, and grant dollars to increase diverse and inclusive program (science, healthy living, and civic engagement) programs.
Andrea Miotto, Baltimore County 4-H Afterschool Program, Cockeysville, MD
The goal of Andrea's project will be to grow the current outreach footprint in order for more youth to have equitable access to 4-H programming in Baltimore County, Maryland. The proposed project will be a partnership with Maryland State 4-H and Baltimore County 4-H. The result will be that there will be an increase in youth that will have exposure to youth development which will translate into establishment of at least 3 community clubs and increase engagement for positive change in previously underrepresented areas.
Ozioma Ahaneku, Greater Baltimore Urban League- Pathways to Success Program, Baltimore, MD
At the GBUL, Ozioma will work on volunteer recruitment, partnership development, program development, communication and dissemination infrastructure, and fund development. Taken together, these components create the foundation for a sustainable and replicable project.
Briana Barajas, Greater Baltimore Urban League- Mentoring & Tutoring Program, Baltimore, MD
This year, Briana will recruit, train, and manage volunteer tutors and mentors via GBUL auxiliaries, corporate partners, college interns, Business Volunteers, and other sources. She will identify, adapt, and implement best practices for volunteer recruitment, training, and management, and enhance management mechanisms and program implementation strategies for volunteers and interns serving in mentoring and tutoring positions.
Ellin Rittler, Let’s Go Boys and Girls- STEM Scholars Program, Baltimore, MD
Eillin will develop a program to provide customized, targeted STEM enrichment experiences for STEM Scholars and to monitor and update budget for STEM Scholar program. She will help Implement ongoing STEM Scholar events based on SY18-19 Calendar and processes and procedures for connecting high school STEM scholars to high quality STEM activities, internship and opportunities. Ellin will work with Baltimore staff to create a quarterly e-newsletter that highlights STEM opportunities and educates families and students on high quality STEM opportunities, and a ctively collaborate with MOST in stewarding efforts to grow and define the Baltimore STEM Ecosystem through active use, promotion, and the identification of supplemental soft and hard skill resources.
Lindsay Spotts, Phillips Wharf Environmental Center- Chesapeake Bay Working Water Jobs Program, Tilghman, MD
The Working Water Jobs Program's goal is to develop a sustainable program that helps students living in working waterfront communities retain their culture and heritage while learning skills needed to benefit from working water economic opportunities. Lindsay will build the educational capacity of Phillips Wharf Environmental Center by developing and implementing an after-school program and a summer program for residents of waterfront communities in Talbot County, Maryland. As a result of her service, the working waterfront and coastal communities will have a better trained work force who will be able to sustain themselves economically and Phillips Wharf Environmental Center will have a successful after school and summer program.
Angela Mulumba, Leveling the Playing Field, Silver Spring, MD
Angela will maintain and expand collection, donation, and volunteer programs in Baltimore. She will work with the Program Manager to build a network of volunteers and collectors by reaching out to local schools, universities, youth leagues, manufacturers, etc. Angela will assist in training volunteers and will demonstrate the inventorying and sorting processes to them and develop a volunteer manual. The VISTA will also facilitate collection drives around the area.
Jennifer McKenzie, AmeriCorps VISTA Leader, MOST Network, Baltimore, MD
"I am a Louisville, Kentucky native, but have been visiting Baltimore often since 2007. I finished my Bachelor’s degrees in Linguistics and Voice Performance from the University of Michigan in 2010, and my Masters in Ethnomusicology from the Eastman School of Music in 2012. Starting in summer 2012, I served as a VISTA in Baltimore with the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Community Arts Partnership office; I fell in love with the city and the nonprofit community here, and though school drew me away, I promised myself I would come back. After reaching PhD candidacy at Indiana University in Summer 2016, I moved to Spain to teach English at the University of Seville, and to conduct field research towards my doctoral dissertation. I returned to Baltimore in Summer 2017, and to AmeriCorps service as a VISTA Leader this past July.
As a VISTA Leader, I hope I can be a resource to all the VISTA members as they settle in to their new roles! Becoming a VISTA was so rewarding for me on a personal and professional level, and my goal this year is to help each of them have that same experience, and to enable our partner sites to make a difference in the lives of Maryland and DC youth."