Meet our new AmeriCorps VISTA members

This year, we have eleven new AmeriCorps VISTA members beginning service around the state. Welcome to the #CompactNation!

Mikayla Cardenas, Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, Des Moines

Hometown: Fruitland, Iowa
College and Degree: University of Northern Iowa, Bachelor’s in Social Work
Learning experience that changed/impacted you: Moving away from home and going to college. 
Why did you choose to serve? I applied to become a VISTA because I had just graduated college and I felt like this program would help me gain some experience in the real world before entering the workforce and would allow me to grow as an individual.
What is your favorite quote? “Dance like no one is watching
What is one word you would use to describe yourself? Kind
What is your favorite movie? Footloose
In five years, what would you like to be doing? I would like to be working with children who have been abused and helping them get through such a difficult time in their life.
What is a fun fact about you? I am an only child. 

Ryan Heffernan, Iowa Wesleyan University, Mt. Pleasent

Hometown: Wilmington, North Carolina
College and Degree: University of Northern Carolina, Criminal Justice
Learning experience that changed/impacted you: In 2016 I spent 6 months hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. The journey had its ups and downs (pun intended) and so far, I wholeheartedly consider it to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. I started with no experience whatsoever: never went camping, never felt real hunger, and never felt the extreme euphoria or exhaustion that occurs when pushing your body to its limits. 
Why did you choose to serve? My resolve has never been stronger and I view the challenge as an AmeriCorps VISTA as an opportunity to pay forward the countless selfless acts I received from total strangers while on the AT.
What is your favorite quote? A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” – Greek Proverb
What is one word you would use to describe yourself? Resilient
What is your favorite movie? The Royal Tenenbaums
In five years, what would you like to be doing? Although 5 years seems like a long time, I can attest that 24 felt like it was just yesterday. I just hope at 34 years old I will be involved with something fulfilling that makes me and others happy.
What is a fun fact about you? I own my weight in comic books.

Kaitlyn Lindgren, Cedar Rapids Public Library, Cedar Rapids

Hometown: Aurora, Illinois
College and Degree: Augustana College, degree in Religion and English.
Learning experience that changed/impacted you: When I travelled to Italy during college for study abroad and had the opportunity to visit with refugees. Learning about their lives, struggles, and joys was a humbling and moving experience.
Why did you choose to serve? I served last year and found my work incredibly meaningful. I loved the work I was doing, the people I was working with, and the community I was serving. Literacy is critical to closing the opportunity gap, and libraries are uniquely situated to make an impact on the community’s most at risk members.
What is your favorite quote? “It matters not how strait the gate/How charged with punishments the scroll/I am the mast of my fate/I am the captain of my soul.” William Ernest Henley.
What is one word you would use to describe yourself? Dedicated
What is your favorite movie? Beauty and the Beast
In five years, what would you like to be doing? I would like to be enrolled in a PhD program in either Religion or English. 
What is a fun fact about you? My youngest sibling is 17 years than I am! 

Tommy Govert, United Way of East Central Iowa, Cedar Rapids

Hometown: Arkansas City, Kansas
College and Degree: Emporia State University, Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies with the following focuses: Education, Theatre, Communication, and English.
Learning experience that changed/impacted you: After accruing over 160 credit hours towards an education degree, I decided to take a break from school to find whether or not that education was the field for me. I was able to take a job as a Head Start preschool teacher. Working every day with those little ones, running through there alphabet, cleaning their play time messes, and making sure they ate their lunch had all made it aware that giving children an education was indeed what I wanted to do.
Why did you choose to serve?: I consider myself incredibly fortunate for my time in Youth Achievement AmeriCorps for I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most caring, hardworking individuals in AmeriCorps, United Way, and the Cedar Rapids schools. When my second year of YAA service was drawing to close and United Way of East Central Iowa was offering a VISTA position for their “Read Into Success,” I saw it has a chance to work another year with the same great people for the same great cause.
What is your favorite quote?: “The waters of the bitter stream are honey to a man whose tongue has savored all.” -Wole Soyinka
What is one word you would use to describe yourself? Tenacious
What is your favorite movie? Tommy Boy
In five years, what would you like to be doing? After my time as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I wish to serve with PeaceCorps or another international service organization. After which, I would like to take the lessons I have learned from my years of service and form a new AmeriCorps program within my home state of Kansas (which is in desperate need of more than eight programs across the state). I believe in the great work that AmeriCorps and wish to continue being a part of it.
What is a fun fact about you? Years ago, I played a small part for an episode of a TV show called “Extreme Forensics.” And so, I have been on Netflix.

Chelsea Moore, Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, Des Moines

Hometown: Oak Park, Illinois
College and Degree: University of Southern California – Bachelor’s in Italian
Learning experience that changed/impacted you: Studying abroad for a semester in Florence, Italy
Why did you choose to serve?: I want to work in the social sector, particularly with organizations serving youth and low-income communities. I was extremely interested in the Trauma Informed Care and Prevention Associate Position with Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, as it serves youth in a more broad sense and I am interested in the fields of trauma/psychology. I also loved the fact that it addresses the “prevention” side (rather than the “treatment” side) of an issue. I feel very fortunate to have been offered the position, as it was the primary motivator in my decision to apply/serve.
What is your favorite quote?: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
What is one word you would use to describe yourself?: Compassionate
What is your favorite movie?: Requiem for a Dream
In five years, what would you like to be doing? Living in LA, working with an organization that serves youth + others in the areas of trauma, psychology, empowerment, and/or education.
What is a fun fact about you?: Photography is a hobby and passion of mine and I did some concert photography for a few months after I graduated from college. My favorite shows that I had the opportunity to shoot were OK Go and Billy Idol 🙂

Beverly Baisley, Operation New View, Dubuque

Hometown: Farley, IA
College and Degree: Fort Scott Community College – General Education with emphasis in Early Childhood Education
University of Dubuque – Double major in Communication and Psychology.
Capella University – General Counseling Studies.
Why did you choose to serve?: I served two years with AmeriCorps Partners in Learning and wanted to experience more as a VISTA
What is your favorite quote?: Don’t forget that maybe you are the light house in someone’s storm.
What is one word you would use to describe yourself?: Analytical
What is your favorite movie?: Moulin Rouge
In five years, what would you like to be doing?: I would like to continue to learn, grow, and help others.
What is a fun fact about you?: I love butterflies

Katie Gatzke, Central College

Hometown: Ankeny, IA
College and Degree: Central College, Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Political Science
Learning experience that changed/impacted you: Studying abroad in London for the fall of 2015!
Why did you choose to serve? I love social justice and policy work (and Central’s CCBL office), and it seemed like the perfect gap year fit for me.
What is your favorite quote? “Not all of us can do great things. But we all can do small things with great love.” -Saint Mother Theresa of Kolkata
What is one word you would use to describe yourself?: Enthusiastic
What is your favorite movie? The Book of Eli
In five years, what would you like to be doing?: Earning my second Masters degree at Cambridge while working with policy in some way.
What is a fun fact about you?: I’m a fraternal twin. His name’s Connor and we are completely different people – I always say we’re the definition of fraternal. He will be entering his fifth and last year as an architecture student at ISU this fall, and is currently looking into Ivy League Masters programs.

Ariel Lepito, Grinnell College in Collaboration with Mid Iowa Community Action

Hometown: Avon, Connecticut
College and Degree: Grinnell College, Anthropology
Learning experience that changed/impacted you: Studying Abroad in Quito
Why did you choose to serve?: To challenge myself after graduation
What is your favorite quote?: “You’re stronger than you think.”
What is one word you would use to describe yourself?: Clever
What is your favorite movie?: The Princess Bride
In five years, what would you like to be doing?: Public service
What is a fun fact about you?: I can whistle a tune while smiling

Jade Riley, Willis Dady Homeless Services in Cedar Rapids

Hometown: Sioux City, IA
College and Degree: I went to college at Coe College and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts and Creative Writing.
Learning experience that changed/impacted you: Punching a bag at practice so much once that, despite the protective wraps and gloves, I had punched away the skin on my knuckles. This was an impactful learning experience because it showed me that, though I have limits, I have the strength to push past them.
Why did you choose to serve?: I choose to serve in VISTA because I want to continue growing my skills and talents towards supporting and advocating for others, and felt that the particular VISTA position I was offered gives me the best opportunity to do this.
What is your favorite quote?: “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether or not you get back up.”
What is one word you would use to describe yourself?: Dual
What is your favorite movie?: Blood and Chocolate
In five years, what would you like to be doing?: I would like to be in a position where I am advocating for others through both a position where I am responsible for programming as well as in my personal writing, which is on the verge of being published and/ or produced.
What is a fun fact about you?: I used to be a ginger.

Joie Brooks, City of Dubuque Human Rights Department

Hometown: Dubuque, IA
College and Degree: University of Dubuque, Communication
Learning experience that changed/impacted you: Being a non-traditional student.
Why did you choose to serve?: To bring my passion to my community
What is your favorite quote?: “She believed she could, so she did”
What is one word you would use to describe yourself?: Enthusiastic
What is your favorite movie?: Fanboys
In five years, what would you like to be doing?: Either consulting or running my own business
What is a fun fact about you?: I am always thought to be much younger than I am