Meet our 2018-19 VISTA Members
The Iowa Campus Compact VISTA Community Corps strives to eliminate poverty through campus-community partnerships by placing full-time capacity building support in nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions. Members serve full-time for one year and earn a living allowance and education award upon successful completion.
Meet Our New VISTA Members:
- Service Site: Catherine McAuley Center
- Hometown: Cedar Rapids, IA
- College and Degree: Iowa State University, Nutritional Sciences
- Learning experience that changed/impacted you: I worked in an assisted living facility helping to plan fun, nutrition related events for the residents. I was able to plan an “unusual foods” presentation and taste-test that the residents could attend. I made a variety of different foods that the elderly population in Iowa does not usually eat, including spaghetti squash and kumquats to name a few! These residents were all people that live on their own and can make their own meals each day, and it was very rewarding for me to have a lot of them come up and tell me how much they learned and that they wanted to use all the recipes! It was great to see that my actions made a difference in people’s lives!
- Why did you choose to serve? I have a passion for change, and I believe the work we do as AmeriCorps VISTA members allows us to make a huge difference in the lives of many. I grew up in Cedar Rapids, and I wanted to give back to a community that has given me so much!
- What is your favorite quote? “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” –J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- What is one word you would use to describe yourself? Optimistic
- What is your favorite movie? Tommy Boy
- In five years, what would you like to be doing? Making an impact in international development and food insecurity!
- What is a fun fact about you? I’ve been a dancer the last 18 years and have done all different types of dance!
- Service Site: The Harkin Institute at Drake University
- Hometown: Pleasantville, IA
- College and Degree: Secondary Education at Drake University
- Learning experience that changed/impacted you: Student teaching. It taught me that taking care of yourself is necessary for being able to take care of others.
- Why did you choose to serve? I chose to serve because I believe that the breaking the cycle of poverty starts with education and opportunity.
- What is your favorite quote? “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less” – C.S. Lewis
- What is one word you would use to describe yourself? Creative
- What is your favorite movie? Right now, Jersey Girl. But it changes all of the time.
- In five years, what would you like to be doing? Making feature films.
- What is a fun fact about you? I’m a writer, actor, and director. I’m always working on a film project.
- Service Site: Central College
- Hometown: Allerton, IA
- College and Degree: Central College, Spanish and Communication Studies
- Learning experience that changed/impacted you: My junior year, I studied abroad in Granada, Spain for a semester. As a part of the program, we went on a 3-day excursion to Morocco. The goal of the visit was not just to ride camels and explore the city of Rabat; a large part of our experience was sitting down with local university students and digging in to some of the most difficult and politically charged topics between our two cultures. We also stayed with host families there, and by the end of our brief time in Morocco, we all had a much better understanding of how our cultures are at once different and the same, as well as a few good friends who still like to stay in touch.
- Why did you choose to serve? When I read the job description of this VISTA position, it immediately clicked with me as something that was right up my alley – collaborating with students and non-profits to take on social justice issues that affect youth today. My interest in communication studies and Spanish language and cultures seemed to be a perfect match to help me serve my community, especially after I realized just how much my county is affected by poverty.
- What is your favorite quote? “You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” – Robin Williams; “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” – Bruce Lee; & “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
- What is one word you would use to describe yourself? Committed
- What is your favorite movie? Disney movies/anything that will make me laugh!
- In five years, what would you like to be doing? Helping people in some way
- What is a fun fact about you? I have roasted marshmallows over a volcanic vent!
- Service Site: Catherine McAuley Center
- Hometown: Lisle, IL
- College and Degree: Coe College, BA in English
- Learning experience that changed/impacted you: I spent 6 weeks in Ancient Corinth, Greece during the summer of 2017 where I participated in an archaeological field school. I spent about 6 hours a day for 5 days a week excavating at an ancient site in the heat and sun. It was completely new to me, and entirely unrelated to what I was studying in school, but I wanted to experience something new and challenging. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I learned a lot about my own capabilities and ended up falling in love with the tiny village we lived in. I think it impacted me in the sense that I had never been the kind of person who was active all day every day, and I had doubts about how I would fare in that kind of environment. Additionally, I’m very much an introvert, and this was an atmosphere in which alone time was hard to come by. The biggest challenge I faced was finding a way to be okay with being surrounded by people all the time. I developed some new ways to find alone time without disappearing for hours, and ultimately came out of my shell by the end of the trip.
- Why did you choose to serve? I chose to serve because I fell in love with my host site’s mission and wanted to help further that mission in any way I could. My VISTA journey has been unique in the sense that I actually worked with my host site for several months before I ever applied to be a VISTA, so when the opportunity arose to serve the site as a volunteer for an entire year, I jumped on it!
- What is your favorite quote? “To err is human; To forgive, divine.” –Alexander Pope
- What is one word you would use to describe yourself? Resilient
- What is your favorite movie? Hercules
- In five years, what would you like to be doing? Ideally I would be still working for an incredible non-profit, and would have a masters degree in something related to non-profit management/ development
- What is a fun fact about you? Growing up I had somewhere between 10-15 pets at one time. Now I have two big bunnies who act like dogs and enjoy watching YouTube videos with me!
- Service Site: Cedar Rapids Public Library
- Hometown: Born in St. Louis, MO, but grew up in Lima, Peru
- College and Degree: Coe College, Bachelor’s degrees in English and Creative Writing
- Learning experience that changed/impacted you: Working with shanty-town communities in Lima, Peru to expand childcare services
- Why did you choose to serve? I wanted to give back to a community that has welcomed and nurtured me for the last several years
- What is your favorite quote? “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling
- What is one word you would use to describe yourself? Inventive
- What is your favorite movie? Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- In five years, what would you like to be doing? Working in a field that combines my passion for books with continuing to give back my community, and finding myself happy and fulfilled
- What is a fun fact about you? I love playing Dungeons and Dragons in my spare time!
- Service Site: Willis Dady Homeless Services
- Hometown: This one! Cedar Rapids, IA
- College and Degree: Bryn Mawr, transferred to Cornell, graduated from Cornell with BA in Mathematics
- Learning experience that changed/impacted you: I dunno, man. Most of them have impacted me in some way, either by me deciding that THIS is what I wanna do or THIS would be fun to do or holy heck please I never wanna do this again. It’s small and silly, but I remember learning about p-values in my first statistics class. I come from a household of scientists, and was angered and horrified that p-values are neglectfully (sometimes willfully) manipulated in ways so as to fit certain narratives. I had already loved my statistics class, but that felt like a point where I was justifiably angry, but could also see a path towards change that I could access? Into an audience I was familiar with? I dunno, again, it’s a small moment, but it’s the one that immediately popped out.
- Why did you choose to serve? I actually didn’t become an AmeriCorps VISTA to become a VISTA; I had wanted an opportunity to use my statistics and mathematical skills in a way that would benefit my community (after all, this *is* the city that raised me; it’s only fair that I give back to it). I was aware of Willis Dady through the relationship it has with Cornell, and I ended up applying for the Cost of Homelessness Project Coordinator position. Lo and behold, here I am!
- What is your favorite quote? “I’d rather have your best work than your stressed work” – Emily Zimmon (one of my coworkers)
- What is one word you would use to describe yourself? I hate this question. Six word sentences are more interesting. Uhm. ‘Cause I’m feeling pretentious, let’s go with nikhedonia (a word I just looked up in order to answer this question) – the feeling of joy or elation that comes from anticipation of success.
- What is your favorite movie? AHHHH I HATE THESE THERE ARE TOO MANY THINGS I LIKE. I saw Coco yesterday and it made me cry, but in a good way. I also like pretty much everything from Studio Ghibli.
- In five years, what would you like to be doing? Goodness, I have a hard time focusing past next week! In five years, I guess I hope to be doing work similar to what I’m doing right now. I hope to have a Master’s in applied statistics or applied mathematics at that point, so that I can be doing my work more efficiently and, well, masterfully. But we’ll see what happens – I don’t think I’ll be too disappointed if life takes me down other roads!
- What is a fun fact about you? In my free time, I make stuff like this:
- Service Site: United Way of East Central Iowa
- Hometown: Luling, LA
- College and Degree: Beloit College; English literature and Secondary Education
- Learning experience that changed/impacted you: I still remember the head of my preschool setting aside time and teaching me to read one on one just because she saw I was interested in learning!
- Why did you choose to serve? I chose to serve because I want to help young people the way I was helped when I was young.
- What is your favorite quote? “I am queen of all my sins/forgotten.” -Anne Sexton
- What is one word you would use to describe yourself? aspiring
- What is your favorite movie? Pride and Prejudice (2005)
- In five years, what would you like to be doing? I hope I’m still helping people, and I really hope I have my own stand mixer.
- What is a fun fact about you? I have broken three bones, and none of them were technically my fault.
- Service Site: Mid-Iowa Community Action, Inc.
- Hometown: Hayward, California
- College and Degree: San Francisco State, BA in Political Science
- Learning experience that changed/impacted you: Interning in two congressional offices had a profound impact on me because it taught me how politics and government intimately affects the lives of everyday people. It then gave me a clear sense of purpose and made me want to work in government in the future.
- Why did you choose to serve? I chose to serve because I wanted to explore the larger world. Having lived in the Bay Area all my life, I wanted to move away to get more perspective and to find my own sense of place in a new community.
- What is your favorite quote? “Good is not a thing you are. It is a thing you do.” – Kamala Khan, A.K.A Ms. Marvel
- What is one word you would use to describe yourself? Extroverted
- What is your favorite movie? My favorite movie is a Korean film called The Man From Nowhere. It is an action thriller about a pawnshop owner trying to save a kidnapped girl from an organized crime group. It’s like Taken but 1000 times better.
- In five years, what would you like to be doing? I really hope I can be an AP government teacher after working in the federal government is some capacity. I then hope to use my public service background to emphasize to my students how important it is to be an engaged citizen.
- What is a fun fact about you? I can move my bottom lip in and out very quickly like a lizard or snake. It can only do it in short bursts though because my muscles will get tired.
- Service Site: Willis Dady Homeless Services (2nd Year VISTA Member)
- Hometown: Sioux City, IA
- College and Degree: Coe College Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts & Creative Writing
- Learning experience that changed/impacted you: It’s hard for me to choose one particular, there’s so much that has happened in the last year. I would say the biggest impacts have been the dedication exhibited in every staff and volunteer to go above and beyond in the work they do to advance our mission, and also the motivation. I’ve worked with our case manager to host about 24 focus groups this past year, and quite a few of those have centered around discussions on what is motivating our clients to pick themselves up and keep going. These discussions are something that I’ve started realizing that I’ve been carrying around with me, and are driving me to push myself to keep growing towards the best that I can be.
- Why did you choose to serve? I chose to serve at Willis Dady because I felt it was a very mutual fit in terms of what I was looking for in terms of a start to my professional career and also what Willis Dady needed for their volunteer program to grow.
- What is your favorite quote? “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not have lived in vain.” -Emily Dickinson
- What is one word you would use to describe yourself? Semi-precious
- What is your favorite movie? Blood and Chocolate
- In five years, what would you like to be doing? I would like to be doing some kind of non-profit program management, like a volunteer program, while also transitioning into being a published writer.
- What is a fun fact about you? I can kinda run and play Pokemon Go at the same time.
- Service Site: Operation New View Community Action Agency (2nd Year VISTA Member)
- Hometown: I like to think that my hometown is spread across many states. I was born in Troy, New York and raised in Phoenix, Az. I spent a few years in Fort Scott, Ks. and a few more in Galena, Il. Eventually I moved to Dubuque, Ia. to attend school. I currently live in Farley, Ia. with my husband and our five children, four cats, one dog, three turtles, two mice, snake, lizard and too many fish to count.
- College and degree: I received my Associate of Science with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education in 2006 from Fort Scott Community College. In 2010 I received my Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Communication and Psychology from the University of Dubuque. My final degree, a Master of Science in Counseling Studies was obtained in 2014 from Capella University.
- Learning experience that changed/impacted you: A learning experience that impacted me began in my childhood. My parents divorced when I was three; as a result my older sister and I lived with our dad. By age nine I would learn that my mom had two girls and a boy from another marriage and my dad would have a girl and a boy as the result of two seperate relationships; one that would lead to marriage and a step-mom. After 10 years the marriage would dissolve. When I was nineteen I had my first child; a boy. The relationship between my son’s father and I would not last and I found myself living live as a single mom. When my son was seven years old I met my now husband (who also came from a broken home) and his three children from two previously failed relationships. Two years later at the age of 28 we would prepare to have a daughter together. The stress of a new relationship and adding a fifth child to the mix threatened to end the relationship and continue the cycle of broken homes. This is when I made the decision to either continue to play and teach the ‘victim of circumstance’ and ‘broken home syndrome’ or pick up the pieces of the many broken homes and create our own beautiful mosaic family. I am happy to say that eleven years later we are still together; although our colors have changed we are forever learning to adjust accordingly. From this journey I call my life I have learned that beneath the surface everyone has a story to tell. As a professional in the Human Services field I believe it is part of my job description to look beyond the surface and hear their stories.
- Why did you choose to serve? While I was finishing my Masters Degree I began what seemed like a never ending job search. Then I heard Jennie Weber from the YMCA on the radio, she was looking for mentors for the Reach and Rise Program. I initially thought it would look great on a resume since I had no relevant ‘work experience’ other than the odd jobs I had worked to pay bills and keep food on the table. When I doubted my effectiveness as a mentor she motivated me to do better, to be better, and to believe in myself. The greatest part of being a mentor was being able to witness and be hands on in helping not only a child, but a family come to terms with the events that changed them. Approximately three months after becoming a mentor I came across a help wanted ad in the paper for a summer position with AmeriCorps State and National. Again, I thought it would look great on a resume. That summer changed my perspective on what I considered to be a rough neighborhood. I realized that these children needed love, guidance, and support just like me. They we not disobedient children due to circumstance; they were respectful, loving and kind. I decided that I loved what AmeriCorps stood for and I wanted to do it again. I then enrolled for a position as a K-3 reading tutor. I wasn’t done yet; I completed a third term as a Summer Barton Reading Instructor and my fourth and final term with AmeriCorps State and National was served as a K-3 Reading tutor. In such a short time I successfully completed 2,400 hours, continued to build my resume, and met some wonderful people and organizations along the way. I have experienced empathy, compassion, and gratitude from children with diverse backgrounds including those who may struggle with socio-economic, educational, and discriminatory backgrounds. Children who just need a listening ear, an unbiased opinion, and a confidence boost, as well as an advocate that says I believe in you. In return my time has been heavily rewarded with smiles, hugs, thank you notes and much appreciation. From my time with Americorps State and National I learned that the human experience is the best experience. It is not routine, it is not predictable, it is not organized. It is chaotic, it is messy, it is full of raw emotion. As much as it goes against my organizational skills, I love it. I have also realized that maybe the journey is not about where we thought we should be, but instead ending up where we were meant to be. I continue to serve because I have grown tremendously in my pursuit to happiness. I take with me experience, knowledge, and confidence, as well a new appreciation for the difference one person can make.
- What is your favorite quote? Just like with children, I cannot pick a favorite as they are all wonderful in their own right. So, here are my favorite quotes: ‘How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with great.’ ~ Bill Bennett; ‘I am not a liberal snowflake, my feelings are not fragile, my heart isn’t bleeding. I am a badass believer in Human rights. My toughness is in tenderness. My strength is in the service to others. There is nothing more fierce that formidable, unconditional love. There is not a thing more courageous than compassion. But if my belief in equity, empathy, goodness and love indeed make me and others like me snowflakes, then you should know winter is coming.’ ~ Michele Elise; ‘That horrifying moment when you’re looking for an adult but you realize you are an adult. So you start looking for an adultier adult. Someone better at adulting than you.’ ~ Author Unknown ~
- What is one word you would use to describe yourself? Taking a nickname from my family the one word I would use to describe myself would be hippie. Hippie in the sense that I like to reduce/reuse/recycle, compost, use natural and organic beauty and hygiene products. Prepare food from scratch. Turn a negative into a positive, and find the good in people. I love animals, nature, yoga, and relaxing music.
- What is your favorite movie? Like having a favorite child, its possible to pick one. The three movie that I could watch over and over again include Second Hand Lions, Big Fish, and Moulin Rouge.
- In five years, what would you like to be doing? Because I would describe myself as a go with the flow hippie who is looking for an adultier adult. I’m not sure where I will be in five years as far as career position or title. I do know that it will have some relevance to the Human Services field in which I can look beyond the surface and hear the stories of others, appreciate their sense of humor, cry with sympathy and sometimes empathy and encourage them to look for the positives and find their happiness.
- What is a fun fact about you? I met my best friend nearly 29 years ago in Phoenix, Az. when I was nine years old. To make the deal even sweeter we raised our boys together; thus creating a second generation of best friends. It was my first day of third of third grade; I had just moved from New York and apparently what I lacked in tan skin I made up for with my accent. This must have intrigued Tanya because she stared all day. The friendship was instantaneous. After school I went to meet her family and she et mine. The first words out of her mouth when she met my step-mom were not Hi, my name is Tanya, as you might expect. Her first words were Hi, my name is Tanya and Im Jewish, can your daughter still play with me? To this day we still have a good laugh about it, but I as I age I wonder what that must have felt like, to grow up thinking that you had to disclose such personal information up front in an attempt to protect yourself from future disappointment. Most likely it was my family who taught me to be kind-hearted and enforced my hippie ways, I like to believe it was my best friend. From that first interaction she taught me about prejudice in an unforgettable way. Tanya is more than a friend; she is my shoulder to cry on, the giver of unsolicited advice, my biggest fan and worst enemy, my second opinion, my escape from reality, my wingman and my right-hand man. She is part of my family.