Ashton served as VISTA Team Leader from April 10, 2019 to October 8, 2020. She recruited 32 VISTAs for both full-year and summer terms and took pride in mentoring them through their service. She also created the Fairbanks VISTA website, Facebook page and Alaska AmeriCorps Facebook group. Ashton moved to Fairbanks in March 2018 to serve as the public library's first VISTA and fell in love with the community. She appreciates all the opportunities Fairbanks and Alaska opened up to her. Her next adventure takes her to the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i as the County's Homeless Coordinator.
It is amazing what Ashton can accomplish in just 18 months! Before Ashton started, I had serious concerns about the VISTA program. The City had just taken over the sponsorship and at the same time AmeriCorps was going through a significant restructuring. Because the sponsorship had changed, we had to recruit for all 11 full year VISTA positions and the 18 Summer Associate positions. The Summer Associate recruitment began about a week after Ashton started as the VISTA Leader and our recruitment period was only two weeks long. To make matters even more challenging, our local program didn’t have a website or dedicated social media presence yet. Within a few weeks of accepting the VISTA Leader position, Ashton created the AmeriCorps VISTA of Fairbanks website and social media pages, established our local VISTA office, and recruited for 14 of the 18 Summer Associate positions. After those first couple weeks, I no longer worried about our VISTA program.
Ashton, thank you for your service to our community. You helped our local program with your dedication, problem-solving, and leadership skills. We can't wait to see the great work you'll continue to do in Hawaii!
VISTA Accomplishments: The best part of my VISTA service was getting to work with fellow VISTAs and VISTA alums on various projects. This includes working with my supervisor (a former VISTA) to build a successful employment program for youth with disabilities; working with Lauren Eck to re-imagine and organize the Halloween Trick or Treat Town event; and working with Scott Wiser to establish fun outreach ideas for FHHC. The collaborative spirit of the Fairbanks VISTA program is my overarching favorite memory!
Life After VISTA Service: I am wrapping up a second VISTA term working in Colorado with the Community Opioid Response Program. I will soon begin work as the Syringe Access Program Coordinator with my host site, Southern Colorado Health Network, to continue expanding public health resources related to injection drug use, overdose prevention, and sexual health education in communities in southeastern Colorado. VISTA prepared me for this position by giving me the confidence, tools, and experience to wear many hats in my job and to say yes to projects that are entirely new to me.
Advice for VISTAs: My advice to any VISTA is to get as involved in the community as you can. I always say that being a VISTA gives you the opportunity to be in rooms you may not otherwise be in. By virtue of being a VISTA member, you are often able to gain access to people and opportunities that would take much more experience to reach so run with as many ideas as you can and get as connected as possible!
2017-2018 Fairbanks North Star Borough
Parks and Recreation Department
Life After VISTA Service: When my VISTA service ended in early 2018, I took a job as a Recreation Program Coordinator with the same entity I completed my service with. I was fortunate enough that my supervisor pushed to create a new position for me in the borough. VISTA allowed me to gain applicable job experience in my field and create community connections that to this day still help me succeed at my job. In addition, my work as a VISTA helped me hone my skills and realize the field I want a career in.
Advice for VISTAs: If I were to give one piece of advice to a potential VISTA, it would be: stick with it and keep an open mind. VISTA service is challenging with many trying times, but if you keep a good spirit and remember the positive impact your service has, the many times of triumph make it worth it. It all pays off in the end, both for you and the community you are serving in, even if you do not see it right away.
2017-2018 Fairbanks Housing and Homeless Coalition
2012-2014 Anchorage Catholic Social Services VISTA
VISTA Accomplishments: My time with VISTA was very rewarding and really helped to build my confidence. Co-coordinating the first Fairbanks Symposium on Homelessness with Michael Sanders was probably the biggest accomplishment. I headed up a subcommittee to research content and together, Mike and I ensured funding, promoted, and hosted the event. The event was very well received and helped to create coordinated, collaborative projects between organizations serving individuals who experience homelessness. It was a day where the Fairbanks community really came together and I was happy to be a part of it.
Life After VISTA Service: Currently, I am just starting a position on a contact tracing team in Anchorage. However, immediately after my last VISTA year, I worked for two years as a speech-language pathologist assistant in Fairbanks. This was my field of undergraduate study and I’m in the process of applying to graduate schools to be a speech-language pathologist. When I was working for the speech pathology clinic, I helped them receive an Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority grant to retrofit the office to complete tele-therapy. I wouldn't have been able to do that without the knowledge of community and the skillsets gained from my VISTA service years. VISTA gave me a whole other career and provided me important insights into my own career interests. I hadn't realized that I would love working on community projects as much as I do. I found a real passion for collaborative community projects and it informed my career path for the future.
Stephen Greenlaw, FNSB Public Library Services Coordinator
Stephen is originally from San Diego, California. He has been living in Fairbanks, Alaska for several years now. He received his Bachelor's of Arts degree in Fisheries and minor in Spanish at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He will be spending his year serving as a Library Program Specialist VISTA with the Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Libraries. He will be assisting in projects centered around poverty alleviation and community outreach. He is a foodie and loves coffee.
Zak wrapped up her service year on September 1, 2020. She served at Fairbanks North Star Borough Library as their Library Program Specialist. In her role, she created programs and resources for the community like the GED Scholarship and Library-Con for teenagers. In addition, she creatively reminded the community of the many programs already offered at the library and by other organizations they partnered with. You may remember her from her funny and literacy centered videos she created and launched on Facebook for your laughs and information. Zak will continue to live in Fairbanks for the next two years attending UAF and working as an amateur videographer. Her long term goal is to attend medical school and eventually live and work abroad.
From the moment Zak arrived, I could tell we were very lucky to have her here. Rarely do you meet someone with such imagination and creativity combined with skill. Using her talents to encourage literacy and library use she began a very successful run of highlighting library resources to members of our community. I have no doubt she made a difference in the lives of very many people. Zak fit right into our crew and became a member of the library family and will be missed. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors!"
- Melissa Harter, director of FNSB libraries
She will remain in Fairbanks and work at the Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living as their Administrative Assistant to three of their programs.
It has been my privilege to work with Brynn for the last year. She had obstacles to overcome and did overcome them. In telling her story, she told us that she would no longer let anyone write her story for her, she would write her own story. In many ways working with us in setting up a new program, she has not only charted her own way but helped us write the story of the Reentry Coalition in Fairbanks. Her authenticity and ability to share her life with us has made us more trauma-informed and sensitive to the re-entrants that we serve.
In October last year, we had the first Reentry Simulation with the US Department of Justice United States Attorney’s Office with the help of the Anchorage Reentry Coalition. Brynn was a participant in the first simulation. When we planned our second one with a UAF Social Work student, we found we would need our own materials. Brynn worked tirelessly to make the participant materials, phony money and help station materials used in creating the Reentry Simulation. In March, we held our second simulation at UAF with Justice and Social Work students. These materials are something that will be used over and over again in the days to come.
Our offices closed temporarily in March and life as we know it ended as a co-worker was exposed and possibly had COVID19. All groups, events and face-to-face halted due to COVID19 precautions. Our Reentry Coalition was presented with an emergency situation as the Warming Center was not able to serve all the homeless individuals coming for services. Brynn helped open a second Warming Center at the JP Jones Center with our Encampment Outreach program and staff from various IACNLV programs and volunteers from the community. Brynn was the friendly face at the door as we served over 126 different homeless individuals for two months.
These are two unexpected highlights of the past year that Brynn was an integral part of making happen. She has been flexible, moved work stations at least 5 times, been challenged in ways that show her determined heart. All of us are better for the many ways she served and interacted with our staff and program participants. We are grateful for her year of service and look forward to her continuing to work with our agency."
- Linda Setterberg: Fairbanks Reentry Coalition Coordinator
AGENCY: ACCESS ALASKA
AGENCY: ALASKA COALITION ON HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
AGENCY: BOYS & GIRLS CLUB
AGENCY: BREAD LINE INC.
AGENCY: FBX CHILDREN'S MUSEUM
AGENCY: FBX HOUSING & HOMELESS COALITION
AGENCY: FBX NATIVE ASSOCIATION
AGENCY: FBX NORTH STAR LIBRARIES
AGENCY: FBX REENTRY COALITION
AGENCY: FBX RESCUE MISSION
AGENCY: FBX SOIL & WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT
AGENCY: FBX WELLNESS COALITION
AGENCY: FBX YOUTH ADVOCATES
AGENCY: INTERIOR ALASKA CENTER FOR NON-VIOLENT LIVING
AGENCY: JP JONES CENTER
AGENCY: LION'S DEN
AGENCY: LOVE INC
AGENCY: NORTHERN HOPE CENTER
AGENCY: NORTH STAR COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
AGENCY: RESTORE INC
AGENCY: SALVATION ARMY
AGENCY: TANANA CHIEFS CONFERENCE
AGENCY: THE DOOR
AGENCY: UNITED WAY
AUTHOR: AISHA PEREIRA
AUTHOR: ASHTON VARNER
AUTHOR: KELSEY SNYDER
AUTHOR: LEAH SHAFFER
AUTHOR: MEAGAN SCHEER
AUTHOR: MIKE REIDERER
AUTHOR: SHEA BRENNEMAN
AUTHOR: TARYN WILLIAMS
AUTHOR: VICKI SLOBODYANIK
AUTHOR: ZAK MITCHELL
EVENT: COMMUNITY NEEDS DRIVE
EVENT: IN-SERVICE TRAINING
EVENT: PROJECT HOMELESS CONNECT
FAIRBANKS DAILY NEWS MINER
IN THE NEWS
OFFICIAL CNCS STATEMENT
RADIO 970 KFBX
TOPIC: GRANT WRITING
YEAR LONG VISTA