I am very thankful for my experience at the Noel Wien library! It has given me more community outreach skills. This experience has given me more of an appreciation for the Fairbanks community and the work the library is doing to support the community. Special thank you to all the library staff who always were so friendly to me and offered ideas, especially to Melissa Harter. I am so proud to be part of the work that our library is doing, which is so vital to our community during the time of coivd. Thank you! Gracias!
The library is a challenge in the best of times. It is a feast or famine situation, and our VISTAS need to be self-sufficient and go-getters to make the most of this placement. Stephen is a shining example of the perfect fit for our mission. From the beginning he was very open minded and willing to adapt to our ways. His arrival during COVID added complicating factors to his year here, but still he persisted in moving projects forward. Always willing to help and do what is necessary, Stephen has been a truly positive force for our staff. With his friendly nature and can-do attitude, he immediately fit in and was accepted as one of our own. His contributions to our programs are many. He is very well liked, and he will sorely be missed, but we wish him all the best in his new adventures!"
Tessa served at the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District from August 31, 2020, until August 30, 2021. Throughout the year, Tessa was able to immerse herself in FSWCD outreach events, food policy groups, and natural resources education. She recruited a community-led advisory council, pursued integral partnerships with the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, successfully wrote a grant to support Community Gardens in Fairbanks, and conducted soil samples and soil health workshops at multiple gardens throughout the summer. Tessa will continue to support food security in Fairbanks through her work on an urban agriculture conservation grant as a Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District employee.
Tessa was a complete dream of a VISTA. She started with a quarantined two weeks but worked and researched the whole time. When she started we just learned that we received the large USDA grant and she was raring to go with ideas and setting the tone for the grant process. She dove right into the project head first and was my right hand help throughout the whole process of getting everything set up and structured. I don't think I could have survived the process without her help. She was always flexible, working through the hills and valleys, sometimes deep valleys, of this enormous project with a smile on her face the whole time. Her professionalism and super attitude was noted by so many that we worked and connected with during her service. She was always willing to help and learn new skills at the office. She was an integral part of our FSWCD team all year. I'm so happy that she chose us and we are so happy to have been a part of her VISTA experience. She is truly amazing."
We were so pleased to have Mikayla Riley join our Reentry Coalition in August 2020. Her Big Audacious project was to take all the Reentry data from the Fairbanks Reentry Case manager since 2017 and transform it into meaningful data, with charts and graphs. She came during a time of COVID-19 and program transition, hard for anyone but she made the adjustments, even working from her small apartment with grace and willingness. She has a passion for justice and tender heart. Mikayla, we wish you all the best with your coming adventures."
Mikayla and I only had a month or two to work together but in that short time, she did her best to bring me up to speed as the new Reentry Coalition Coordinator. Although there are several impactful contributions that Mikayla made to the Reentry Coalition, I am most grateful for her hard work and strong organizational skills as it relates to the Reentry Simulation that she spearheaded. Mikayla created a timeline, pulled the right people together for consultation, sent out invitations, ordered food, reserved the venue space, and did what she could to make sure the event would be a success! In the end, the Simulation program got postponed due to COVID-19 concerns but when the event does successfully take place in a few months, it will still be because of the groundwork Mikayla did. Thank you Mikayal for putting together this program / event but also for all that you did to help build capacity toward our mission of serving reentrants.
I spent the past year working with Thrivalaska helping them develop sustainable fundraising and marketing strategies. This has been a wonderful, empowering year and I will always be grateful for the trust and support that I've been given throughout my service. On top of what I've learned with Thrivalaska, it's been incredibly educational to see so much of what it looks like for people to work together and share resources to improve their community. After service, I will be working with Fairbanks Arts Association as their communications associate. I'm so excited to spend more time in Fairbanks and in this beautiful state!
Nicole was our second year VISTA and she really knocked it out of the park! Initially she spent quality time learning all about Thrivalaska and how best to assist the whole organization. She worked with all our program leaders, our Board, the admin team, and reached out into the community so many times for resources! I cannot say enough good things about Nicole – she’s smart, funny, thoughtful, brave, and extremely talented. She helped us with fund development and marketing. She’s so talented putting together flyers – she always seems to find just the right picture to capture what she’s trying to convey. I have the utmost respect for her as a young working professional – she will do so well wherever she lands! We have been so lucky to have her talents – she’s written funding proposals (several were funded), she’s developed training for the Board and has been instrumental in helping them understand their role as fundraisers for the organization, sent out quarterly newsletters, kept up with Facebook and Instagram, is assisting us with building a new website, and is helping establish our 3rd year VISTA goals! We will miss her so very much and thank her for being so awesome and spending quality time with all of us at Thrivalaska!!"
It has been a pleasure working with Nicole and watching the magic unfold. She has a keen eye for creating engaging marketing content.I can recall meeting with her, thinking through ideas, sifting through different angles and settling on brilliant concepts. She has truly shaped the way we disseminate information. We were so fortunate to have an innovator on our team. From grant writing to team collaborations, you were present and consistently exceeding our expectations. Nicole, thank you for sharing your gifts with Thrivalaska. It has been an honor watching your impact touch our families and children in a meaningful way. The systems you have created will continue to serve our community beyond your time here."
Hal finished her service year August 31, 2021. She served as the Development Coordinator at the Northern Hope Center. During her time in Fairbanks, Hal created easier systems for NHC members to receive information online and in the center. She also wrote her first grant, and received $80,000 This lead to NHC getting their first vehicle, members updating winter gear, and new amenities coming to the center.
Hal will be beginning college in Berea Kentucky, where she will study Communications, Women’s gender studies, and be a Bonner Scholar.
Thank You Halle, NHC appreciates YOU! The many projects couldn’t have been as successful without your involvement.
Shea’s VISTA assignment was to create a Volunteer Action Center (VAC) for the Tanana Valley region. Initially projected to be a three-year project, Shea was able to complete the task within one year. The VAC is a place for volunteers to find volunteer opportunities in their community that match their interests. Since officially launching the VAC for the public on February 17th of 2021, Shea has recruited 33 organizations to sign up on the site and 111 volunteers.
Looking ahead, Shea has been selected to work with Doctors Without Borders beginning in early winter. In the meantime, she is spending the next handful of months soaking up the sun in Maui, Hawaii. This past year in Alaska was by far one of the best years of her life and she will always come back to her Fairbanks Family.
Shea has been such an impactful addition to The United Way of the Tanana Valley. The entire state shut down the week she arrived due to COVID-19, but she never allowed that to deter her from being productive and making an impact. She has been able to complete a three-year project in one year. Her perseverance to find funding for the Volunteer Action Center, build the online platform, as well as engage both nonprofits and volunteers has seen success in such a short time. She has helped others to see the impact that volunteerism can make in our community. When not working in the office, she is out in the community volunteering in the community garden or fixing lunches for our homeless population. She lives a life full of service and helps others in every community she finds herself in. While we are sad to see her leave, we know that her time working with and serving within the Doctors without Borders organization will be impactful. "
Being a new Executive Director for the United Way of the Tanana Valley (UWTV), I did not work with Shea for very long, but I am so grateful for time I did. Shea is positive, kind, incredibly intelligent, and was an asset to the UWTV. She always had a smile on her face and was willing to do whatever was needed for the organization. She is a genuine person who enjoys working and volunteering for her community. I look forward to hearing about what Shea will accomplish on her next adventure."
Shea was an incredible addition to United Way of the Tanana Valley. She helped resurrect our much loved program, the Volunteer Action Center. From planning, to execution and everything in-between, she made sure that our new program was successful and welcomed with open arms in the Tanana Valley. In addition, we cannot say enough about how above and beyond Shea went to connect people with resources, opportunities, and helped to make light work of getting much needed donations to our non-profits quickly this past year."
Shea’s been super helpful even before I secured my position with United Way. She was always willing to talk whether it was work related or not. Her support and kindness was part of what made being in Fairbanks such a pleasant experience."
We are so grateful for the energy, creativity, and hard work from our Summer Associates! They each made a positive impact at their organization and will be greatly missed.
Abby Stanworth- Children's Museum
This summer I was very fortunate to spend ten weeks at the Fairbanks Children’s Museum. While serving at the museum I was able to help with their summer camp programs and their playtimes. I felt fortunate to work at such a loving environment for children after the year they’ve had with covid. I took a lot of pride in making sure their summer play was safe and that they learned along the way. Children always remind me, no matter how much you teach them they’ll always teach you more. Thanks Fairbanks!
Elizabeth Meade- Children's Museum
I am so glad that I got to spend my summer at the Fairbanks Children's Museum! I split my time between the museum floor, where I helped maintain the space and facilitate play, and the camp room. In camp, I taught science and travel camps and got to assist in many more. I loved watching the kids learn and grow over the course of the summer. I also developed a kit for sensory-friendly museum play, and I am excited to see how this is implemented in the museum's future. I am so grateful to FCM and VISTA for the opportunity to live and work in Alaska this summer, and I am excited to see where I take my new skills from here!
Elizabeth and Abigail joined FCM this Summer as our second round of Summer Associates, but the first-ever round of Summer Associates while the Museum has been open to the public. As the Museum has focused on recovery from a year-long closure, welcoming families back into our space, launching summer camps to coexist with all of the above, and preparing for fall programming, our VISTAs have been patient, stellar, dynamic. One moment leading campers through an exciting experiment, the next sanitizing a bucket of licked toys, the next addressing camper behavior, the next setting up the Museum in a local park to reach a wider audience--Elizabeth and Abigail have seen it all and they've been rockstars every step of the way. Their candid feedback will set up next summer's VISTAs for even more success. We couldn't be more grateful for their time spent here in the Far North this summer."
Emerson Judd- Fairbanks Soil & Water Conservation District
It was such a gift to spend this summer growing food in community gardens and educating people about how important an understanding of the natural world is to creating nourished and equitable communities. Learning about and participating in the complex workings of the Alaskan food system was an incredibly fulfilling experience that has left me with so many insights into new frontiers and possibilities for sustainability, urban planning, food security, and more. I'm so grateful for the FSWCD team for welcoming me into the Fairbanks community so warmly and introducing me to so many new ideas and avenues of discovery that I'll certainly be taking with me into my future plans and goals.
Emmy has been such a rock star in our office. The gardens she helped to organize and plant and tended throughout her time here are flourishing under her diligent care. Her willingness to learn new skills and research new info to help craft the structure of the Fairbanks Community Garden Network has been phenomenal. Working with Tessa, they put on amazing and helpful workshops at the community gardens and at a number of outreach events throughout town. We are so lucky that she chose us as her site and we definitely will miss her. She will be an asset wherever she chooses to work in the future."
Michele Laarman- The Bridge
I would like to send a huge Thank you to Michele for her wonderful and patient heart. She will surely be missed here at The Bridge and always had knack for how to help our clients in the most acceptable and best way possible! She is a knowledge keeper and was always learning what we taught her and teaching us what we didn’t know! The time here at The Bridge, Michele helped multiple individuals see the light at the end of the road. Great job Michele and we wish you the best in your future endeavors!"
Kelli Ignat- Thrivalaska
Smitty McGowan- The Bread Line
My time at the Bread Line was transformative in more ways than I can describe. While my principal focus was on assisting with the Stone Soup Community Garden, my involvement manifested itself in a variety of ways due to the interconnected nature of the organization. Whether I was helping our guests at morning service or weeding the beds in the garden, I always felt blessed to be a small piece to the loving puzzle at 507 Gaffney Road. The Bread Line is a uniquely wonderful and holy place, a true example of what caring for others really looks like.
Smitty has been an absolute joy to have at the Bread Line. His good work in the garden is self-evident as our little green space is thriving like never before. Smitty fit right in at our organization & stepped up to also help serve during the morning meal service at the soup kitchen. Between that & the garden, Smitty deepened the Bread Line's relationship with the people we serve & helped more people connect to more services in the community. Smitty's enthusiasm, kindness, humor, dedication & fantastic attitude will be sorely missed here, but we are excited for his new adventures & to know that he'll always be doing good work out there in the wide, wide world."
Grace Doolittle- Boys & Girls Club
Nick Hausler- Boys and Girls Club
Tahjrel Prescott- Boys and Girls Club
Thank you to Grace, Nick, and Tajhrel! Summer at the Boys & Girls Club has been busy and FUN thanks to our three VISTA Summer Associates. The extra staff helps ensure that we have full coverage for a ten hour day full of programs and field trips. Grace has introduced our youth to a new game Mission Impossible which they love. We look forward to having Grace on our school year team and teaching the youth how to sew. Nick and the kids spent the summer learning about computers and how they work. Thanks for bringing this skillset to our team! Tajhrel brought the energy to the gym games and created homemade pizzas with the youth. The kids really enjoyed seeing Tajhrel transition from a Teen Member to a Staff Member this summer. Thank you all for your service!"