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!"
This summer, Fairbanks welcomes 9 Summer Associate VISTAs who will be serving at 6 different organizations! Summer Associates serve for 10 weeks and perform direct service work to combat hunger, prevent summer learning loss, and fight poverty in our community.
"For many, the tiny plot of land nestled between 11th and 12th avenue in Fairbanks is more than just a garden.
“[Stone Soup Garden] is a place for people to come and sit and have a place of belonging,” the Vista Garden Coordinator, Daisy Morotti said."
Read the full story at KTVF's website.
This summer in Fairbanks looked different for a lot of reasons. We appreciate our summer associates sticking in there and working through challenges.
They have accomplished much in only 10 short weeks.
The Fairbanks community appreciates the difference you all have made!
Caitlin Amburgey , Children's Museum
Her impact: "Caitlin worked remotely due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, and from nearly 3000 miles away, she created new inclusive content for the Fairbanks Children's Museum to use in the coming years. She designed curriculum focused on American Sign Language, Black History Month, Women's History Month, and many more topics. She also created social media content to increase our reach to families in the Fairbanks area in a helpful and productive way amidst a pandemic." - Meredith Maple, executive director
Taryn Williams, Children's Museum
Her impact: "Taryn made it to Fairbanks amidst a pandemic and led summer camps for the bulk of the summer, providing deeply needed childcare to our community and giving an amazing opportunity to many kids during a time of unknowns. Her teaching style is restorative-justice focused and will now be incorporated in education at the museum. Her broad range of expertise and teaching experience will leave a lasting impact on the Fairbanks Children's Museum." - Meredith Maple, executive director
Max Herz, Boys & Girls Club
Their impact: "Max and Amyaa built positive relationships with youth at BGC Fairbanks. They facilitated fun games and programs to reduce summer learning loss. Their work at BGC helped ensure that our youth enjoyed their summer despite the COVID pandemic. We are excited to welcome Amyaa to our permanent team, and we wish Max the best in his senior year at college in Ohio. Thanks to Max and Amyaa for spending your summer with BGC Fairbanks and our Members!" - Amy Reggiani, executive directori
Her impact: "Daisy Morotti has been a boon to the Bread Line in more ways than we ever could have anticipated. She stepped right up at the Stone Soup Community Garden. Her gardening talents are well evident in each of our 50 raised beds, as they flourished into the lushest bounty our little garden has ever seen. Daisy fit right into our team. At the Stone Soup Cafe, she served free, hot food to Fairbanks' most vulnerable neighbors every weekday morning during her time with us. Also, Daisy has been hard at work crafting a seasonal curriculum for our youth volunteering program, the Kid's Cafe. All of Daisy's big & heartfelt work has deepened the Bread Line's positive impact in Fairbanks. Her compassion, fortitude, generosity & attitude have made our days brighter & work easier - it's been an absolute joy having Daisy as our summer VISTA." - Hannah Hill, executive director
By Taryn Williams, FBX Children's Museum, Summer 2020
Living in a city as expensive as Fairbanks on ~$1,200 a month has proven to have its challenges (especially when there are so many delicious Thai restaurants and coffee huts to tempt you!) and can be one of the most intimidating parts of becoming a VISTA - even more so for Summer Associates who don’t have as much time to adjust. Throughout the last six weeks, however, I have found it to be an entertaining challenge, as it has allowed me to experience the city differently than I otherwise would have. I have found different ways to live within my budget while also trying new things and visiting unique places and have realized that $1,200 can get you far if you know what is important to you.
$800: Rent - already the largest line in anyone’s budget, rent in Fairbanks has proven to be no different. Though an apartment usually costs well more than the monthly stipend itself, renting a room has its perks. For $800, I found a room that is within walking distance from downtown (and my site), a kitchen that is well-enough stocked with utensils and dishware, and a private bath attached to my room. Coming to Fairbanks in a time of COVID-19 and quarantine means that I am spending more time at home than I otherwise would, so I know I am getting my money’s worth here.
$200: Grocery Shopping - the downside of living in a small city without a car is that my options are somewhat limited. Though I was excited to see that the store within walking distance is a Co-Op that boasts many vegetarian and environmentally-friendly items, it also means that my spending is higher than it would otherwise need to be. When I was moving in, I made a trip to the large chain grocery store to buy things like pasta and rice, and have been using the Co-Op to get perishables based on what I’m cooking each week. Each trip to the Co-Op costs me about $30 (I can only take what I can carry!) and - when I’m primarily shopping sales - I average about four days of meals from each trip. In the end, I have spent around $200 there each month.
$100: Restaurants and Coffee Huts - my favorite category to budget for and the one that motivates me to limit spending elsewhere, eating out is always a top priority for me. Seeing the multitude of Thai restaurants upon my arrival, I knew that my “Fairbanks Bucket List” would include trying several of those and - despite not being a coffee drinker - I have ended up at Sunrise several times in the early mornings (and, more often, in the hot evenings for a $2 cone). Between a biweekly Thai dinner, a few stops at the coffee hut, and an occasional crepe, I have come in just around $100 each month.
$60: Cell Phone Bill - an unfortunate necessity in life these days, kept a bit lower with the 10% discount GCI gave me for being a VISTA (small wins add up!) The money is automatically charged as soon as I get paid and I don’t spend much of my time thinking about it.
$40: Miscellaneous - As hard as I tried to plan ahead, there is inevitably always something you end up needing (a Lyft home during a Fairbanks-famous sudden torrential downpour, a pack of band-aids after accidentally scratching yourself on the walk home, or a tube of toothpaste because, well, personal hygiene) and it’s always safe to leave room for this. Between personal hygiene needs and the occasional transportation, I have spent almost exactly $40 on these necessities each month.
My budget in Fairbanks isn’t perfect - ideally I could have found lower rent or tried to find a room closer to another grocery store - but I’m only here for ten weeks and I’m doing what I can to make the best of it. I have a comfortable roof over my head and enough money for my favorite things (Thai food), and I have been able to live a relatively comfortable life on the (admittedly tight) living allowance.
From May 27-August 4, Fairbanks will host 5 summer associates at 3 sites. These VISTA responsibilities differ from full-year VISTAs. Instead of focusing on capacity building, summer associates perform direct service for their sites.
By Ashton Varner, VISTA Team Leader '19-20
Many know Fairbanks for its -40 degree winters. However, the community is much warmer than the weather it is known for. No matter its size, it has a small town vibe. It will not take long to win a 6 Degrees of Separation game. People know one another, neighbors look out for each other and we want each other to succeed.
Kim Green began pursuing her GED in 2012 but did not find success until years down the road. She knew having an education would help her get a better job but it was hard.
Those who guide adults through GED programs understand. Lisa Cogen began tutoring English at the Literacy Council of Alaska in 2017. She says school gets harder as a person is older due to the responsibilities life brings.
In 2017, Kim received a note from her doctor stating that, for a time, she would not be able to work. Her public assistance case worker pushed her to try to get her GED again.
Kim agreed. She didn’t want to waste time while she was out of the workforce. “I couldn’t do nothing,” she said.
That’s when Kim first met Lisa as her English tutor. She said Lisa was a good teacher who took time to break down concepts that tripped up her students. Kim appreciated the one-on-one care Lisa took with her.
Lisa saw potential in Kim. “I remember having good questions from her,” she said.
Unfortunately, Lisa did not get to see Kim through her GED journey. Kim became pregnant with her son and had to put her studies on hold.
As a teacher, not seeing final results can be a hazard of the job. Lisa takes moments of affirmation where she can, loving the moment when she watches students start to care. It helps to be around like-minded people such as her fellow tutors at the Literacy Council.
“They’re excited about it,” she said.
Lisa embraced the rare moment of seeing a finished chapter.
“I was a little, little piece of that,” she said. “It’s cool that she persevered.”
Since earning her GED, Kim has noticed the benefits.
“It opens up a lot of opportunities for me,” she said. “I think it helped me land [the VISTA] job.”
She plans to continue her education with the AmeriCorps VISTA end-of-service education award. Her interests include Certified Nursing Assistant certification and childcare.
Post-VISTA, Lisa has returned to her position with the borough school district as a special education teacher.
The AmeriCorps VISTA of Fairbanks office thanks Lisa and Kim for their summer service and wishes them all the best in their future.
Where does the summer in Fairbanks go?
Imani McGowan helped prevent child hunger by aiding JP Jones in their summer food program. She has supervised kids, provided meals and done outreach. VISTA service provided an outlook that she plans to apply to her career.
In her own words: “Since I am becoming a doctor/surgeon with a minor in childhood education, I plan to go to countries that are less fortunate and help kids all over as well as in the U.S.”
Raina Follet served at the Boys and Girls Club of Fairbanks, aiming to maintain the previous school year’s education as well as build on that ground and stimulate the children in stem and motor skills on a daily basis. She enjoyed contributing to their art program as well.
In her own words: “I have worked with a few kids on their language and mannerisms and kept a log of what I see when they're unaware of my observations and documented their success to pull up and share with them as a self esteem builder.”
Sheila Vent worked on social media/advertising for the Fairbanks Wellness Coalition. Her organization is small and personal which has led to successful campaigns. They had a booth at the Midnight Sun Festival and received around 200 surveys from attendees with 400 interactions.
In her own words: “I appreciate how VISTA is there to help out the community especially the areas of need to help a community regain control of certain issues it may be facing.”
David Leslie served the North Star Community Foundation by creating a presentation to teach nonprofits how to use social media effectively. He hit the ground running to make connections in town by meeting and networking with all the new summer VISTAs and members of the Fairbanks Housing and Homeless Coalition. He utilized those new connections and ideas to address not just his work as a VISTA for NSCF, but all service providers in Fairbanks.
In his own words: “Multiple times while manning a booth for outreach, I would meet an older community member who was a VISTA years ago! VISTA has been a common way for people to learn, move to, and live in Alaska since the 60s. I had no idea it was so popular not just in Alaska, but also for many decades as a whole!”
Grace Martin aided the Noel Wien library with the Summer Reading Program. The library staff will be happy to hear the seed that they planted in Grace’s ear about library school may sprout someday.
In her own words: “At the deployment fair, I was able to reach 252 soldiers and family members with information about the Fairbanks Noel Wien Library. Later that same day, we had multiple military families visiting the library for the first time because of the deployment fair connections. The librarians were all too busy to sit and table at the deployment fair so without the other VISTA Evan and I, they wouldn't have been able to do this outreach.“
Her impact: “Grace has been an excellent VISTA volunteer at the Noel Wien Public Library this summer. She is full of ideas, suggestions and enthusiasm for the projects she has been tasked to complete and has a great attitude for getting the work done.” - Michelle Proper, FNSB Libraries
When Kim ran into challenges, she took initiative to find solutions. She also created a list of local doctor’s offices for the year-long VISTA to use as she pursues fundraising opportunities.
In her own words: “Because I am not a Thrivalaska employee, I'm not allowed to pick up the kids. The kids like to be held and ask me to pick them up. It feels awkward around parents when I can't help by picking up the kids. I take time to explain that I am a volunteer and can't do that task. To work around the challenge while in the classroom, I sit on the floor and the kids are allowed to sit in my lap.”
When the site was closed to students, Amber and the other staffed cleaned the building top to bottom. She even vacuumed the window screens outside. Having a clean interior and exterior keeps kids healthy, parents confident in their childcare and ThrivAlaska running smoothly.
In her own words: “The support of the teachers is extremely important. That's the biggest thing that comes to mind. I've seen all summer that they really have their hands full. Most of these kids come from low income families, single parent households, and Thrivalaska wants to give these kids the best chance to succeed.”
Devon Gerstenfield maintained several community gardens on behalf of Fairbanks Soil & Water Conservation District. Locations included JP Jones, Stone Soup Community Garden, Zion Community Garden and Corinthians Garden.
In his own words: “I helped several buses full of high school kids from the lower 48 plant trees by the Chena River. The basic idea was that by driving sticks into the ground and planting trees nearby, we could keep the river from weathering away at the ground that the nearby houses sat on. If I had to guess, I'd say we planted somewhere on the order of 150 trees. On the eighth, I helped set up the Stone Soup Community Garden. There were about 40 odd plant containers that needed to be weeded and their soil turned over and prepared for the plants. Fortunately, I wasn't alone. We had dozens of community members helping us get everything completed. After four hours, we had enough lettuce, potatoes and peas planted to feed an army.”
Lisa Cogen serves at The Door youth shelter. She is a Jack of all trades, meeting any of The Door’s needs. Even after her VISTA tasks are done, her work ethic finds new tasks without fail. The organization loves her and doesn’t want her to go.
In her own words: “When someone expressed surprise that FYA had gotten a summer VISTA (even though it had looked unlikely), they asked the Executive Director where I had come from, and her response was that I was "sent from heaven!" FYA is going through a lot of staff transition at this time, and my presence has made it easier for staff all around, as I am another person able to help provide continuity of care for the youth. At the same time, since I don't have to do much of the paperwork and documentation, I am also able to do things like sort and rotate the food donations, organize the game shelves, and do things that the regular staff just can't ever seem to get to.”
Her impact: “Our VISTA, Lisa, is an incredible addition to our team. She is insightful, motivated and doesn't hesitate when she sees something needing to be done. Our Summer Associate helps to fill in the gaps in the youth shelter. Thanks to Lisa, we attended our first Pride Festival, been able to meet with volunteer groups on the weekends, and managed to deal with changes in the shelter - without any service delays to youth. We love her and don't want to see her time end.” - Marylee Bates, The Door
Emily Markkanen supervised and taught job skills to teens with disabilities with Access Alaska. With the program, they handle specific jobs at a local farm and a recycling facility. Emily mentors the kids, keeping them on track, training in real time when they get stumped and resolving conflict as necessary.
In her own words: “During the course of the month, we set up a lesson about how to run a mock assembly meeting. To help with this first we set up a day at the Central recycling center and Green Star recycling to learn about our recycling goal we have in Fairbanks. Then we have a mock assembly meeting to show how the meeting is ran.”
Evan Thomas aided the North Pole library with the children’s Summer Reading Program. He registers children, stamps their accomplishments and provides them with prizes. He has also had the opportunity to create marketing materials for several library events.
In his own words: “I enjoy the ability to participate in the kid's programs such as rock painting and slime, many of my co workers say they appreciate a male being in this setting, which is a nice reassurance, It feels great to be able to help with that stuff. I'm trying to get a "Little Library" started but I'm having a difficult time getting it off the ground as i am not quite sure on how to go about it. I'll continue research though and hopefully something will come of it very soon!"
If you are interested in serving as a summer VISTA in 2020 or
if your organization is interested in hosting a summer VISTA in 2020, contact the VISTA team leader at email@example.com.
Devon Gerstenfield serves with the Fairbanks Soil & Water Conservation District. He provides support to community gardens around town, including mowing, weeding, planting and watering. He also presents learning opportunities to the children involved in JP Jones’ summer program.
David Leslie serves the North Star Community Foundation as a social media manager and instructor. He produces workshops to teach non-profits how to effectively set up and utilize social media communications.
Emily Markkanen serves at Access Alaska with their summer work program, which provides hands-on training to local high school students in special education programs. Her position involves providing guidance, mentoring and modeling positive behaviors to students.
Grace Martin and Evan Taylor serve at the Fairbanks North Star Borough Libraries. They assist the librarians with the children’s Summer Reading Program. They also come up with ideas for passive programming and community outreach. Grace is located at the Noel Wien location while Evan serves at the North Pole Branch.
Imani McGowan serves at the JP Jones Center with their children’s summer program. The program involves feeding children lunch as well as partnering with the Children’s Museum and Soil & Water Conservation District to provide science based learning opportunities.
Sheila Vent serves with the Fairbanks Wellness Coalition. She creates graphics as well as posts for FWC to use on social media and their website. She also supports the organization through community outreach.
AGENCY: ACCESS ALASKA
AGENCY: ALASKA COALITION ON HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
AGENCY: BOYS & GIRLS CLUB
AGENCY: BREAD LINE INC.
AGENCY: FAIRBANKS SENIOR CENTER
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: FOUNDATION HEALTH PARTNERS
AGENCY: INTERIOR ALASKA CENTER FOR NON-VIOLENT LIVING
AGENCY: JP JONES CENTER
AGENCY: LION'S DEN
AGENCY: LOVE INC
AGENCY: MORRIS THOMPSON CENTER
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: CAITLIN RAMPY
AUTHOR: HALLE GENSLER
AUTHOR: KELSEY SNYDER
AUTHOR: KENZLEY DEFLER
AUTHOR: LEAH SHAFFER
AUTHOR: MEAGAN SCHEER
AUTHOR: MIKAYLA RILEY
AUTHOR: MIKE REIDERER
AUTHOR: SHEA BRENNEMAN
AUTHOR: STEPHEN GREENLAW
AUTHOR: TARYN WILLIAMS
AUTHOR: TESSA HOLMES
AUTHOR: VICKI SLOBODYANIK
AUTHOR: ZAK MITCHELL
Child Tax Credit
EVENT: COMMUNITY NEEDS DRIVE
EVENT: IN-SERVICE TRAINING
EVENT: PROJECT HOMELESS CONNECT
FAIRBANKS DAILY NEWS MINER
FRED MEYER REWARDS
IN THE NEWS
OFFICIAL CNCS STATEMENT
RADIO 970 KFBX
SERVICE YEAR BEGINNINGS
TOPIC: GRANT WRITING
YEAR LONG VISTA