"Where does a person start when singing praises for Mike Sanders?
Mike wasn’t only my “boss“. He effortlessly acted as a mentor, friend, listener, teacher to me. I can’t imagine a better person with whom to build a program from the ground up. The phrase “in the trenches“ comes to mind, especially for those early days. A lot of repairing the plane while we flew it. All the while, he kept me calm and grounded without ever diluting my ideas or stifling my passion - a sign of a true mentor.
I still frequently seek Mike’s counsel. In my current role, I credit him for my foundational knowledge of services to the homeless. Even when he wasn’t teaching me, I was learning from him. I still pick his brain any chance I get, whether it’s project ideas for interns, how to work with folks I don’t agree with or Project Homeless Connect.
As a friend, Mike taught me how to ride a four wheeler and how to shoot - though not at the same time. His family showed me Die Hard for the first time. In turn, I taught him how to decorate an office.
Mike’s new role is perfect for him. He is a leader by example capable of seeing the big picture. He keeps a cool head during times of stress and always fights through to the end. He is fair. He listens. As a mentor, Mike trusted me and gave me freedom to face problems, try new things and create solutions. It didn’t always go smoothly. But Mike always heard me out, let me vent and gave me space to move on in my own style. Thriving on Mike’s team is just a matter of course. Fairbanks is in wonderful hands.
Mike, thank you for taking a chance on the VISTA program and on me. Our trust in one another as teammates kept the program going without skipping a beat. Thank you for the support over the years, for helping me make my dreams reality and for never taking any credit. Keep leading by example. I can’t wait to see what you do on your new journey!"
VISTA Team Leader
"During my VISTA year, Mike was respected and very much appreciated by every member of the cohort. Despite the challenges of serving during the COVID pandemic, Mike ensured the program's success in a way that was engaging for all of the VISTAs. What stands out to me the most is Mike's ability to connect with each VISTA member individually. He truly cares about each of us and worked daily to ensure we had an impactful and smooth year of service.
Mike, thank you for the constant support on every new idea I threw your way, for the encouragement to fully step into my position as VISTA Leader, and for the flexibility as I explored other passions in Fairbanks! You were such an inspiring, fun, and level-headed supervisor and I learned so much working with you!
Mike's energetic presence will be greatly missed in the VISTA program but we're all excited to see him thrive in his new position with the City of Fairbanks!"
VISTA Team Leader
"Interviews do not really prepare you for Mike Sanders. Laser focused, yet with the ability to always greet the work day with a sunny "Good morning," Mike is equal parts work and play, with a heart as big as Alaska. One cannot help but be touched by Mike's ability to serve, keep the people he serves alongside always front and center, and still find time to help a friend move a just-killed caribou during hunting season before his next afternoon meeting. That's enviable range.
Serving alongside Mike as the current team leader since last August, we have both in that time faced our fair share of loss and grief. Through it all, he has remained unflappable, yet still willing to show real emotion. While I came to the position with more life experience and a few more AmeriCorps tours (doing both direct and indirect service) than my team leader predecessors, Mike adjusted to my skill set. I didn't so much need mentorship (!) as much as the room to once again learn to trust; of course, no amount of words can express my gratitude for the trust he has shown me in return.
Mike, thanks for the opportunity to serve, the laughter, the debate, and the freshly caught game and fish. Your snack tab is well and truly paid in full, my friend."
VISTA Team Leader
On behalf of AmeriCorps, please accept my sincere appreciation and gratitude for your incredible work over the past 3+ years to develop and foster a successful AmeriCorps VISTA program for the Fairbanks NorthStar Borough. Thanks to your leadership and vision, interior Alaska communities now benefit each year from a cadre of VISTA members and Summer Associates tackling the communities most pressing needs in partnership with both the City and with non-profits and agencies throughout the region.
You, as well as the City of Fairbanks VISTA Program staff, partner sites, and members past and present should take great pride in the value of your work for your neighbors in the resilient communities of Fairbanks, Alaska.
With deep gratitude for your service,
AmeriCorps Portfolio Manager, West Region