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!
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!"
Zak, thank you for your service to our community. You helped our local program with your creativity, humor and passion. We look forward to seeing you around town!
Brynn wrapped up her service year on August 17, 2020. She served at Fairbanks Reentry Coalition as their Reentry Program Associate. In her role, she organized a relationship with the Fairbanks Wellness Court to facilitate a location for those in their program to come and fulfill their community work service obligations and facilitated sustainability by putting together a complete "box kit" of supplies and materials needed to organize and run a Reentry Simulation. As the pandemic affected our community, Brynn stepped up immediately as a front-line worker to run a Warming Center for the homeless community, providing them with a place to warm up and eat while other agencies were closed.
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.
Brynn, thank you for your service to our community. You helped our local program with your perspective, hard work and dedication. We are excited to continue seeing your good work in Fairbanks!
Leah was an amazing addition to our team at FSWCD and the Fairbanks community. We chose Leah for this position because of her impressive academic background in economics and community service. She seamlessly became part of FSWCD staff, the Fairbanks community, and the VISTA community. Her dedication to the indoor community farm project began even before her first day of service and continued to be impressive in the successive months. As part of her service year, she assisted us with gathering the necessary support within the community by connecting with a wide variety of organizations. She was a part of a number of outreach events throughout her year in Fairbanks, helping with our information table at the Chena Hot Springs Energy Fair as well as a local food event at the Tanana Valley State Fair. She presented about her project to the local City Assembly, spoken briefly at the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce weekly meeting, and given information and updates at the city Housing and Homeless Coalition meetings. She assisted with the planning and leadership of our local Interior Alaska Food Network (IAFN), our local food policy group. Every chance she had to represent and share her work she jumped at without question. Her confidence and demeanor was excellent, and her representation of Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District was consistently impressive. She wrote at least two very large grant proposals during her time with FSWCD and her ability to collaborate with a large group of agencies and folks guided the process with ease. Her dedication to ensuring the positive outcome of her projects is evidence of her high standard of professionalism. We are so happy she chose FSWCD for her VISTA service. We know she will go on to do great things with her career and will miss her smile and laughter terribly."
Leah, thank you for your service to our community. You helped our local program with your input, positivity and dedication. We wish you the absolute best in your future and know you will be successful in anything you do!
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
Vicki wrapped up her service year on July 6, 2020. She served Love INC of the Tanana Valley well as their Development & Communications coordinator. She helped develop a fundraising model, managed social media, started up First Friday events, and assisted in event planning for Agape & Kids Fest. Fairbanks get to keep Vicki a bit longer as she will now be employed at Love INC, no longer as a VISTA but as their Development & Communications manager.
Vicki, thank you for your service to our community. Our program appreciates your input, hard work and dedication. We can't wait to see what you do next for our wonderful community.
Kelsey wrapped up her service year on June 8, 2020. She served ThrivAlaska well as their Development & Communications coordinator. She wrote successful grants, engaged with the community via social media and created a monthly newsletter. Kelsey's next step will be attending Johns Hopkins University to earn her master's in Public Management.
Kelsey, thank you for your service to our community. Our program appreciates your input, hard work and dedication. We wish you the absolute best in your future and know you will be successful in anything you do!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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: TESSA HOLMES
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