Denise Lavoie, VISTA Team Leader
Kenzley moved to Fairbanks with lots of excitement, both for the VISTA position and opportunities within the state and community. All of her expectations were exceeded! During her year as VISTA Leader, Kenzley recruited 19 new full year and summer associate VISTAs, supported them through any challenges they encountered (thank you COVID…), and celebrated their many accomplishments. Her favorite VISTA memories include planning and implementing the first annual Kids Literacy Farmers Market and being inspired by the motivation, energy, and kindness of the VISTA cohort. Kenzley has fallen in love with Fairbanks and is excited to stick around as the Energy Justice Organizer with the Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition.
Kenzley Defler is the ultimate professional! She excelled in every aspect of the VISTA Leader position. She built upon previous VISTA Leaders’ work and blazed a path for future VISTA Leaders. Kenzley successfully advocated for two expansions to the program resulting in the program growing to 16 full year VISTA positions, 14 Summer Associates, and the Team Leader position. I don’t think the VISTA program has ever been this large in Fairbanks and it’s due to Kenzley’s efforts. Growing the program was just a small part of what Kenzley did. Her main contribution was the impeccable leadership she gave to the VISTAs. She was a mentor, fierce advocate, active listener, and a role model to the VISTAs. Everybody respected and appreciated Kenzley for her leadership. Under her leadership the VISTA team became one of the most cohesive, drama free, and productive VISTA year groups I have ever seen. Kenzley is amazing and I am excited to see what her future holds!
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!