Jon Bougher (2006-2007) served as an AmeriCorps VISTA within the Tohono O’odham Nation. After serving, he worked on the Nation for another year before getting his Master of Arts in Communication from the University of Florida as well as a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Film from Wake Forest University. Mr. Bougher is currently teaching filmmaking in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Morgan Ruelle (2006-2007) served in Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. After completing his service, he began an MS/PhD program in the Department of Natural Resources and American Indian Program at Cornell University. He spent a semester (June – December 2009) with the Nation to conduct his Master’s thesis research; focusing on elders’ knowledge about food plants, the human ecology of intergenerational education, and the development of food sovereignty. He has published his work in the journal, Economic Botany, and has a second article to be published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.
Mr. Ruelle is currently finishing his PhD in Ethiopia, studying similar topics with farmers and elders. He continues to visit Standing Rock Sioux Nation each year and has kept in touch with all the VISTA members who spend their term of service there. He says, “I am so grateful to NSAIE for getting me started down this road; my experience as a VISTA [member] has led me into many lifelong friendships and exciting opportunities.”
Laura De Los Santos (2007-2008) served with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s Department of Aging Services after completing her undergraduate degree in History. After her term of service as an NSAIE VISTA member, she returned to the University of Illinois and obtained her graduate degree in Latin American and Latino Studies. Her master’s program culminated in a Foreign Language and Areas Studies fellowship, awarded by the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which allowed her to attend a six-week course at the Yucatec Maya Summer Institute. She spent three weeks in Chapel Hill learning basic Yucatec Maya grammar, usage, and hieroglyphics and then traveled to Valladolid, Yucatan Mexico, to experience daily life and learn from leading anthropologists. Ms. De Los Santos has said in an interview with Extra, Chicago’s Leading Bilingual Newspaper, that “It would be nice to think I have motivated not only my three daughters to seek higher education, but women in general, mature women in particular.”
Hilary McKinney (2007-2008) worked with the Tohono O’odham Nation during her term as an AmeriCorps VISTA. She says, “[the] NSAIE has definitely had an impact on my life. Working with the Tohono O’odham Department of Health and Human Services on [activities] such as creating an Adult Protective Services Division sparked my interest in the law and tribal governments.” After her term of service, Ms. McKinney spent a year in Tucson working with The OASIS Institute, a non-profit life-long learning and volunteer center for older adults, while studying for the LSAT exam. She was admitted to the University of Tulsa College of Law and began a Juris Doctor program geared toward Native American Law.
Ms. McKinney is currently in the final year of her Juris Doctor, planning to graduate in the spring of 2012. She has spent her time at university participating as both vice-president and president of the Native American Law Students Association, as well as interning at the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C. After graduation, she hopes to work with the Native American community on government-to-government relations, Indian gaming, and economic development.
In deciding to commit to a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA upon completing her undergraduate degree, Ms. McKinney was looking for direction. She says, “That is exactly what I got – not only from [the] NSAIE, but from other VISTA [members] in the program and the Tohono O’odham people, too. It was an unforgettable experience.”
Laura Graham (2006-2007) continues to volunteer after completing a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Working in El Salvador for the NGO Asociacion Atlacatl Vivo Positivo shortly after completion of her service term, she conducted anti-discrimination advocacy and provided services for HIV + persons. Having received a Rotary World Peace Fellowship to pursue graduate studies in Argentina, Ms. Graham obtained a Masters degree in International Relations in 2009. During her graduate studies she also conducted field work and worked as an election observer in El Salvador for several months as well as serving two different human rights organizations in Argentina briefly upon completion of her graduate studies. She then accepted a position in Washington DC with Human Rights Watch in their Americas Division, where she has been working for the past year and a half.
Ms. Graham currently volunteers as a mentor for high school students in Washington DC (via the College Bound program); is a Charter member of a new provisional Rotary club in Washington DC; and provides volunteer translation services to the NGO in Argentina where she previously interned.
She says, “working with NSAIE definitely made a significant impact on my life. The opportunity to live on the Hopi reservation was truly amazing, and it is difficult to describe how much I learned during my experience as an AmeriCorps [VISTA] volunteer.”
Katrina Machusick (2005-2006) served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia prior to becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, she mobilized schools and their surrounding communities to organize HIV prevention health fairs and fundraisers. Ms. Machusick was deeply moved by the challenges of the rural poor in Namibia, including the daunting HIV epidemic, which inspired her to enter the health profession. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, she served in rural Colorado with Southern Ute Community Actions Programs (SUCAP) to work with local seniors to fundraise for and implement fitness and nutrition programs as well as deliver meals on wheels. Both activities aimed at combating frailty brought on by severe health disparities and lack of health care access.
After her term of service with the NSAIE, Ms. Machusick earned her Masters in Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases at the Johns Hopkin School of Public Health. There, she gained hands-on training at a community-based research facility which explored ways to increase antiretroviral adherence among HIV+ drug users. She was able to take this knowledge to Mexico where she performed data analysis of an impact evaluation for “Pay-for-Performance,” or incentives based care, in Rwandan clinics.
She is currently a second year medical student at the University of California, Irvine, where she hopes to integrate her experience in health prevention with clinical medicine to serve the underserved.
Nicky Wittig Lambert (2004-2006) served with the California Indian Manpower Consortium, Inc.’s (CIMC) Elders Program in Sacramento, CA; working with nine and then 12 tribes in California. During this time, she wrote a grant proposal to The California Wellness Foundation for Healthy Aging (CWFHA) which was accepted for funding.
Following her service, she continued to work with CIMC as the VISTA/Wellness Project Supervisor and was charged with supervising the Intergenerational Culture Preservation (ICP) Project. The ICP Project was similar to the NSAIE’s operation in that Ms. Lambert placed VISTA members with tribes throughout California for the purpose of bridging the age gap by encouraging multi-generational socialization and mentoring. Like NSAIE, activities ranged from gardens and public radio to cultural centers and committees. Ms. Lambert also supervised her grant from The CWFHA which provided a means to deliver health information to CIMC elders and helped to create healthy activities for elders that supported traditional culture, such as dancing.
In 2009, she wrote another VISTA grant entitled Native Americans to Work Project which focused on employment and training. Funding for this grant is currently in its second year and has scaled to a national level. The Work Project focuses on assisting tribal organizations with job skill development and improvement, as well as other capacity building areas. It also seeks to develop programs and partnerships with high schools, colleges, and students in order to foster job skills and participation. Ms. Lambert and her colleagues were recently awarded an ANA grant to study and implement Social Media as a tool in employment training.
She says, “It’s pretty obvious that [the] NSAIE has influenced my life and work greatly. I have definitely found my calling and home through my experiences as a VISTA member… I gained many skills that I still utilize today and made many friends that I consider family.”
Kate Durnan (2004-2005) considers herself lucky and honored to serve as the first NSAIE VISTA member assigned to the Tohono O’odham Nation Division of Senior Services. As Resource Specialist, she worked to increase support for programs that delivered nutrition services, socialization opportunities, transportation, and in-home services. She also devoted much time toward enhancing the Nation’s caregiver support program. During her year of service, Ms. Durnan built many treasured friendships as she gained experience in grant writing, program development, and service coordination. Her time as an NSAIE VISTA was greatly rewarding and informed her decision to pursue a career in nonprofit development.
Ms. Durnan returned to her home state of New York after completing her year of service. She spent two years in the external relations department of a human service agency on Long Island, and then relocated to Philadelphia, where she filled a newly created development position at a behavioral health organization. Ms. Durnan currently serves as Director of Development at The Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO) and is an active member of the National Museum of the American Indian.
Emma LeClerc (2010-2011) served as an NSAIE VISTA member with the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. When her service ended, she entered graduate school and is currently working towards her Master of Arts in Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada. Her thesis is a study of the environmental and social impacts of an abandoned mine in the Northwest Territories. Thus far, her studies have involved conducting extensive research into mining and the environment of this region. In the summer of 2012 Ms. LeClerc will travel 2,500 miles to work with the Chipewyan Dene community, an indigenous population near Great Slave Lake, to assess the social impacts of the mine.
Danny Borgstrom (2009-2010) served as an AmeriCorps VISTA nearly a year and a half ago with the Oneida Tribe Elder Services. After completing his term, he continued to conduct research and write grants for the Tribe and was soon offered another position working on grant implementation for the 2 years of a funded project. He has done much outreach with the elders, coordinating trainings and workshops, and has begun to bridge the age gap within the Oneida Tribe by engaging local schools and community students.
Mr. Borgstrom believes that being an AmeriCorps VISTA is not only a strong resume builder and a great way to gain entry level status, but has found it to provide a great deal of insight on poverty in America; how to save and spend well within individual economic means, in particular. He continues to be a supporter of AmeriCorps’ mission and goals and says, “I think VISTA makes a true and lasting impact because it is real, deals with real issues, and has real and proven results.”
Nan Mulford (2007-2008) finished her AmeriCorps VISTA service after working with the Senior Center program of the Southern Ute Community Action Programs (SUCAP) in Colorado. Less than one year later, she signed a year-long contract with SUCAP to continue the grant writing and fundraising work she had begun as a VISTA member. Working remotely from Massachusetts, she returned to Colorado several times and is planning another trip this year.
Ms. Mulford has been the Director of a local art gallery in Rockland, Maine since May 2011. She has spent the summer helping to fundraise and exhibit artwork. Her efforts were recognized in a local newspaper where she reflects on her experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA. The article can be accessed here.
Allison Girres (2009-2010) recently enrolled in the School for Library and Information Sciences at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Participation in AmeriCorps allowed Ms. Girres to discover new career paths and redefine what service meant to her. She continues to serve through on-campus groups, such as the Jail Library Group, which provides reading materials to prisoners in Dane County. Ms. Girres expects to graduate with her Masters in the spring of 2013 and plans to work in a public library.
Katie Rau (2009-2010) completed her service and hit the road, traveling around the United States and working on various organic farms in exchange for room and board. She traveled from Washington to Idaho, through Utah and continued on to Texas. She spent the summer in Maine working as a ropes course instructor and has recently returned to Texas. Ms. Rau plans to permanently relocate to Washington.
Keith Barnes (2010-2011) recently served within the Penobscot Nation in Maine expanding elder services as well as a community garden. His work included hosting elder meals, recruiting volunteers, drafting grants and developing elder care programs such as Matter of Balance (a fall prevention workshop). Since finishing his term with the NSAIE he has become the VISTA Team Leader with the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks (OASHF) and continues to build capacity while shepherding new VISTA members within the nonprofit sector.