Grant, Equal Justice Wyoming VISTA Leader (August 2020-21)
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
Alma Mater: University of Florida- Majors in Economics and Political Science
Experience: Studied abroad for a semester in Ningbo, China; traveled to Ethiopia for ten days for a research project on agriculture and livestock policy in the region; spent 15 months in Ecuador as a TEFL Volunteer for the Peace Corps until evacuations due to COVID-19.
Favorite Thing About Serving as a VISTA in Wyoming: The quiet and solitude of living in Wyoming. In addition, being able to explore so much abundant, breathtaking natural beauty with the other VISTAs in the way of many hikes and camping trips.
In my role as the VISTA Leader for Equal Justice Wyoming, I supported our seven VISTAs in a few different ways. Some of my projects included working to provide relevant professional development opportunities, helping organize conference calls for our cohort, creating newsletters with blogs submitted by the VISTAs, organizing social outings such as hikes and camping trips as well as virtual hangouts, and assisting in the recruitment process for our next group of VISTAs. My experience as VISTA Leader has been extremely gratifying, primarily because I have gotten to support and serve seven driven, kind VISTAs. Hearing and learning about the projects they have worked on to assist their communities and helping the VISTAs connect with one another as they adapt to life in Wyoming has made serving during this difficult pandemic year incredibly worthwhile. I will be forever grateful for my time as an AmeriCorps VISTA for allowing me the opportunity to work alongside others focused on serving the public good.
Marissa, VISTA Leader (August 2019-20), Equal Justice Wyoming VISTA (July 2018-19)
Marissa joined AmeriCorps to work for a mission that she’s passionate about while preparing for future schooling. Marissa said, “I have always loved law and envisioned law school in my future but felt that private practice would never suit me. I have gotten the rare opportunity to explore the various avenues that a J.D. can pave while interacting with court personnel, Wyoming Supreme Court justices, judges, attorneys, law students, law professors, and social service providers. On the other side of things, I have seen people break down from relief when we are able to help them, from frustration when we can't, and from being overwhelmed at the civil legal processes. Being able to see the afflictions caused by the justice gap up-close and personal has further fueled my drive to help.” After completing her first term of VISTA service, she used that drive to be an ambassador for our AmeriCorps program and a leader for our VISTAs.
Now, she is attending University of Wyoming in pursuit of her Master of Public Administration (MPA) in hopes of working in the non-profit sector. Marissa says, “I can’t be thankful enough for Equal Justice Wyoming and their AmeriCorps VISTA program. They helped me hone professional and personal skills all while figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. The staff provides an amazing support system while doing meaningful work for and with outstanding organizations.
Halli, Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (August 2021-22)
Location of Service: Laramie, WY
Description of Role: This VISTA will assist with organizational and aspiring ally strategic planning that includes a comprehensive, integrated, and multi-disciplinary approach designed to reflect and respond to diverse community and cultural needs. This will include community engagement, outreach, and information sharing about current available legal services for survivors throughout the State of Wyoming and on the Wind River Indian Reservation, and assessments of what is needed to increase capacity.
Hometown: Port Washington, NY
Alma Mater: Lafayette College
Experience: In college, I pursued a double major in International Affairs and Government/Law, with a concentration in Global Conflict and Cooperation in the Middle East and Africa. Through my studies, I had the privilege of being able to travel several times for both education and work during my college experience. I spent a semester studying abroad in Paris, I completed a cultural values course through my school in Senegal, as well as took an Arabic Language course in Morocco. Lastly, I completed a domestic violence summer internship in South Africa. This internship made me want to dig deeper into the DV/SA field, which brought me to my AmeriCorps position. I am very grateful for the opportunities I had to travel and that I was able to gain so many different skills and perspectives through my experiences.
Favorite Thing About Wyoming: My favorite thing about living in Wyoming was getting to take advantage of the outdoors! I loved being able to hike and snowboard. My favorite thing about serving in Wyoming was getting to interact and learn from new people.
Taylor, Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (August 2021-22)
Location of Service: Lander, WY
Description of Role: The VISTA will assist with increasing the number of applicants seeking assistance for non-intimate-partner sexual assault through organizational strategic planning, aspiring allyship strategic planning, outreach, information sharing, and support. Increasing the number of applications will in turn increase the capacity of the WCADVSA to provide remedies to survivors of non-intimate partner sexual assault.
Hometown: Iowa City, Iowa
Alma Mater: Loyola Marymount University, B.A. in Anti-Racism Studies and Spanish
Experience: During college, I spent my time starting up a white anti-racist affinity group that is dedicated to educating white people on systemic injustices, while trying to center and show up for BIPOC and queer led movements. I also was a collegiate swimmer all four years of college. Throughout my athletics life, I have battled mental health struggles and difficulties with coaches and officials, but with the love and care I found with other student athletes and students at my university who were also facing various forms of harm, I started speaking up. During this difficult, but rewarding experience, I learned about the complexities and often toxic nature of large institutions and with that, the importance of coalitional led movements that allow us all the chance to challenge and transform our ways of being.
I decided to join AmeriCorps because I was really interested in the work of the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and I really value the program's intersectional lens towards addressing harm. AmeriCorps provided an avenue to work directly with the coalition, and after living in the city (Los Angeles) these past four years, I’m ready to try something new! Community and kinship have always been a big part of my identity. So I hope that during this year, I can find new people to call family. I recognize that in community, we all have different roles in addressing pain and harm. So I hope that I can take this time to think critically about my role as an outsider in this coalitional fight towards justice.
When I grow up: Every day is a new day and I have a lot of growing ahead of me and that’s exciting! I don’t know exactly what I want to do in the future and that’s ok… for now though, I am thinking about going back to school. For the past few years, I’ve been really inclined towards the work of Critical Race Theory and Queer Theories scholars who invite us into thinking about the complexities of movements, activism, and just existing in this world. I value spaces that allow us to reflect on these realities and also recognize that these spaces very much exist and thrive outside of academic institutions. So I am also wanting to engage with grassroots advocacy groups that center on abolition and community care. With all of this, I also hope to continue working with white affinity groups so that we can continuously practice showing up for community. But for now, my space will be in Wyoming. I hope to be present and intentional during my time here.
Also… as I’ve been a swimmer for much of my life… when I grow up, I plan to just keep swimming :)
Kaylin, Cheyenne Regional Medical Center VISTA (July 2021-22)
Location of Service: Cheyenne, WY
Description of Role: The VISTA Member will work to provide trainings about harm reduction, work on intake for the medical legal partnership, integrate a social determinant of health screening into clinical workflow, assist financial navigation in securing position funding, and create virtual social determinant of health trainings for the staff.
Hometown: Cameron, MO
Alma Mater: University of Missouri, B.S. in Biology
Experience: I spent two weeks in Honduras on a medical mission trip with 20 other students from my university.
I am a recent graduate, currently in the process of applying to medical schools. I have a full year to myself before continuing my education and really wanted to make that year count. I chose to join AmeriCorps because of the various impactful and empowering opportunities it had to offer. I had the chance to apply to several positions that combined two things I am very passionate about – health care and service. I believe that service work compels us to take responsibility for how we are present in our own lives and leaves a lasting impression on everyone involved. My position with AmeriCorps will also allow me to explore public health through a new perspective. I believe that AmeriCorps is the perfect fit for my gap year and I am very excited to begin my service!
Kenai, Wyoming Children’s Trust Fund (July 2021-22)
Location of Service: Cheyenne, WY
Description of Role: Wyoming Children’s Trust Fund coordinates child abuse and neglect prevention efforts across the state. The VISTA member will develop a comprehensive data collection and reporting system, based on key performance indicators, to monitor, maintain and capture the scope of the program. Following the development of a comprehensive data collection system, the VISTA will develop a tracking plan for qualitative and quantitative measures in Wyoming based on identified key performance indicators.
Hometown: Columbia, MD
Alma Mater: Towson University
Experience: Obtained Eagle Scout, and continue to participate in service activities.
Why did you join AmeriCorps?
I joined AmeriCorps to do good in the country. So often it feels as though the only objective in the world is to make as much money as possible, and I would like to reject that notion, at least for the time being, and emphasize the impact of the work that I do over the amount of money I make from it. The work I signed on to do for EJW via AmeriCorps will make a benevolent difference in the lives of those the organization is working with. That is why I joined AmeriCorps.
Thomas, Equal Justice Wyoming VISTA (July 2021-22)
Location of Service: Cheyenne, WY
Description of Role: The VISTA member will be involved in community engagement, outreach, and volunteer recruitment, and will assist with special projects aimed at providing increased access to justice in order to expand EJW’s capacity to serve low-income individuals and provide increased access to the courts.
Hometown: Hong Kong
Alma Mater: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), B.A. in Political Science, Minor in English
Experience: Worked with orphanages and founded summer courses for at-risk youth in China, interned for a Judge, climbed the 13,400 ft tall Mt. Kinabalu.
Why did I join the AmeriCorps? A mixture of circumstance and mission; a fresh college grad, I've got a gap year before I apply to law school, and for the first time in my life I'm free to do what I want. I'm looking to help people, and find some motivation to go through with what made me want to do law in the first place; to help people to the best of my ability and advantages. I'm excited to start; the people seem great, and the land beautiful!
Kristen, Department of Health– Aging Division VISTA (June 2021-22)
Location of Service: Cheyenne, WY
Description of Role: The Aging Division has conducted an assessment and overview of the barriers to aging in place for Wyoming residents. It is the goal of this project for the VISTA member to work closely with the Aging Division in collaboration with community partners to identify opportunities aimed at improving services for older adults in Wyoming.
Hometown: Standish, ME
Alma Mater: Clark University, Worcester, MA - B.A. in Biology and Public Health
Experience: Worked at an immunoncology research start-up - learned about the physical and social effects of cancer, and upstream healthcare processes. Packaged and served nutritious meals at a local foodbank. Personal passion for preventative health care research. Thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail.
I joined AmeriCorps to help improve health literacy and equity in marginalized communities. I want to pursue a career in healthcare research and communication; working with the Department of Health – Aging division will be a great opportunity to learn more about the translation between research and governmental policy. I’m looking forward to researching healthy aging practices, working to put meaningful policies into place, and exploring Wyoming!
Lila, Wyoming Children’s Law Center VISTA (June 2021-22)
Location of Service: Laramie, WY
Description of Role: The VISTA Member will work to grow the WCLC by increasing and stabilizing its funding and increasing public awareness of the critical nature of the Center’s services. They will help to improve internal policies and procedures and to build capacity for the Juvenile Data Project - establishing a consistent process for collecting and disseminating data on Wyoming youth to help communities and policy makers make better decisions about youth programs, funding, and other opportunities.
Hometown: Grant, NE
Alma Mater: University of Wyoming; B.A. International Studies: Governance & Conflict Resolution in the Middle East
Experience: Studied abroad in Ifrane, Morocco; grew up on a dairy farm and a ranch; I spend most of my time looking for a cool stream to lie in with my husky puppy.
I joined AmeriCorps because I wanted the opportunity to give back to the community that has given me so much. The citizens of Wyoming deserve a juvenile justice system that actually dispenses justice, and I am excited to help shape the system for the better. I have plans to attend law school using my education award, and I know my time with the WCLC will shape my career goals beyond what I realize now.
Dana, Cheyenne Regional Medical Center VISTA (August 2020-21)
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Alma Mater: University of North Carolina Wilmington
Experience: One of my coolest life experiences was taking a trip to Belize. While I was there, I got to swim with sharks, sea turtles, and stingrays and meet great people along the way. I can’t wait to go back some day!
Favorite Thing About Serving as a VISTA in Wyoming: My favorite thing about serving as a VISTA so far has been doing trainings, and getting more intentional about my survey creation strategies. I love getting the chance to talk to people about Harm Reduction and hopefully reduce stigma surrounding high-risk behaviors in our community. I’ve also loved gaining a deeper understanding of how to effectively and concisely make a survey.
During my time as a VISTA, my main focus has been to decrease negative health outcomes for marginalized community members. With that mission in mind, I created surveys designed to understand the community’s perception of harm reduction initiatives and to understand how accessible legal services are to people who are low-income. I have distributed trainings and resources to community partners and taught harm reduction in Cheyenne. I've also developed skills in grant writing and establishing and maintaining relationships with community partners. I have loved my experience at this job, and I will definitely use the knowledge I gained in the future!
Hugh, Habitat for Humanity of Laramie County VISTA (August 2020-21)
Hometown: Chevy Chase, MD
Alma Mater: Amherst College – B.A. in Mathematics and Spanish
Experience: Studied abroad in Montevideo, Uruguay, where I volunteered at a food reclamation organization; spent two weeks in Puerto Rico studying climate change and social justice movements; taught ESL at my local library.
Favorite Thing About Serving as a VISTA in Wyoming: Outside of work, I have loved exploring the nearby wilderness in Wyoming and northern Colorado. Living and serving in Wyoming has been a truly unique experience and one that will stay with me for years to come.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA with Habitat for Humanity of Laramie County, I have had the chance to work on some incredible and impactful projects expanding access to affordable housing in Cheyenne. Throughout my service, I have researched housing needs and policy, met with the mayor to discuss the city’s housing shortage, and subsequently saw the creation of Cheyenne’s Affordable Housing Task Force. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to forge connections within the nonprofit community by contributing to the Laramie County Community Partnership, interviewing nonprofit leaders through our VISTA podcast, and partnering with four different nonprofits to host an Affordable Housing Awareness Week.
Marilena, Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault VISTA (July 2020-21)
Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
Alma Mater: University of Michigan (major in communication studies and minor in law, justice, and social change), Eastern Michigan University (Higher Education).
Experience: My coolest life experience this year was camping at Pictured Rocks in Michigan! The upper peninsula of Michigan is absolutely beautiful and it's definitely worth the trip. During this year I also was employed by the University of Michigan as the DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) grad intern. It was a great experience that allowed me to truly help enact change on a university level to bring diversity to the campus community.
What do I want to be when I grow up?: This is a great question! After much reflection during 7 years of postsecondary education (wow! time flies) I really want to become a professor. I love higher education, and the opportunity and mobility it can allow, but the professoriate in the United States is utterly lacking in diversity. It is my hope to diversify higher education faculty and teach, research, and serve my community.
Ken, Equal Justice Wyoming VISTA (July 2020-21)
Hometown: Lancaster County, PA
Alma Mater: Elizabethtown College, B.A. Political Science
Experience: Demonstrated history as a qualitative health care researcher, a legislative analyst for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and a volunteer for Brittany's Hope - a non-profit organization dedicated to aiding abandoned children around the world.
I joined Equal Justice Wyoming’s cohort to complete a year of national service and gain experience with the legal aid industry. In October 2020, for Celebrate Pro Bono Week, I coordinated a series of Continuing Legal Education webinars on civil legal matters such as administering small estates, getting a misdemeanor expunged, navigating adult conservatorships, and securing protection orders for survivors of DVSA and stalking. Entering the new year, I got heavily involved in private fundraising efforts for the Equal Justice Wyoming Foundation. I am most passionate about cross-sector opportunities and partnerships in the work we do. Daniel (VISTA at the Aging Division) and I collaborated to put on a stand-up comedy show over Zoom for the state’s senior center directors in February 2021. Starting in February 2021, I also started co-hosting and co-producing a podcast with Hugh (VISTA at Habitat for Humanity) aptly titled “Building a Better Cheyenne”. This “behind-the-scenes” work has been powerful, but I am now looking forward to a career providing direct service to clients. With that in mind, I will be starting a dual JD/MSW degree program at Case Western Reserve University in the Fall of 2021.
Breana, Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault VISTA (July 2020-21)
Hometown: Constable, NY
Alma Mater: St. Lawrence University - B.S. in Biology & Psychology
Experience: Served as a confidential advocate for survivors of stalking, intimate-partner violence, and sexual assault for 2.5 years at St. Lawrence University.
My service year as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (WCADVSA) is one of my most treasured experiences. My time with the Coalition afforded me opportunities to learn and grow both as a professional, and as a person. I lead projects aimed at capacity building and community outreach to advance our work to instill systems-level change and end gender-based violence throughout Wyoming. More specifically, I developed the Coalition’s very first quarterly community newsletter to engage community members in our work and share general education and awareness materials. I also designed a social media campaign for April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Reaching and engaging with audiences about topics related to sexual violence is always tremendously important, and the limitations brought about by the COVID-19 Pandemic made the endeavor particularly challenging, but all the more rewarding. Perhaps the project I feel most proud to be a part of is our strategic planning as aspiring accomplices in anti-racism and anti-oppression. Participating in the work to end gender-based violence requires a deep, holistic understanding of how these issues intersect, coexist, and perpetuate one another. We cannot work to end one form of oppression without addressing all other forms of oppression - I am grateful and humbled to be a member of an organization that understands and holds this complexity and is committed to living the change we hope to foster.
When my service year ends, I will begin my Ph. D. in Clinical-Community Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studying systems and organizational approaches to gender-based violence prevention and response. My service year has been an invaluable stepping stone in my evolution as an activist in this work, and I am beyond thrilled to carry the knowledge and relationships I’ve built here into the next chapter of my career.
Daniel, Department of Health- Division of Aging VISTA (July 2020-21)
Hometown: Woodbury, New York.
Alma Mater: Washington University in St. Louis.
Experience: Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology major; studied abroad in Peru over the summer once; used to do jiu-jitsu.
Favorite Thing About Serving as a VISTA in Wyoming: I loved meeting the other VISTAs and going on long drives around the state, hiking and camping.
This year serving with the Wyoming Department of Health-Aging Division has been incredibly impactful for me. In my time working to develop the State Plan on Aging, I have had the opportunity to learn more about the role of and to work with providers of community services. I have also had the chance to better understand the social determinants of health, especially for older adults in more rural communities. My time here has shown me the importance of advocacy and of understanding policy to improve the health of a community; these are perspectives I plan to take with me and apply in my future career.
Sam, Wyoming Children’s Law Center VISTA (July 2020-21)
Hometown: Axtell, Nebraska
Alma Mater: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Majors in History & Political Science
Experience: Taught ESL at a University in Cambodia during the summer of 2018. Studied abroad in Israel/Palestine in the summer of 2019.
While working at the Wyoming Children’s Law Center in Laramie, WY, I have worked on fundraising, grant research, data collection, and outreach; I also got to learn about policy-making in the state legislature. One of my favorite things about working at the WCLC is asking the lawyers about their clients and how they think they’ll handle their cases moving forward. Children are some of the most discriminated-against people in our judicial system, so it’s been an honor to work here as a VISTA and expand the scope of children’s justice. The experiences I gained here will be invaluable as I continue on to law school next fall.
Kevin, Legal Needs Assessment VISTA (July 2019-20)
Hometown: Lemont, Illinois
Alma Mater: University of Illinois - BS in Political Science
Experience: Spent a summer in West Virginia working at a non-profit that provides free home repair to low income communities; served an internship at the US Consulate in Milan, Italy.
Favorite Thing About Serving as a VISTA in Wyoming: Getting to spend my free time in the mountains!
“Reflecting on my AmeriCorps experience, the lessons I learned will be invaluable to me as I enter law school and start my legal career. Through my main project, the civil legal aid needs assessment, I've recognized common legal issues that the low-income community faces. I've also learned how the low-income community struggles with particular challenges when dealing with the legal system. These challenges create unfair disadvantages, such as the disparity between a well-funded client and one who cannot afford an attorney. I've become even more inspired to create positive changes in our justice system one day. I will carry these lessons with me into law school and my career.”
Claire, Department of Health - Aging Division VISTA (July 2019-20)
Hometown: La Grange Park, Illinois
Alma Mater: Washington University in St. Louis
Experience: Nonfiction writing major; was once queen of a pet parade; worked as a domestic violence survivor advocate; former St. Louis full-moon cycler.
Favorite Thing About Serving as a VISTA in Wyoming: Small town public libraries, the generosity of older adult interviewees, sun on the Snowy Range Mountains from my office window, and learning to cross-country ski! (Plus some tremendous fellow VISTAs!)
“After finishing my year of service, I will be moving to Boston to start medical school! As a result of my work with the Aging Division of the Wyoming Department of Health, I am beginning my degree with an interest in geriatrics and primary care and thrilled to continue to advocate for older adults on both legislative and clinical levels. Living out west has taught me much about how to build trust in rural and more conservative areas, as well as the necessity of self-advocacy in following projects to completion. I can't wait to apply these insights to my work in the medical field and return to WY as soon as possible (I can only live without all that sun for so long).”
Gabe, Equal Justice Wyoming VISTA (June 2019-20)
Hometown: Charlottesville, Virginia
Alma Mater: University of Virginia - B.A. in Political and Social Thought
Experience: Studied abroad in Tajikistan and served as a volunteer ESL tutor for Charlottesville’s IRC office.
Favorite Thing About Serving as a VISTA in Wyoming: Astonishingly wide open spaces and beautiful spots for hiking.
“I worked on community outreach for Equal Justice Wyoming, trying to increase the public’s awareness of our free legal services. This work mainly consisted of distributing event flyers to local businesses and organizations, setting up presentations and public information sessions, and helping our student volunteers run our website’s LiveChat. LiveChat is our website’s online assistance system, where we help connect site visitors with our resources. Speaking to the people I meet while flyering was usually my favorite part of the job—they often have interesting things to say, and I was sometimes able to let them know about resources that could be of use to them.”
Derek, Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault VISTA (June 2019-20)
Hometown: Bronx, New York
Alma Mater: Clark University - B.A. in Psychology and Sociology
Experience: Shark cage dove off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.
Favorite Thing About Serving as a VISTA in Wyoming: The bountiful and absolutely stunning natural beauty.
Derek was born and raised in the Bronx, New York, and came to Wyoming as part of AmeriCorps to see a new part of the United States as well as make a meaningful difference in the communities around him. He served with the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, working on information generation projects as well as community outreach and engagement. Derek loved talking with different people around him, hearing about their lives and their stories. He believes his work was important because it involved providing services to people who need them, as well as fostering a culture of nonviolence and compassion. Derek was very happy to be in a place as beautiful as Wyoming!
Anna, Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault VISTA (April 2019-20)
Anna joined AmeriCorps to make a positive impact on those in Wyoming. She worked with the Legal Program at the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Anna assisted with community engagement and outreach events and generating information about available services for sexual assault survivors throughout the State of Wyoming.
“After serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault I was hired to be the part time Communication Specialist. Since COVID-19, the Coalition is moving all their in-person events for the rest of the year online. I will mostly be working on making these events virtual and interactive. Growing up I have always wanted to make a positive change in the world. My AmeriCorps experience has given me the opportunity to see what it is like to renovate the system through a Coalition's eyes. I have learned that legal, prevention, policy changing, and other services are needed in our communities to make lasting difference. Being a VISTA gave me a taste of what it is like to be a part of creating the big picture of revolutionizing.”