Get to know our 2016-2017 VISTAs
During 2016 – 2017, the Illinois Affordable Housing Support Project (a network of AmeriCorps VISTAs coordinated and managed by Housing Action Illinois) will have nearly 30 VISTAs placed with our member organizations. They serve our community in a wide variety of capacities, but all are aimed at fighting poverty and helping communities by expanding and improving the availability of decent, affordable, accessible housing in Illinois.
Access Living: Tierra Finley
Why did you choose to serve? I whole-hardheartedly believe that change starts with me. But, when one person can come together with others who have the same drive and dedication to make the same change; that becomes a movement. My values of unity and service align perfectly with the mission to serve the under-served. Service to me is finding the perfect balance between selflessness and selfishness. Sacrificing my time and effort at an attempt to make the world around me better is more than fulfilling. I believe that making a difference starts small, with one person, and that is me. Service gives me the opportunity to give back with purpose.
What are your goals? I believe that the mission of the AmeriCorps Vista Program resonates so well with me because of my continuous pursuit of personal and professional evolution, both in the health world and out. I look to grow in knowledge during my year of service. Another goal is to develop a program that will really be valuable to Access Living and be sustained throughout the years.
What can people find you doing when you are not serving? When I am not serving I can be found in dance classes. I also love poetry and music so I am always on the lookout for poetry clubs and open mics.
Center for Changing Lives: Ed Luna
Where are you from? I am Midwest-born and bred, by way of Ohio and Mexico. But as a bi-cultural Chicano with a nomadic streak, “home” has become more and more of an abstraction. For now, it’s where I hang my headphones: Logan Square, Chicago.
Why did you choose to serve I have spent half a lifetime committed to promoting art, music, dance, culture, and counter-culture. Often, this has meant collaborating with other high-minded people of humble means, under threadbare conditions, with very little institutional support. Sometimes that’s meant becoming part of the resistance; other times, it’s meant delving deeply into tradition. But along the way, I’ve always suspected that one day, my explorations would lead me to join the ranks of those who have contributed their lives and time (as social workers, civilian service members, and in other hands-on positions) to make a difference in the world. So when that opportunity came for me to do that in Chicago through the Center for Changing Lives and AmeriCorps VISTA, I was thrilled to say “yes” to the experience and see where it takes me.
What are your goals? The specific goals of my position are to promote low-income housing programs and financial literacy for members of Logan Square and the surrounding community. But beyond that, I am eager to contribute my skills as a communicator and passionate advocate to inspire members of my Chicago community to do better for themselves and others, while also deepening my own experience of Chicago’s complex multicultural context.
What can people find you doing when you aren’t serving? Digging around for low-key cultural happenings; taking strolls or bike-rides to find unusual things to photograph; vogue dancing at Smartbar (when I can get away with it); looking menacing in my big DJ headphones while listening to Beethoven, Juan Atkins, Kaija Saariaho, or Kraftwerk; sipping a rustic cup of coffee or leafing through old paperbacks; asking penetrating questions about the human existence and the American way of life…you know. That kind of thing.
Champaign County Regional Planning Commission
Learn more about the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission.
Coalition for the Homeless: Jayme Robinson
Where are you from? I was born and raised in Chicago.
Why did you choose to serve I chose to serve because not only is homelessness a personal issue that I dealt with but a issue that millions of other people are going through. I want to make sure that they are supported in every way possible at the community, state, and federal level and I am excited to do this with the voice of formerly homeless and homeless leaders.
What can people find you doing when you’re not serving? If you are looking for me you can find me driving Daisy (my car) down Lake Shore Drive with the wind blowing in my hair with my partner, good music, and a cooler full of good food and drinks.
Chicago Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights Under Law: Grecia Ocampo
Why did you choose to serve I choose to serve in order to give communities that are often neglected (and their residents) a voice.
What are your goals? My goal is to help generate change in communities with the purpose of eliminating poverty.
What can people find you doing when you’re not serving? Reading and writing.
Chicago Rehab Network: Samuel McHugh
Where are you from?I am from Cincinnati, Ohio, and I have spent the last four years living in gorgeous Ithaca, NY.
Why did you choose to serve I chose to serve because I wanted to put my education to use doing something both challenging and rewarding for a more than worthy cause with which I am personally engaged.
What are your goals? My goals during my term of service are to expand upon current programs at the Chicago Rehab Network and produce quantifiable results, hopefully making positive contributions to the organization and implementing lasting and impactful changes.
What can people find you doing when you’re not serving? I am an avid outdoorsman and musician, so when I don’t answer the phone it’s usually because I’m drumming too loud or hiking somewhere without cell reception, I can’t wait to check out some trails and get a chance to jam with some of my Chicago friends again!
Claretian Associates: Phillip Moore
Why did you choose to serve? I chose to serve because I believe that my AmeriCorps experience will be invaluable as I try to learn more about poverty and how to build healthy communities. Additionally, this experience is the best bridge between my academic interests as well as my service-oriented interests.
What are your goals? I believe that I want to become a social policy analyst, prescribing different policies as it relates to welfare benefits, housing and crime. I have, for quite some time, been intrigued by varying notions of welfare and citizenship, so I believe this goal will allow me to continue to explore these questions.
What can people find you doing when you’re not serving? I really enjoy reading books, so there is a high probability that you’ll find me reclining somewhere with a book in front of me. I also enjoy writing, though it truly is a difficult task.
Comprehensive Community Services
Learn more about the Comprehensive Community Services.
CSH: Ashlen Olmsted
Why did you choose to serve? I choose to serve as I wanted to gain more experience working in social work and non-profits, while making an impact on the community I work with. I wanted to learn how to create and implement sustainable programs and practices within an organization that works collaboratively with community members.
What are your goals? During my year of service I hope to be able to contribute the sustainability of the program at am working on at my site. My goal is to learn as much as possible about current issues related to housing on the micro, mezzo, and macro level, how supportive housing can address those problems, and how to best use existing resources as well as new ideas to meet individual and community needs. My long term goals include gaining more experience in the field of social work, going to grad school, and continuing to develop an understanding of how to use my skills and knowledge to help build capacity, empowerment, and sustainability in communities.
What can people find you doing when you are not serving? When I am not serving I can be found listening to music, lounging at parks, and exploring the food and art scene in Chicago.
DuPage Homeownership Center
Hope Fair Housing Center
Learn more about Hope Fair Housing Center.
Heartland Housing: Nicole Maldonado
Where are you from? I was born to a working class family in Chicago, IL. I was raised by my mother and my grandmother and from an early age knew that I wanted to work with people. I developed a love of animals early on that has stayed with me throughout my life.
Why did you choose to serve? I would like to gain new skills and experiences, and work in a setting that will allow me to interact with communities. I like AmeriCorps’ mission of ending poverty, and I believe the only way to create change is by struggling alongside one another.
What are your goals? I hope to learn and grow through this experience, and become a more effective social justice actor.
What can people find you doing when you are not serving? I also teach, organize against gentrification, cook, spend time with friends and the cats that live with me.
Lawyers Committee For Better Housing
Learn more about Lawyers Committee For Better Housing.
Latin United Community Housing Association: Angela Arroyo
Why did you choose to serve? I wanted to utilize my professional background and personal interests in a way that would benefit a community in need, with specific attention to the issues of affordable and fair housing.
What are your goals? I’m working to gain more experience in the community development field and further education in urban planning.
What can people find you doing when you’re not serving? In my spare time I enjoy writing, biking, and creating the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.
Mercy Housing Lakefront: Alfreda Baran
Where are you from? I was born and raised in Chicago, but have divided my time between Chicago and the Washington, DC area.
Why did you choose to serve? I have been blessed with many wonderful opportunities during my lifetime, and I wanted give back to the Chicago community. Most of my professional life has been in a business or government capacity. I also wanted experience working in the nonprofit sector.
What are your goals? My goals while serving with Mercy Housing are to help residents increase capacity building through employment opportunities, job training and financial literacy. I am also finishing my MBA, which I hope to use in the nonprofit sector after my VISTA service ends.
What can people find you doing when you’re not serving? I enjoy spending time with friends and family, including my teenage daughter, reading a good book, and exploring Chicago during the summer.
Mid Central Community Action: AnaPatriciaMarquez
Why did you choose to serve? I chose to serve to expand my horizons on many different levels. I love to travel so I wanted to experience the culture and environment of a different state. I’m working with green initiatives and sustainability and would like to learn more to help my future career opportunities. The most important reason why I chose to serve was to help those in need. I truly believe that one person can start to change the world. I say this because the idea of one person can turn into the ideas of many.
What are your goals? My work goals are to help not only low-income families but all families to be more energy efficient. I want to rehab some of our transitional housing units into energy efficient homes. I have been working very closely with the marketing department so I would also like to learn more on that department. I think knowing marketing is beneficial in any department.
What can people find you doing when you are not serving? You can find me catching Pokémon, sometimes. I like to be out in my garden or dog sitting. I’m looking to go back to school, so I’m out checking out campuses and learning new things. I love NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) so I’m always looking into job postings or events happening. My dream is to work for EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) or NASA.
Northwest Compass: Taylor Schulhof
Why did you choose to serve? I want to serve in a meaningful way that can help many people in my community. Access to housing should be a basic human right and I am honored to dedicate this year working with the rest of the team at the Illinois Affordable Housing Support Project.
What are your goals? I want to continue my career working in the nonprofit or government sector. After my term with AmeriCorps, I hope to attend graduate school pursuing a degree in public policy.
What can people find you doing when you’re not serving? In my free time I love spending time with friends and family, cooking or doing yoga. I’m happiest when I get to travel and spend time exploring new cities and cultures!
Northwest Side Housing Center
Learn more about Northwest Side Housing Center.
Respond Now: Carletta Christian
Why did you choose to serve I chose to join AmeriCorps as a VISTA so I could gain some professional experience.
What are your goals? My current goal is to become a successful entrepreneur with multiple streams of income. I love to help people and my wealth will be used to impact the world I live in.
What can people find you doing when you’re not serving? When I am not serving, I am a parent of two daughters and I am a caterer so I make food and desserts for parties, holiday functions or other events.
South Suburban Housing Center: Carrie Simpson
Why did you choose to serve? I believed it would be a great opportunity for me to gain valuable experience while also serving the communities that I was raised in.
What are your goals? My main goal involves educating and exposing myself to as much as possible in order to discover where my greatest interests lie. From there, I would like to pursue a graduate degree in either social work or psychology to better aid me in assisting communities in my path.
What can people find you doing when you’re not serving? Typically you’ll find me watching YouTube, playing a video game, walking aimlessly, or enjoying the company of a small group of friends.
South Suburban PADS
Learn more about South Suburban PADS.
Spanish Coalition for Housing
Learn more about Spanish Coalition for Housing.
Zion Development: Adam Kirk
Why did you choose to serve? I chose to serve as a starting point to a nonprofit career.
What are your goals? After VISTA, I hope to get my Masters in Public Administration.
What can people find you doing when you’re not serving? I’m a hand-tool woodworking enthusiast so when I’m not working on a piece I’ll be out looking for old tools and materials.