Get to know our 2017-2018 VISTAs

During 2017 – 2018, Housing Action’s VISTA Network will have 24 VISTAs placed with our member organizations. They serve our community in a wide variety of capacities, but all are aimed at ending poverty and helping communities by expanding and improving the availability of decent, affordable, accessible housing in Illinois.

Adam Kirk: Zion Development

Biography to come.

Bonnie Sargent: Resource for Community Living

Biography to come.

Carol Stadler: Open Communities

Biography to come.

Dana Klasky: Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing

My name is Dana Klasky I’m from Highland Park, Illinois and I graduated from the University of Vermont in 2016 with a double major in English and Political Science. I chose my service because I am most passionate about access to justice issues, and housing is an incredibly vital resource that folks should have protection for on a personal and policy level. I chose to serve in AmeriCorps because I thought it was where I could do the most good and help me develop my self into an effective and more skilled advocate. My goals are many, but the overarching theme of them is to help build the reach and resources of LCBH and be any assistance in their mission to preserve affordable housing and fight for the rights of tenants. When I’m not at my service you can find me; hanging out with my dog and friends, scouring the city for new books, shows, or food, trying to find a nice patch of trees, or trying to plan my Halloween costume (relevant any point of the year). I’m very happy to be back in Chicago and I’m super excited to see all I can accomplish in this next year.

Jennifer Flynn: Chicago Rehab Network

Biography to come.

Joe Ross: Hesed House

Biography to come.

Leah Demarest: John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic

Where are you from? I was born in Vermont, grew up in New Hampshire, went to college in Montreal, and then lived in Northern Virginia and Boston for a few years before moving to Illinois.

Why did you choose to serve? I’ve always been passionate about social justice and inclusive community development. After working in international development consulting for a few years, I wanted to shift to more community-based work. Given my background in affordable housing, I was drawn to the VISTA program at the Fair Housing Legal Clinic, where I look forward to broadening my experience in promoting equitable access to safe, quality housing.

What are your goals? I want to gain experience in community outreach and, in the process, learn more about the issues of inequity facing low-income and marginalized communities. I hope to pursue a career in public policy after my VISTA term.

What can people find you doing when you’re not serving? Running, exploring, and spending time with friends.

Marissa Diekhoff: Housing Action Illinois

Biography to come.

Paul "Dani" Mendez: Alliance to End Homelessness

Biography to come.

Rikki Moore: Mercy Housing Lakefront

Biography to come.

Sam McDonnell: Lake County Coalition for the Homeless

Where are you from? Arlington Heights, IL

Why did you choose to serve? I choose to serve to affect change in my community while building a foundation for a future in supporting underserved populations in Illinois.

What are your goals? I hope to build an infrastructure for connecting people with disabilities experiencing homelessness to Social Security benefits during my service. I aspire to be part of a network of care that promotes the flourishing of disadvantaged populations by meeting people’s basic housing and mental health needs.

What can people find you doing when you are not serving? Appreciating open spaces, giving my dog Buster too much attention, and playing music!

Vanessa Vaquerano: Center for Changing Lives

Biography to come.

Adrian Wright: Corporation for Supportive Housing

Where are you from?  I am from Chicago, IL

Why did you choose to serve? This is my second VISTA tour. I chose to serve to help undeserved people in my community.

What are your goals? My goals are to reach others in order to assist them with getting the most from their lives.

What can people find you doing when you are not serving? People can find me engaged in community activities and in my garden.

Cameron Kritikos: Latin United Community Housing Association

My name is Cameron Kritikos and I am currently serving as an Americorps VISTA with the Latin United Community Housing Association in the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago, IL. After growing up in Berwyn, IL, I attended Calvin College and have now chosen to serve in Chicago as an outpouring of my desire to belong in a thriving, vital community. I hope to eventually attend Seminary to receive a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Public Policy at a corresponding university, in addition to having a small urban farm to nurture. When I am not serving, I can be found reading books about geopolitics and the culinary traditions of slaves during the early 19th century, as well as cooking delicious stews, and watching baseball.

Cassidy Kraimer: HomeStart

Hello! My name is Cassidy and I am from the NW suburbs of Chicago. I chose to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA because I am passionate about housing issues and I wanted to create positive change in my community. My goals are to increase the capacity at HomeStart, expand my knowledge of affordable housing, build meaningful relationships, and find my place in the world of non-profits! When I am not serving with HomeStart you will probably find me eating, drawing, or being outside or some combination of those three!

Emily Waters: Mid Central Community Action

Emily is serving as the Community Building and Engagement VISTA with Mid Central Community Action in Bloomington, IL. A Springfield native, she completed Bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and German from Southeast Missouri State University in 2016 as well as completing some coursework at Illinois State University as part of their Master’s program in Cultural Anthropology. At MCCA, Emily is developing community engagement projects in conjunction with organizations and residents in an effort to improve Bloomington’s Historic West Side. When she is not at MCCA, Emily enjoys playing video games, reading, and spending time with her cat.

Jessica Montalvo: Spanish Coalition for Housing

Jessica Montalvo graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she obtained her Bachelor’s in Spanish Linguistics. She entered the nonprofit sector with a passion for community outreach and development. She is excited to return to school in the future to achieve her Master’s in Public Health. Jessica is passionate about dance, and trains with professional mambo teams where she competes and performs around the U.S.

Julia Selvie: Claretian Associates

I am from Chicago and I choose to service so I can gain more experience in working with non-profits. My goals are to learn and help non profits be better. I want to implement systems and programs that would aid Claretian Associates in having a greater impact in the community. In my free I read and binge watch Grey’s Anatomy.

Laura Slaubaugh: Northwest Side Housing Center

Laura earned her B.A in Political Science from Indiana University in May 2017 and joined the Northwest Side Housing Center staff as an Americorps VISTA in June 2017. As a VISTA, her focus is in capacity building for the NWSHC. This entails working in development and funding to ensure the sustainability of programs, as well as marketing and communications to share the story of the NWSCH with our community. Laura enjoys long distance running, breakfast foods, and traveling.

Luke Burkowski: Heartland Housing

I am from St. Louis, Missouri. While attending DePaul, I got involved volunteering teaching ESL at Heartland Alliance. I did AmeriCorps because I wanted to become more involved as a volunteer in the city. My main goal for my Vista service is to increase the leadership skills of Heartland Alliance’s affordable housing residents. In my free time, I enjoy playing percussion, following the Cubs, and watching sci-fi.

Rachel Schwartz: Chicago Lawyers Committee

Where are you from? I grew up in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania.

Why did you choose to serve? I chose to serve because I wanted to dedicate my time and effort to addressing racism and economic inequality.

What are your goals? My goals are to do effective and creative work for my organization that serves its goal of securing racial equity and economic opportunity for all.

What can people find you doing when you are not serving? When I am not serving, you can find me playing music, cooking, or working on my second language!

Ron Davis: METEC Resource Center

I was born and raised in Peoria, Illinois. I chose to serve as a VISTA so I could better help the people in my community. Helping people to seal and expunge their records is very important to getting a job and being able to take care of their families. Computers skills are also needed to apply for jobs online, and helping individuals on how to apply for jobs online is a blessing in itself.

My goals as a VISTA member is to help METEC Resource Center with achieving its mission and I plan on accomplishing that by marketing the services we provide. I have already had a community outreach event and have produced a marketing video that was used in a contest for non-profits to win a technology makeover and was put on METEC facebook page.

When not serving, I can be found serving the community as a Mason, we partner with the Afro-American Firefighters and Police to have community events along with a annual Christmas party for kids. I can also be found producing segments for my cable tv show, Gospel Peoria Tv. It features positive and informative information for the community.

Stephanie Tena: Heartland Alliance

Biography to come.

Veronica Cullinan-Burnison: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

My name is Veronica Cullinan-Burnison and I am from Chicago IL. I chose to serve because I wanted to better my skills as a Community Organizer and build my experiences in the field. This opportunity as a VISTA will help me obtain my goals of becoming an effective Organizer, especially here in Chicago. I hope to continue working towards ending homelessness and other oppressions that come along with experiencing homelessness in society. As a VISTA, I hope to help the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless in their fight to end homelessness as well as pave the way for the next VISTA here carry on the work I am currently doing. When I am not serving I enjoy camping with my family, walking around local forest preserves and down the lake with my husband and dog.