CNHED is proud to welcome ten amazing VISTA members to the VISTA Strong Communities Cohort. We’re impressed by what they all bring to their respective positions, and we look forward to being inspired by what they achieve.
Building Bridges Across the River: Rachel Echeverria
Rachel Echeverria is the Volunteer Coordinator for Building Bridges Across the River at Skyland Workforce Center. Her VISTA project includes developing and expanding the current Volunteer Program at the Center, as well as establishing an internal referral system. She will be surveying and interviewing volunteers and participants to match the needs of the community with volunteer skills. Rachel is from Washington State; she loves spending time outdoors, reading professional development books, learning languages, and visiting museums. In 2013, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy, from Central Washington University. Rachel was selected to be a Chancellor’s Scholar at West Virginia University, where she promoted diversity and inclusion on campus for graduate programs at the university. In 2015, she earned a Master’s of Arts in Political Science, and completed the Ph.D coursework in 2016. In 2017, Rachel served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at El Sol, A Neighborhood Resource Center in Jupiter, Florida. There she served as the Worker Development Associate, where she developed the Vocational Training program for day labors and community members. Rachel went on to serve in Peace Corps Armenia in March of 2018. There she volunteered as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) instructor. Rachel lived in a small village of less than 300 people on the border with Iran for one year. There she assisted the English teacher at the school which had a total of 29 students. Outside of teaching English, Rachel served as the Education Chair on the L.I.F.T. (Linking Identities Forming Trust) Peace Corps committee whose focus was to promote diversity and inclusion in Peace Corps Armenia.
Community Solutions: Sarah Malala
Sarah Malala is working as a Supportive Housing Resident Coordinator at the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence (JJKCR). The JJKCR is a 124-unit affordable housing development with 77 units of permanent supportive housing (PSH) for formerly homeless individuals, including 60 veterans. Her project focuses on empowering the residents at the JJKCR to create and implement sustainable peer-led initiatives that will bolster resident and staff capacity and increase resident satisfaction, health, and well-being. Sarah is originally from Peabody, Massachusetts, and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 2018. She spent several months working as a case manager in a Boston emergency shelter before beginning her VISTA service. Serving as a VISTA is important to Sarah as she’d like to do her part in making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring. She firmly believes housing is a human right, and is eager to learn and grow during her year as a VISTA. Sarah considers herself an amateur foodie, baker, and former rugby player. In her spare time, Sarah loves exploring the different DC neighborhoods, kayaking, and binge-watching episodes of The Office.
CPDC: Dan Bullinger
Dan is working as a Volunteer Engagement Associate at Community Preservation & Development Corporation in Silver Spring, Maryland, which involves building a successful volunteer program to support resident services in several affordable housing communities. Dan is from Bismarck, North Dakota and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from North Dakota State University. During his time at NDSU, he served in multiple student organizations, most notably, Violence Prevention Educators – a cohort tasked with raising awareness and prevention of sexual and dating violence on campus. As a student of politics and policy, Dan wanted to better understand how these concepts directly impact people on an individual and organizational level while also working to uplift communities in need. Dan thoroughly enjoys biking, podcasts, and museums.
Douglass Community Land Trust: Chanda Banks
Chanda is helping the Douglass Community Land Trust set up their nonprofit structure and formation documents and concurrently drafting their engagement strategy. Her Bachelor’s is in Psychology from UMCP and her Law degree is from Howard. Last year this time she was doing fair housing as a VISTA in Tucson. She decided to do a second term as a VISTA because it’s the best way to test drive your idealism in a non-profit field while getting paid and your financial aid deferred. Also, the networking available through the organizations is an excellent toehold into local nonprofits. The DMV is her hometown, so she enjoys spending time with her family and friends here.
Mi Casa: Cecilia Urrutia
Cecilia’s role is to collaborate with the TOPA department, Communications and Development, and the Genesis Intergenerational Program to support increased capacity building & engagement. She grew up in the Damascus, Rockville, and Bowie areas and recently graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Human Development. Prior to joining Mi Casa, she worked as a literacy mentor and team leader for America Reads*America Counts, where she taught ESL students in local elementary schools. Later, she joined the Maryland Leadership Program as a conference facilitator. Her experience in working on community-based service projects has helped her to recognize a desire to work in spaces that support people through self-empowerment and education to be able to achieve their best. She is so grateful and proud to be serving with an amazing organization that works to make people’s dreams come true of finding and living in a place they can call home.
MANNA, Inc.: Sheila Naya
Sheila Naya is the Corporate Development and Acquisitions Associate at MANNA, Inc. She is responsible for researching and applying for grants, making a young professional group that will later on be encouraged to become potential donors, planning networking events, maintaining donor lists and their profiles, researching potential properties for acquisitions, maintaining property data, and lastly providing an end of year evaluation that will be used to maintain and improve the programs established for the future. Sheila was born in Nairobi, Kenya and moved to the United States with her family in 2010. She graduated from Salisbury University in the fall of 2018, where she attained two degrees, one in Political Science and another in International Relations. She joined AmeriCorps VISTA to continue her mission to help people in her community. Sheila is bilingual in English and Swahili and has prior knowledge of American Sign Language. She enjoys painting, travelling, play guitar, listening to music, hiking and camping.
NACEDA: Patrick Gallagher Landes
Patrick Gallagher Landes is the AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for the Thriving Networks program for NACEDA (National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations). He is excited to strengthen the communal resources between NACEDA’s member organizations with Thriving Networks. He is from Harrisonburg, VA but has lived in the Washington, DC area for the past 3 years after graduating from Connecticut College with a BA in Theater and Sociology. He also currently serves as the Hiring Manager at Theatre Prometheus and is a theatre artist and a photographer in his very limited free time.
National Housing Trust: Selena Duvivier
Selena Duvivier joined AmeriCorps VISTA to ensure she was doing her part to better the community she identifies with. Having come from a low-income community, Selena believes everyone deserves to have adequate access to opportunity in order to reach their level of success – regardless of their background. She is currently a VISTA for the Resident Services Program at the National Housing Trust in Washington, D.C. Her responsibilities include data collection from NHT’s portfolio and assisting in the reconstruction of the resident services program infrastructure so these services may include the best interests of those they serve. Selena is originally from Philadelphia, PA and very proud of her heritage. She received her Master’s in International Affairs, with a focus on Human Rights and Latino Studies – with the hope of using this degree to better the international community in the US. When she is not advocating for better treatment of those she serves, Selena likes trying out different food spots in the DMV with her significant other, playing design games, or trying to learn Greek.
Sinai House: Caroline Walsh
As an AmeriCorps VISTA, Caroline Walsh will be working as the Impact Project Manager with the Sinai Assisted Housing Foundation. She will be coordinating and organizing volunteers at Sinai House, digitalizing data, and reaching out to former residents to see the impact Sinai House has had on their lives. Caroline is from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. She graduated from James Madison University with a degree in Organizational Communications and minors in Spanish and Music. She is doing VISTA as a way to experience a new adventure and perspective while giving back to her community.
Wacif: Katherine Donovan
Katherine Donovan is the Research and Communications VISTA at the Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif). By conducting research, she is helping build Wacif’s capacity to communicate its impact, address issues facing Washington area entrepreneurs, and engage new partners in advancing its mission. Katherine is from Fairfax, Virginia and holds a Master of Science in Defense, Development and Diplomacy from Durham University and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Intelligence Analysis from James Madison University. She became a VISTA to serve the region she grew up in and to gain research skills. In her free time, Katherine enjoys reading and traveling.