Fighting Poverty with Passion
Browse through VISTA biographies to learn more about our current members and our work in the New Orleans community. Also, remember to leave any comments, questions, or feedback you may have. We would love to hear from you and will be happy to share advice and insights!
Osman Ali was born in San Jose, California and grew up in Barnwell, South Carolina. Upon graduation from Barnwell High School in 2008, he attended Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. At Winthrop, Osman was involved in several clubs and organizations, including the Omega psi Phi Fraternity Inc., National Pan-Hellenic Council, the Council of Student Leaders, the Campus Activities Board, The Emerging Leaders Program, and the Gentlemen’s League.
Osman graduated in May of 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a double minor in African American Studies and Social Science. After graduation, Osman served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in the Office of Student Life at the University of South Carolina Upstate through the South Carolina Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA Project. Prior to his new position as the VISTA Leader at Tulane University in the Center for Public Service, Osman served as the VISTA Leader for South Carolina Campus Compact from July 2014 to July 2015. Osman is excited to begin his second year as a VISTA Leader and looks forward to leading Tulane University’s VISTA team in making sustainable impact in the Greater New Orleans community.
Dasjon Jordan serves as the Commercial Revitalization & Community Development Coordinator for Broad Community Connections. Through his position, Jordan works directly with the Executive Director to develop and execute strategies for holistically revitalizing Broad Street and the surrounding communities that are fundamentally shaped by the business owners, residents, and stakeholders whom BCC serves. His focus is to develop and coordinate programs for commercial corridor revitalization, small business development, and outreach and communications.
Prior to the start of his Tulane AmeriCorps service, Jordan served as Youth Development Coordinator for the Office of Mayor-President Kip Holden’s Love Our Community Summer Youth Employment Program in Baton Rouge. There, he helped to facilitate meaningful work experiences to help youth develop future employment skills while reinvesting in the Baton Rouge community. Also, he worked as the Community Arts Intern for Louisiana State University’s Museum of Art assisting with the development and implementation of a variety of object-based educational programs both in the museum and in the community designed to make art accessible, expand audience, and create new opportunities for learning and experiencing art.
A native New Orleanian, Jordan returns to his roots 11 years after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. He holds a Bachelor’s of Architecture from Louisiana State University.
Kelli Kingston was born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and was raised in New Orleans. After receiving her Associates Degree in Juvenile Justice, she continued at the University of South Alabama to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services with disciplines in Criminal Justice, Psychology, and Sociology in 2001. In 2011, Kelli received her Master’s of Social Work from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Kelli’s passion is advocating for abused and neglected children. She has held a volunteer position as a court-appointed Special Advocate for Hancock County Youth Court. She is currently a regular volunteer at NO/AIDS Taskforce for the New Orleans Syringe Access Program (NSAP).
This year, Kelli will be serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA for UNITY of Greater New Orleans. Under its umbrella, UNITY has 60 agencies that work to reduce, prevent, and end chronic homelessness in the New Orleans area. Kelli will work in building UNITY’s capacity to supervise volunteers, manage donations, and create partnerships with local organizations
Emily Wcislo grew up in Nashville, TN, and as she did so, developed a passion for community service and change that led her to attend university in New Orleans, LA. During her time at Tulane University, Emily was involved in a variety of clubs and organizations that excited her passions including serving as board member on the Community Action Council of Tulane University Students, as well as her participation on the Women’s Club Ultimate Frisbee team.
Emily graduated in May of 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Development and Spanish with a minor in Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship. After graduation, she accepted a position with the Broadmoor Improvement Association as their AmeriCorps VISTA Community Organizer. Emily will assist with the engagement of Broadmoor residents and build the capacity of the BIA in the community. She is excited about her upcoming year of service in the community.
Sara Skjerli recently relocated to New Orleans from Colchester, CT. Sara graduated from Central Connecticut State University in 2011 with a Bachelors of Arts in International Studies in Western Europe and French. After spent her last year of university studying French language and culture at the University of Caen in the Normandy region of France, she returned home to try her hand in the for profit industry. Sara decided to return to school full time in July of 2013 in order to pursue an Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies at Liberty University.
With a desire to help make a positive change in the world around her, Sara made the tough choice of utilizing her eclectic skill set and education background in the not for profit market. Following in her younger sister’s footsteps she decided to apply for a position as the Outreach and Homeowner Development VISTA at Project Homecoming.
Sara is very excited to serve her new community and work with Tulane University’s VISTA team to continue to help rebuild a better and stronger New Orleans.
Sydney Doyle was born in a small rural town in Winston Salem, North Carolina on November 27th, 1989, and grew up in Danbury, North Carolina. Upon graduation from North Stokes High School in 2008, she attended Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. At Guilford, Sydney was involved with many community organizations and inner city schools, including the state soccer referee association, Greensboro Urban Ministry, Reading Connections, AmeriCorps, Greensboro Mental Health Association, the Special Olympics, Peeler Open Elementary, Joyner Elementary, and Doris Henderson Newcomers School.
Sydney Graduated in May of 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Community Justice and Policy Studies. After graduation, Sydney continued her term with AmeriCorps serving the local refugee community and tutored at Peeler Open Elementary until she moved to Wilmington, North Carolina later that year. While residing in Wilmington, Sydney worked part time for Great Outdoor Provision Company and full time at Atlantic Neurosurgical & Spine Specialists. During this time she attended graduate school online at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Asheville, NC. She graduated in May of 2015 with a Master of Arts in Teaching and a second teaching certificate for secondary education. She student taught English II and Creative Writing at New Hanover High School while also volunteering with local organizations such as the Cape Fear Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, Cape Fear Literacy Council, North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association, and New Hanover High School Student Council.
Sydney is extremely excited to learn more about the New Orleans community through volunteering, her year as a Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA, and her partnership with the Friends of Lafitte Greenway. She aims to revitalize the community by building programs that increase the health, education, and use of the Lafitte Greenway.
Alexandra Hassan grew up in Demarest, New Jersey, a small suburb right outside of New York City. She fell in love with New Orleans when she visited Tulane her senior year of high school. Far away from home, she started Tulane in the fall of 2012. She was involved in several different organizations during her time there including The Tulane Hullabaloo, the university’s student-run newspaper. Additionally, she joined Alpha Delta Pi sorority where she served as Panhellenic Delegate and Public Relations Chair. These extracurricular activities helped her gain a more meaningful experience from her time at Tulane. After graduating from Tulane with a degree in political science, she decided to pursue a path in which she was able to give back to New Orleans. She currently is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Good Work Network on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, a corridor of Central City. The organization is dedicated to creating economic equity and using it as a tool for growth. There are several ways that the Good Work Network seeks to accomplish this goal. Alexandra’s role in this organization includes assisting in bridging minority and women owned businesses to larger business enterprises. She looks forward to helping these business owners, some of whom are low-income individuals themselves.
Originally from Houston, Texas, Emma Tran recently graduated from Tulane University with a BS in Public Health and International Development. Emma’s VISTA position is with the Louisiana Public Health Institute, where she will be involved in health systems, health inequity, and programmatic research. Over her yearlong position, she is eager to study the social determinants of health as they impact Louisianans in disparate ways.
Frankie Zito grew up in Arlington, Virginia where she developed a passion for learning, the environment, and cities and urban planning. In High School, she was very involved in her local and regional youth groups, which enhanced her commitment to community service. These interests pushed Frankie to attend Tulane University where she could study and immerse herself in the community in a new, exciting city. At Tulane, Frankie was involved in Greek Life, Relay for Life, and Tulane Hillel. Through all these organizations, she was able to continue giving back to the New Orleans community and beyond.
After a summer program focused on Environmental Ethics in New Orleans, Frankie began interning at Global Green to increase her involvement and learn first hand what non-profit work in the environmental field was like. When she graduated from Tulane in May 2016 with a degree in Environmental Studies with minors in Urban Studies, Architecture and Economics, Frankie was not ready to leave New Orleans or the Global Green team. She now serves full time as the Outreach and Education VISTA. Through this position, she works on promoting Global Green’s programs and educating the community about environmental stewardship.
Allison Rogers is from New Orleans, LA and works as the Student Success Coordinator at Operation Spark. Operation Spark is a nonprofit that teaches software development to underserved opportunity youth and aims to provide the quickest route to prosperity through an immersive course. Allison has lived in Louisiana, Florida, and Washington state and graduated from Loyola University in May of 2016 with degrees in Philosophy and Political Science. Her dedication to addressing community needs began when she was twelve years old and has motivated her to act as a teacher (and learner!) in Belize, a volunteer coordinator for rebuilding efforts in New Orleans and Denham Springs, and an enabler of civic engagement on her college campus and beyond.
Allison’s passions for activism and reducing poverty have motivated her to dedicate the next year of her life to service in the AmeriCorps VISTA program. In her position at Operation Spark, she is dedicated to ensuring that students have access to the resources they need to successfully start and complete the program. She recruits students from the New Orleans community, coordinates and trains volunteers, and increases the organization’s capacity to help students graduate
Stephanie Goetz is from New York City and graduated in 2015 from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut with a degree in History and Italian Studies. Stephanie spent her junior year abroad where she studied in Copenhagen in the fall and Rome in the spring. During her semester in Rome, she interned at a gelato shop, serving ice cream to both locals and tourists. After graduating from Trinity, Stephanie joined a community service program called the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) and spent her year of service in New Orleans living with six other Jesuit Volunteers. She and the other Jesuit Volunteers committed themselves to living out JVC’s four values: working towards social justice, living in community, exploring spirituality, and living simply. During the year, Stephanie worked as a Program Assistant at Café Reconcile, preparing students and alumni of the program for the workplace. She assisted students with their resumes and supported Life Skills workshops, such as how to leave a job. Stephanie is passionate about Café Reconcile’s mission and motivated by the incredibly hard-working young people who come through the program. She is excited for the opportunity to continue her work with Café Reconcile as part of the Development Department.
Originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, Shosh is serving as the Americorps VISTA member for the Tulane City Center, a public design interest firm in New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood. Through her VISTA position, she is excited to learn more about the intersections between architecture, graphic advocacy, community design, and social justice. She feels grateful for the opportunity this year to learn with and from the residents of NOLA.
Shosh received her B.A. in Studio Art from Oberlin College in 2015. Through her coursework at Oberlin, she has explored a variety of media, including graphic design, papermaking, ceramics, drawing, sculpture, screen-printing, and woodblock carving. Shosh is an artist, cook, baker, poet, pun maker, hiker, and book lover. In her free time, she likes to write engaging yet concise bios.
Shelby O’Dell was born in Lafayette, Louisiana on June 24th 1992. She grew up in a small rural town outside of Mobile, AL called Grand Bay. When she graduated from Alma Bryant High school in 2010 she started school at Bishop State Community College then later transferred to University of South Alabama. At USA Shelby studied social work. She grad with her Bachelors of Social Work in December 2015. While in school Shelby worked at a children’s mental hospital and interned I’m juvenile probation. Since graduation she has served as a summer AmeriCorps VISTA with Second Harvest Food. Shelby is now enrolled with VISTA program again and will be working with Tulane Center for Public Service. In her spare time Shelby loves to cook, garden, and be active in social justice movements.
After spending 4 years running between the lab and the art studio, Carly Schwarz graduated from Tulane University in 2016 with a major in Environmental Biology and a minor in Studio Art— a feat she largely attributes to cheese fries. She grew up in Potomac, Maryland, but will quickly tell you that her family is originally from New Orleans. She is incredibly excited to work with Woodlands Conservancy, an environmental non-profit in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. Carly first became involved with Woodlands Conservancy through a Tulane service learning internship, and continued to work there part time during her senior year of college. She will be helping develop Woodlands Conservancy’s Seeds to Saplings program, an environmental education service-learning project that works to teach elementary students the function and value of wetlands. You can generally find Carly covered in dirt at Woodlands Trail and Park, hanging out with the resident mama gator she affectionately named ‘Betsy’.
Sarah Bloom is an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer serving with Community Works of Louisiana (CWLA). CWLA is an organization dedicated to creating a community of healthy and creative learners through enrichment programming that integrate arts, recreation and educational support. Her position specifically allows her to assist with grant-writing, social media presence, and stakeholder relationship building.
She is from Chicago and graduated from Tulane University in May of 2016 with a B.A. in Social Policy and Sociology. While living in Chicago, Sarah co-founded a student-run 501(c)(3), An Extra Helping, which received a mayoral proclamation issued by the city of Highland Park to honor outstanding community service work.
While at Tulane, she served as the Community Service Chairwoman of her sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi. While serving, she created a food donation initiative in which all extra food from weekly chapter meals and events were delivered and dispersed to those in need in the Greater New Orleans community.
Prior to her service at CWLA, she interned for United Way’s Women Leadership Council, where she oversaw the design and creation for a social awareness campaign in favor of early childhood education. All throughout college, Sarah worked primarily for Fuel the Future Foundation, as a mentor and program developer for their after-school club, Summit. Additionally, during her senior year, she created a new partnership with Fuel the Future Foundation, After School Allies, a student-run organization that connects university students to serve as mentors to elementary students in the FirstLine School District.
She is very passionate about the benefits of quality enrichment programming for kids and is excited to be working with Community Works!
Raised in Issaquah, WA, the site of historic salmon runs and Costco’s corporate offices, Stephanie Wang earned her B.A. in Sociology and minored in Law, Societies, and Justice at the University of Washington in Seattle. During her sophomore year, she completed an Americorps year with Jumpstart for Young where she worked with Head Start preschoolers at Denise Louie Education Center. Upon graduating, Stephanie worked various positions from fundraising at a community-based radio station; to being a Letter of Credit and International Banking specialist at a bank; to eating armfuls of piroshkies as an office manager; and to eating boxes of pizza as a delivery driver and server. Stephanie has volunteered with organizations throughout Seattle such as Chinese Information and Service Center, Youth In Focus, Social Justice Fund Northwest, and most recently University Beyond Bars.
In the summer of 2016, Stephanie made the decision to drive over 40 hours without air-conditioning from Seattle to New Orleans to become an Americorps VISTA Development Specialist at YMCA Educational Services (YES!). Stephanie is excited to be working with YES! to help eliminate illiteracy and empower communities in New Orleans.